Another Valentine’s Day, another break in my heart.

To most, Valentine’s Day is the epitome of romance. My husband does a great job of trying to make it special for me, but unfortunately 6 yrs ago, it was changed forever for me (and all the other people who loved my Mother). As my mother was vigorously battling her 2nd battle with breast cancer, and not many around her knew she was sick, she started on her very quick down slide. Her doctor, who had been very aggressive with her care, found a clinical trial for her at Johns Hopkins and it looked so promising. Not to cure her, but to buy her more of the precious time she so desperately wanted. We all so desperately wanted. February 9th, the day she was supposed to go for her entry to the Hopkins trial, she felt ‘funny’, and her oncologist recommended for her to come to GBMC (where he was) rather than going to Hopkins, so she could still preserve her place in the trial. He admitted her for being in kidney failure. I got the call @ 1pm and headed straight to the hospital, calling my sister first, then my husband. There was not a single positive thought going through my head. For those who know me well, that is pretty unusual. I’m a pretty upbeat person. I got to the hospital, and helped her ‘gown up’ and the first words out of her mouth were “I want to see my boys”. Just those words made me want to cry. It was like she knew she was going, and she wanted to say goodbye, but she was still in fighter mode. I called Brad and he ran right away and picked up the boys (Dylan from school & Jared from pre-school). While this was happening, the Doctor shows up and informs us that she was going to be moved up to the PICU later, and asked what forms of resuscitation we should do. I went to pieces. I didn’t want to hear that, I wasn’t ready, and the words felt cruel. I called a close friend who came to be there until Brad came there with the boys & stayed to be there with them until someone could be there to take them home for the night.

She went up and down for days, her mental state slipping into and out of ‘herself’. Finally on Saturday, Feb 12th, they started talking about moving her to a step down unit, her kidneys looked good. Saturday night though, she had a bad night. My sister stayed overnight with her, and she was agitated and wanted out of bed, wasn’t happy, and was very agitated. The cancer patient’s classic “last rally”. Sunday she was clearly out of sorts. My father was by her side, and he could see it was upsetting to me by dinnertime. I went home with the same order to call with any changes. Overnight, she pulled out her chest tubes and then went into a coma. My father called me at 5:30am and told me to come down, she had a bad night. That was Valentines Day. I had all my cards in my purse. When I got down there, the docs on call told us they were prepping to move her to ICU & her oncologist would talk to us when we got up there. They moved her about 9:30am, got her settled in somewhat, and then they sent my Father & I to go get lunch. I KNEW, KNEW that was so the Oncologist had time to get up there. We had our lunch, which neither of us ate, and then went to the ICU where the doc said the words we knew he would say, and we didn’t want to hear, “I’m sorry, there is nothing more we can do. It is just a matter of time now.” So very surreal. We spent the afternoon making those horrible phonecalls to tell people (most didn’t know she was ill), and reading the valentines we had bought for each other. Lots of hugs, lots of tears. The chaplain was wonderful in guiding us through saying goodbye. The morning of the 15th, my Father started paperwork for Hospice care, and several of my Mom’s close work friends drop by. At 2:32pm she took her last breath, with my Father, my sister & myself holding her hands.

So the day when hearts should be so full, is always a day when mine is breaking the most.

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