iamtheinvisiblehand

Archive for the ‘death’ Category

One year after she was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma, and after months of unimaginable pain, my mother finally let go.

Upon her diagnosis, I would cry a lot, mostly because I was scared. After a few months, when the doctor finally told her there was nothing left to do, I would cry less frequently, but on the few occasions I did, the waterworks would last forever. I guess I believed that crying would make the whole thing more real. It meant accepting that there was no hope left. And now that all has been said and done, I find myself crying while I write these words.

I saw the cancer eat my mother – the strongest woman I’ve ever known – alive, and although it took a whole year to do so, when it was done there was nothing left but skin-wrapped bones and a severely swollen abdomen. Her mind, however, was untouched, which I think was even worse, because I can’t even begin to imagine what my mother must have felt when she saw herself in the mirror this last year.

And I still can’t believe that this happened to her. Or to me. This is the kind of story you hear about other people’s lives and sufferings, not your own. This is the kind of tragedy that happens to others. And yet it happened to me.

I know whoever is reading this must be thinking that I should be grateful that at least my mother stopped suffering and that in itself is a blessing. I know this is true. I saw her in pain almost every single day of this year and I am glad that this is all over. But still, I am selfish: I wish she was still here with me, nagging my ears off or constantly calling me about one thing or another, like she did while she still had the strength. I miss her more than I ever could have imagined. It’s so bad it hurts.

I find myself in her apartment expecting to hear her voice. Smell the lingering scent of her perfume. And yet I know that I’ll never get to hear her voice or smell her perfume ever again. I’ll just have to make do with whatever my memories can conjure up for me.

Why she held on for so long is a mystery to me. My sisters and I said our goodbyes many months ago and felt that she was in peace with all of us. And yet she hung on.

I guess that when you know you’re about to leave, you want to make sure that your life was worth something; that it made a difference, that you have left behind something worth remembering. Well, I am certain that my mother left an indelible impression on everyone she knew: I never knew or heard of anyone who disliked her.

Anyone who has suffered the loss of someone close knows that sometimes all you need is to say these things, get them out and sort of purge yourself of these thoughts and feelings, because they have a way of creeping up on you when you least expect it. I know this too. About 10 years ago, my dear uncle was killed in a bombing. A few months later, I was at the supermarket and came face to face with a wide variety of blue cheese, my uncle’s favorite.   All of a sudden, I found myself crying and couldn’t stop the tears from falling. Gushing, actually. Other shoppers passing by me would suddenly swerve their carts away from me. I must have terrified them, poor people. My husband had been choosing some vegetables and was quite alarmed when he saw me. I was crying so hard I couldn’t tell him what happened. My dear husband is a good man and knows me well, so he just hugged me and waited until I was done. No questions asked. I did tell him later and he didn’t get it. Go figure.

I’ve come to realize that even when you know what’s coming, you’re never fully prepared for the blow. I knew how this story was going to end, and yet when it did, I felt like a helpless, abandoned child. Now that I think about it, I realize that at the young age of 38 I have become an orphan. Sigh. I know people will say that I should be grateful that I had her for such a long time, when there are so many who’ve lost their parents before they even got to know them. I know this is true. But again, I am selfish. This was not supposed to happen to me. At least not like this.

I am grateful that she was an important part of my 38 years of existence. I am grateful that she was my mother – I could’ve done so much worse. I am grateful that my 7 year old daughter had the chance to meet her and make the most of their time together. I am grateful that my mother was such a loving and caring grandmother to my daughter. But most of all, I am grateful that I had the chance to say goodbye. To tell her how much I loved her. To thank her for all the sacrifices she made to give all of us a good life.

My mother was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma last week, after an endless month of tests, scans and appointments with the entire gamut of specialists.

For those who don’t know, cholangiocarcinoma is one of the most aggressive types of cancer. My mother’s is in the liver and metastasis was found in the peritoneum. It appears that the tumor that is in the liver is in the one place that makes it impossible to operate. Those in the peritoneum are rarely operated. So, chemotherapy it is. Starting today. The oncologist ordered 3 rounds of chemo and after that she’ll be tested again to check for improvement. If there is any, chemo will continue. If not, we’ll just have to let the cancer take over.

I know chemotherapy has come a long way and that nowadays, the treatment is a lot “milder” than it was a few years ago, but still, I can only imagine how she’s going to feel, being the person she is.

I’m not particularly attached to her, or my sisters for that matter, and I don’t feel that this has brought us closer, as many people in this same situation like to say.

My mother is as close as you can get to being Marie Barone (from Everybody Loves Raymond), so she enjoys feeling in control, having us all together at her disposal and being the center of attention. I don’t mean to sound nasty but it’s true. She has told every single relative, friend and acquaintance about her condition and although I can understand why she’s done it (besides being entitled to deal with this as she pleases), I truly wish she hadn’t, because now it means that she has made the cancer the main event of her life and has to rehash it every single time she’s with someone.

I’m not sure if she has come to terms with the fact that although this is a huge beast, half the task is becoming aware that she has the power to get rid of it by staying positive. Cancer survivors always say that a positive attitude can go a long way towards recovery. Of course, easier said than done, especially considering that my mother might be the most pessimistic person on the planet. It’s so bad that we’re always telling her to move her dark clouds away from us whenever she makes one of her ominous comments.

Our sisters and I have approached this from our unique perspectives and considering our own individual relation with our mother. My eldest sister feels quite dependent on her, so everything that has happened has affected her deeply. I can tell she’s truly scared. My other sister, the doctor, is approaching this like the doctor she is, meaning that she knows the facts better than we do, and she knows the outlook is grim, but she’s doing her part all the same. My youngest sister is probably the most affected, because she lives with my mother and is doing everything in her power to change my mother’s lifestyle into a healthier one, so if it doesn’t work I know she’ll be crushed. That, added to the fact that she is probably the closest to her.

Me? Hmmm. I haven’t really changed anything in my behavior or attitude. I’ve become weary of the manipulation, the phone calls every single day and the pleads for closeness, so although I hate that this is happening, I haven’t felt the need to come closer or reconcile or even mend our relationship.  I’ve come to terms with this.

I’ve been told repeatedly that I’ll regret this. But as I said, I came to terms with my relationship with my mother a long time ago. It’s far from perfect, but I’ve overcome the resentment, the anger and the disappointment I felt when I was younger and have settled for a cordial relationship. And I’m ok with it. She’s my mother and I love her and now that I’m a mother myself I know how hard it can be and I’m sure she did her best. But that is it.

Funny though, I never thought of myself as a selfish person, and yet all I can think about is how I’ll be affected if my mother dies. It kills me that my daughter won’t be able to enjoy her grandma for as long as she should have. It saddens me that my mother sacrificed so much for her own mother and that when she finally had the chance to do what she wanted she got diagnosed with cancer. That she had to put up with so much in her life already and not feel as appreciated as she thinks she should be.

I’m not a religious person, but I do have faith that my mother’s condition will improve. I refuse to believe that a person who has been deprived of living her own life for so long on account of others will now be deprived of it on account of cancer. Life’s not fair, I’m well aware of that, but that would be just plain horrific and would change our take on life radically. For the worse. Living with the knowledge that hope is useless would just make everyday a little more difficult.

All wake-up calls are harsh and abrupt, especially when they are received close to home. I’m taking this as a reminder not to let life get in the way of living it. To realize that it’s ok to strive for improvement while still appreciating the life I have. To leave my stuff in order so that no one will have to make any decision for me and my daughter will have everything she’ll ever need in my absence. To definitely take better care of myself and my family.

On the 3rd anniversary of his death and as a tribute to his life and achievements, here’s what I learned from the greatest artist of our time:

-Moon-walking is hard (in my case, impossible), no matter how smooth the soles of your shoes are.

-Always say “Shamon” instead of “come on”. It keeps people guessing what you’re saying and makes them feel like idiots once they’ve read the lyrics.

courtesy of lastfm.es

-You can’t attempt to do the toe stand if you’re not wearing cropped pants and bright socks.

-The Crotch Grab doesn’t look good on a girl.

-Do not try the anti-gravity lean if you don’t have pegs rising from the floor into the heels of your specially-made dancing shoes. If you do, you will fall face-down. Been there, done that.

-Try listening to “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” and not wiggle your foot, tap your desk or move at all. It’s a physical impossibility.

-Only if you are Michael Jackson you get to set wacky trends every decade or so: a sparkling glove on one hand, jackets in all styles, from red leather to sparkling to military-style, and match with a hat if needed.  

Courtesy of kkdtv.blogspot.com

-You can be as rich and powerful as you want and still be lonely and lost.

-A child that is not allowed to be a child will never really grow up.

-It’ll be a long time before another artist as complete as Michael Jackson comes along.

-And last but not least: If you wanna make the world a better place take a look at yourself and then make a change



  • None
  • Carrie Rubin: I don't always remember names well, but I remember circumstances. I especially remembered yours because it's such a rare cancer, and you were the firs
  • iamtheinvisiblehand: Thank you for your kind words, but also thank you for remembering it was me....it's amazing that you'd remember this considering the endless stream of
  • Carrie Rubin: I am so sorry to hear about your mother. After you commented on my blog yesterday, I remembered that your mother was the one who had cholangiocarcinom

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