Monday, August 30, 2010

Mamasay . . .

" . . . mamasaw mu makusaw" ~ Michael Jackson

Me & my mom in Kauai, August 2007

When I decided that I wanted to dedicate more time to this blog, I also decided that I wanted to try to keep it light, to allow myself to release and vent and share, but to sprinkle it with humor. But, there's a driving force underneath this lightness, an event and a person that has shaped not only my voice as a writer but my entire being. I haven't wanted to write much about this event in the last several months, although I did try to create a separate blog to address my feelings of pain and darkness. But it just got too personal and I couldn't imagine others reading it. I thought it would be a downer. Perhaps too raw. Maybe allowing myself to be too vulnerable.

But now I feel the urge to write about her. To explain how much she has impacted me. To explain how much this event has impacted me and what exactly happened. On Feburary 23rd, 2009, my mom, also known as Mamasay as coined by my sister, lost her battle with a rare form of cancer called paraganglioma. After presenting to her doctor with symptoms of a mysterious nature for over four years, she requested a stomach scan. That's when they found the masses, and they were all over her body, in her bones, in her breasts, but mainly in her liver. I remember the day they found out -- October 30th, 2007 -- and called me out of work to share the news in person. My stomach still drops when I think about this day. In desperation, my dad had asked the doctor how much time he estimated my mom had left. And he couldn't help but share it with me, even though my mom had asked him not to. Six months. Six. Months. And I couldn't tell anyone else. We cried together. I remember calling my sister who was living in Las Vegas and getting her voicemail. I cried for her being alone to receive this news. I knew my mom had been losing weight, breaking out in hives, and generally not feeling well, but I had convinced myself it was an extreme reaction to menopause. Now I realize I was in denial.

The following year and months were tough but we remained hopeful and positive, especially when my mom found a wonderful specialist through UCSF who said she had a fighting chance if she was willing to fight. She was a fighter. She never gave up, through painful reactions to chemo and constant struggles with trying to eat and gain weight. The most vibrant, easygoing, funniest person I knew withered away before us. She became less sarcastic and more sentimental. But she never stopped being my mom. I could call her and moan and groan about my own silly troubles and she'd be the great listener she always had been. But I also tried to be there for her, to allow her to vent about her health and the dramatic turn her life had taken. We talked every day and I visited at least once a week. We still indulged in guilty pleasures like chocolate and Lifetime movies. She was tired, though. So tired. And in more pain than I could probably imagine. But she began to manage it and had her good days and bad days.

When T's dad also had a health scare, we decided it was time to give them a grandchild. We decided we weren't going to be officially "trying" but we were open to having a baby, even though we weren't in an ideal situation financially. And after the first month of this "openness," we were pregnant. My mom was overjoyed. It was the happiest I had seen her since her diagnosis. Right then I knew that the timing was perfect. I was a little nervous about not being able to be there as much for my mom when I was dealing with my own changing body, but it never became an issue. Fortunately, I had a really easy pregnancy. She came to the ultrasound when we found out we were having a boy. She came to both of my baby showers. She made my sister and I each our own photo albums of our entire childhoods. It was one of the best gifts I've ever received. She continued over the months to give me old photos to add to the album. I began to realize she was preparing herself in a way and preparing us for her departure from this world. But I still didn't want to believe it would happen anytime soon, especially since her doctor was really positive, saying that her numbers looked promising, whatever that meant. But I clung to those words like a lifeline. Like her lifeline had been extended. We had more than passed the six month mark anyway. She had something else worth living for now. She was going to be a grandmother!

To be continued . . .

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