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My mom, 1 month after the diagnosis

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One last act of love

By Jennifer
Posted on

I had the conversation with my parent.

It was only after taking a step back and reflecting on the year's worth of conversations that I realized my mother had given me the gift of knowing what her wishes were in that exact moment. Don't get me wrong, knowing what she wanted didn't make the decision easy, but it did offer the peace of mind knowing that we were able to do exactly as she wanted.
 May 1, 2008 my mom was diagnosed with stage 3 Lung Cancer.  The doctors were optimistic, but the treatment involved incredibly debilitating chemo and radiation, followed by surgery to remove the tumors.  Over the course of the year, I became a sort of emotional wicker basket for my mom.  As I work as an community educator for hospice, she felt much more comfortable opening up to me than to my dad or my siblings.  I, however, was not nearly that comfortable.

After some persuasion (she actually just kept talking even if it felt like I wasn’t listening), my mom and I were able to have multiple conversations about her fears, her worries, her concerns and what she wanted and did not want at the end of her life.  In March, 2009, I received the phone call that my mother had gone into respiratory failure and was now on a ventilator.  The doctors were saying that the oxygen was not getting to her brain and she would most likely not recover.  I was told to come home (from across the country) because we would most likely have to make a “decision.”

The entire plane ride home I knew exactly what my mom wanted us to do – to remove the vent and to let her go.  I knew it, because we had talked about it so much.  When I got the the ICU room, I walked in and my initial thought was, “I don’t care what she wants, she’s my mom.”  It was only after taking a step back and reflecting on the year’s worth of conversations that I realized my mother had given me the gift of knowing what her wishes were in that exact moment.

Don’t get me wrong, knowing what she wanted didn’t make the decision easy, but it did offer the peace of mind knowing that we were able to do exactly as she wanted.  I hear stories of guilt following a loved one’s death, about whether or not they did things “right” – my mom made sure we wouldn’t have to feel that way.  It was her one last act of love to each of us, and we never would have had it were it not for the conversation.

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