Posted by: Kathy | February 5, 2011

The War Against Cancer

When someone has cancer it is often said that they are fighting against their disease. When my mom died, I said that she had lost her battle against pancreatic cancer. Fight. Battle. It almost sounds like a war – the war against cancer.

A diagnosis of cancer is much like going into war, as you take on the fight of your life, battling against a strong and tricky enemy. In my mom’s fight against pancreatic cancer, she and her “army” (her family and friends) used every resource we had – love, support, hope, and prayer – to try to beat this deadly cancer, and her doctors used knowledge and medicine. If love and support were all that were needed to “win,” my mom would still be alive today and cancer free. I prayed for a miracle, because that’s what we needed, since her tumor could not be removed. And the surgeries, radiation, and chemotherapy didn’t seem to help all that much. I’ll never forget the day my mom’s oncologist told her that she could stop treatment if she wanted to. I wanted to jump up and scream at him, tell him that we weren’t done fighting yet. But I stayed seated and remained silent because it wasn’t my call to make. In the end, I guess her doctor knew something we didn’t because my mom died less than a month later. But she never gave up hope.

As with many battles against cancer, the end is the most devastating time. To someone who hadn’t seen my mom during her almost yearlong battle, she would probably have been nearly unrecognizable. On the last night of her life, my mom sat before me a mere shadow of who she once had been. An almost skeletal figure stooped over in a chair, unable to lift her head. She had stopped eating and drinking and hardly spoke a word. My mom spent the night in that stuffed chair, covered with blankets, because it was too painful for her to lay in bed. As I drove home the next morning, I prayed to God to end this battle, to stop my mom’s suffering, and he did about 2 and a half hours later. If my mom couldn’t beat pancreatic cancer, her wish was to die at home.

The death of my mom was a great tragedy, but at least she is no longer in pain or suffering. I believe that she is in a beautiful place and is at peace. But peace often doesn’t come easily for those who go on living. I am not at peace. I bear the scars from my mom’s fight against pancreatic cancer and her death. My heart still aches from her loss, and I am haunted at times by what pancreatic cancer did to my mom. I couldn’t save her, and the world I live in is forever changed because my mom is not a part of it anymore.

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