But as we neared the birth of our fifth child, Mom was hesitant to commit to coming. We knew she was busy with her volunteer work in the community and church (oh, and her eight other children), so we didn’t think much of it. We’d figure out a time for a visit soon enough.
At least that’s what we thought until we got a phone call from my parents late June 2013, when our new daughter was only a couple weeks old. Since early spring, Mom had been having some difficulty breathing, which her doctor treated as walking pneumonia. After it didn’t clear up they decided to do more testing.
That’s when they found it. Mom’s trouble with breathing was a result of lung cancer. Additional testing also revealed breast cancer.
While terribly concerned as any child would be hearing similar news, we were also very hopeful. The doctors insisted the cancer was treatable and we knew so many people who had successfully recovered. Mom didn’t want visitors right away, so prayerfully we supported her remotely while she scheduled her first surgery to remove the cancer from her lungs in mid-July.
The day for the surgery came. We anxiously awaited every update from Dad. Hospitals have a way of slowing down time ironically providing miraculous physical relief to the patient while simultaneously inflicting exhausting emotional torture on a patient’s family. After several hours of repeatedly checking my phone – then rechecking to make sure I didn’t somehow miss a message – I received a text that the surgery was over and appeared to be successful. Mom would stay in the hospital for a week to recover.
Apprehensive, but grateful, we went to bed eager to get an update the following morning. Mom slept well and the morning update was very encouraging. Updates throughout the day also indicated she was recovering as planned. Each day after that was better than the previous. She was improving wonderfully and was ontrack to be discharged at the end of the week.
Each night I slept a little better than the night before, grateful Mom was nearly past this first milestone. Then, late Saturday night, July 20, I got a phone call. I’ve never received a good phone call during the middle of the night. With a lump already forming in my throat, I answered to hear Dad’s pained voice. Quietly, achingly, he forced out the heart-wrenching news: Mom had passed. Earlier that night her condition suddenly worsened and within minutes her heart stopped.