Excerpt from “My Lovedance”
I type this listening through a baby monitor as Mom’s oxygen concentrator hums and puffs, I truly never expected this.
So much has happened, I can hardly breathe. Finally feeling the enormity of this event.
Yes, it’s stage IV adenocarcinoma of undetermined primary…probably small bowel as the pancreatic markers are negative. Definitely not breast, colon, lung. PET scan confirmed – no bone mets, no brain mets, nothing in her chest. But three large tumors in her retroperitoneal cavity and many metastasis to her spleen and liver.
I believe her cancer represents her fears. The first one off her duodenum is FEAR. How fear has ruled her life…it’s the mothership that launched the rest…otherwise known as the primary tumor. Then there’s one inferior to her pancreas, long and lean…I believe it is REGRET…all the regrets of her life, not doing all the things she wanted to, not forgiving herself or others, especially Dad, and Nana. Then there’s a smaller tumor near her aorta…this one is DOUBT. How Mom has doubted herself all these years. Never good enough, educated enough, smart enough, brave enough. Then there’s her VULNERABILITY splattered as mets on her spleen. She’s always been vulnerable to codependent relationships and being taken advantage of. And last, the liver mets represent her WORRY. How much time spent worrying about everything– money, love, other people’s drama.
These five fears must be released to be healed.
After more than a month, Steve and I got to get away. Just up to Santa Barbara for two nights. A glorious day in the sun, nearly as hot as summer in mid-February, lounging on a private beach. As I stood in the water communing with the Divine Mother, whales swam by and I could feel their energy… “you know what to do.”
We just got the final news when we left. My youngest sister told the twins. I tried to prepare them when I got the PET scan and pathology back, but they needed to hear it from the doctor who frankly said very little except that without treatment, Mom has maybe a few months and with treatment, if she can stand being sick all the time, maybe a little longer, up to two years…but eventually the cancer will become resistant.
Mom has chosen to treat her cancer with cannabis. There’s no guarantee, but at least she’s not in pain, and has an appetite. She’s had problems with nausea, dry heaves and occasional vomiting bile, probably due to pancreatitis and tumor obstructing her bile ducts. She’s finally off oxygen as the blood clots in her lungs slowly dissolve. She’ll be on blood thinners for at least six months.
My sisters might be more comfortable if Mom chose chemo as her treatment option but it’s so hard to see her sick and frankly, Mom has never believed in chemo.
At least they agreed to the cannabis. Living with Mom high has been quite the adventure.
This would be so funny, if it wasn’t so sad.
A few weeks ago, on one of Mom’s good days, we were taking a little walk to the mailbox and she stopped and squeezed my arm.
“You know, my cancer is going to catapult your healing practice into the future you’ve always dreamed of.”
“Thanks, Mom, for the many gifts you have given me.”
In sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, we traversed our soul paths together. Without Mom, Full Circle Family Health would have never been realized. Without Mom, I could have never birthed Genesis Health Products. Without Mom, I would have never founded our charity – Divine Daughters Unite. Mom has always been my biggest cheerleader, breathing hope into my dreams even if she couldn’t believe in her own.
Sometimes healing means releasing the old ways of being to make way for the new.
Everything’s a gift. Our challenge is to be open to receive the gift of each and every encounter.
Right now, Mom is at a beach house in Oxnard with my sisters, giving them time to process the reality of the situation. We’re not all on the same page medically. So we had a meeting. Mom said there were three rules: no harsh words, we had to laugh, and ultimately remember that this is her decision. One of my sisters is still struggling with letting Mom go. It’s better now that she can witness Mom’s decline first hand, yet it’s still hard.
After my sisters were finished deciding what was best for Mom, I asked her what she felt was happening. She said she thinks that she hasn’t decided whether to stay or go and that’s why it seems like the cannabis isn’t working, that’s why she’s still sick.
I told her that I do not believe there is any “thing” we can give her that will cure her cancer. I believe that only she has the power to cure herself. And if she chooses to go, I told her I would help her pass as gracefully as possible.
Mom is gone.
Not to heaven, not yet. She’s in Utah.
After that horrific two weeks in March when Mom finally understood she was dying, she returned to my care. She had lost another ten pounds, was weak, dehydrated, worn out from pain. I got her rehydrated, switched her cannabis from oral to suppositories which controls pain and nausea much better without the psychoactive effects – sometimes I feel like I’m on the set of Breaking Bad as I experiment with the best way to formulate cannabis for her.
I called hospice for palliative care, got physical therapy started, and got her to work with a psychospiritual therapist. I then sat down and had a come to Jesus talk with her (or come to Buddha talk, as she was reading Buddhist books at the time). I asked her again if she was ready to die and she said emphatically, NO!
“Then, Mom, you are going to have to take control of your health care. Just like I teach my patients. You must be in the driver’s seat when it comes to your health.”
Mom showed her true spirit and rallied. She took over her own meds, even learned to administer her own suppositories. Mom was sure she couldn’t possibly reach. I reminded her she’d wiping her own but for 70 plus years. She gave me the stink eye, but managed to administer her own suppository. Yes! Goodness knows, if we couldn’t find the humor in this cancer-drama and laugh, we’d be crying all the time.
Mom began preparing her own meals and ate every couple of hours trying to gain the pounds she’d lost. She became discouraged when her weight didn’t change after a week of trying, so I taught her how to eat consciously. How to not just be grateful for the food, but to bless each and every bite, and instruct that precious food to do for her body what she wished. A week later she had put back on six pounds.
Under the guidance of her therapist, Mom arranged meetings either by phone or in person with the people in her life she needed to release. On Easter Sunday, she even performed a profoundly beautiful and heart wrenching ceremony, first releasing her mother, then my sisters, and finally in tears…me.
I tried to help Mom die consciously, and she began to live consciously.
By mid-April, it was clear Mom had taken a turn for the better. It was time for her to be with my sisters and her other grandchildren. She agreed.
I called my sisters. They were excited that Mom seemed better. I warned them that it was the calm before the storm. The time when the terminally ill rally, seem so much better, then slip away. They didn’t care. They just wanted to spend what good days Mom may have left with her.
So I did for Mom what she did for me and released her.
My sister flew out from Utah and drove our mother north. Mom finally got to see Jarys’ new apartment and bring him a fruit bowl (because it’s not a home unless you have a bowl full of fruit to offer your guests). Then they headed to Vallejo to stay at at the twin’s beach house for a few days. Last Monday, my sister flew with Mom to Utah.
It was hard letting her go. Trusting that she would be ok without me. Trusting that I would be ok without her.
It wasn’t an easy transition. The day my sister arrived here, Mom got off her schedule, skipped a dose of cannabis, became paranoid, insomniac, emotional. Her change in mood appeared to be chemical, but perhaps it was fear.
Too much, too soon, yet there so little time left to complete her “bucket list” (Mom’s terminology, not mine). I don’t believe in putting all my dreams, wishes, aspirations into a bucket to do “someday”.
I believe the time is NOW – to be fully present each and every moment.
Before she left, Mom wanted to see Kyra. When Mom first got out of the hospital, she dreamt Kyra told her she was having a baby. That evening Kyra gave her a stuffed elephant she bedazzled with her crocheted wedding doilies. She told her Grandma Honey to please sleep with the toy to imprint it with her energy so when she’s through with it, Kyra can give the elephant to her babies. After sleeping with it for the past four months, Mom returned the elephant to Kyra.