Submitted Date 08/17/2019

Fifteen Years And Counting

Fifteen years ago, on February 9th, at the tender age of 38, I had to grow up. In order to understand what I am saying, let me back up a bit.

In 1989 my parents built a home, on a golf course, in a small yet quaint town in West Virginia. It was my dad's dream come true, and my mom's daily nightmare. Once the house was built, and they had moved in, my dad took on a new mistress—that of golfing. His golf game was put before everything—work, health, friends, and yes dare I say it, family.

My mom worked out of the home, at the same department store my dad had worked with since 1972. They were living in Barboursville because my dad had transferred us from Columbus to that area in 1981 when Lazarus opened a new store. It seemed like the perfect idea, as it put us only about two hours from my mom's family and parents. However, looking back, we never had the chance to visit any more often than when we lived in Columbus, about 3 ½ hours away.

As the years went on, and the new home was subsequently built, I noticed a change in my parents. At the time, I was too wrapped up in my self to actually see what was going on. My mom was becoming very unhappy in their relationship, and when they moved to their home on the golf course, that unhappiness only intensified.

Then, in 2001, after a few long weeks of discussion, she decided she was going to leave my dad. She asked me what I thought, and if you knew my dad, you would know that the answer was pretty much a no brainer—what day and what time? She said she wanted me to come and live with her, so she would not be alone, and I agreed. I had spent the previous ten years trying to do all I could to help her, as she had some physical issues that made life rough.

So, I started looking for a place for the two of us to call our own. She had not said anything to my dad at that point and didn't intend to until the day she moved out. We knew we wanted to stay in the town of Barboursville because we both loved it and had come to think of it as home. At that time, I had my own weekend business that was pulling in a very nice income and was confident that I could provide for us. We found several rentals we liked and were within our income. However, even though we felt we were well on our way to moving out, we had an unexpected phone call that changed everything.

My mom was a smoker and suffered from emphysema. She had tried several times to quit smoking, but no matter how hard she tried, it never stuck. Then, on September 25th, 2002, she received a call from her physician. She had gone for a routine x-ray, that she had put off for well over a year, the week before. Her doctor, Sarah, had called saying that there was a spot showing on the x-ray and that mom needed to be scheduled for a bronchoscopy as soon as possible.

The procedure was done the day after that call, and as we both feared, the spot was cancer—and it was advanced. This was one of many doctor and hospital visits that she went to without the support of my dad. It was pretty much understood if it interfered with his golf game, then the golf game came first. I had no problem with taking her wherever she needed to go. I took her to all her doctor's appointments and treatments for over a year.

Mom asked her doctor, Sarah, from day one—what are my chances. Sarah tried to be kind and told her that everyone reacts differently to the treatments, but in the end, it all came to the choice of quantity of life or quality of life. At first, my mom was considering not having the chemotherapy and radiation that Sarah had suggested, but when Sarah told her it would be a short 6-8 weeks without treatment or a possible 18 months with, she started treatments.

Mom feared the treatments, because of all the stories that we have heard—the miserable nausea from the chemo and the being burned alive by the radiation. However, mom endured her chemo quite well. She had to have a few platelets and blood transfusions, but for the most part, she only experienced the fatigue that went along with the chemotherapy.

The radiation, on the other hand, did take its toll. Although she wasn't burned like we had always heard could happen, she did experience severe scarring. The scarring affected her esophagus, making it hard to swallow. Right before she passed, she had to have a feeding tube and was not allowed to drink or eat anything in her final months.

My mom was one of the bravest and kindest people I have ever known in my life. She showed me what real courage, and love for life, looked like. She stayed strong for me, as I attempted to remain strong for her. I fear she did a better job than I. She was upbeat and smiling all through the treatments, the pain, and the fear. I know she had fear, but she did her best to keep from showing it.

Now, fifteen years after her death, it feels the same today as it did the very day she passed. They say the pain goes away, but it doesn't. It becomes a part of you, like your arm or your leg, and moves with you through the days of your life. I don't know much in this life however, I do know one thing.

When I lost my mom, I didn't just lose a mother, but I was dealt a double blow as I also lost my best friend as well. And, in the end, I have come to realize that I will never be the same. I can only pray that she knows how much she was deeply loved and how immensely she is truly missed. I have come to realize that I must try to move on--but for me, but for her.


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