As of January 23, 2015 Heaven has a new resident. What a happy reunion she had with my Dad, my Grandparents, many relatives and friends! No more pain or suffering from cancer.
For those of you who have been following me the past 3 plus years more than likely know about my Mama’s Cancer Journey. I’ve written 2 previous blogs about her experiences and the stage 4 lung cancer she was diagnosed with at age 91 in January 2012 …
I’ve taken a Mama/daughter time sabbatical so you haven’t seen any new blogs from me for quite some time. Now it’s time to gather myself together and start blogging once again …
“To everything there is a season” ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1a
Have you lost someone to cancer? If so, you have probably asked yourself the following question or something like it:
Why does someone like Mama get cancer? Why should someone who has lived 90 plus years spend their last years with cancer? It just does not seem fair.
Yes, cancer is no respecter of persons
- It affects people of all ages
- Even young children like a young boy Mama used to teach in children’s Sunday School
- Even people who live healthy, clean lives can get it
Mama was one of those people who lived what I would call a good, clean life. She always had a garden when she lived in a place that had plenty of water. She always had chickens for both eggs and meat. My Dad milked a cow for fresh, raw milk, cream and butter. Venison and grass fed beef were a part of her diet. Mama canned food for winter and in later years the freezer was always full. She worked hard but always took time out to worship God, attend church 2 to 3 times a week, and visit with friends and family.
My oldest son wrote a song especially for my parent’s 50th Wedding Anniversary – he also had the privilege of singing it again for their 60th anniversary in 1998. The words of the song give a snapshot of the life my Mama lived as a ranch wife.
“My Granddad is a cowboy; he rides out on the range, living out an American dream high on the New Mexico plains. Granny’s been right by his side, now on fifty years, been there through the good times, been there through the tears.
They raised a righteous family living on God’s side, somewhere between humility and pride. They’ve seen the world gone sour, come back and down again; the dust and the blizzards, the sunshine in the end.
My mind is filled with memories of that old man on a horse, of biscuits and milk gravy and pie for dessert, of tales told while visitin’, of golden times and showers, of quilts so warm and comfortin’, young calves and branding fires.
I wonder what it must be like to hold a love that true, take part in something so sacred, everlasting new; it must take pride and dignity, it must take humble care, learning to hold on, learning how to share.
All the old cattlemen, they know my Granddad’s name, seems like he’s worked every ranch up here on this range, they’ve sat at Granny’s table wherever it may be telling those long stories of life so hard and free.
Granny won’t you tell me what it’s been like to live those times, you’ve come through it all so gracefully with your gentle eyes, I am still young and I hope you know, you’ve set for me a light, and I hope I can always keep it, keep it clear in sight.
The wind blows through as the windmill, it turns on, for everything it passes there is something left beyond; like the rainbow at the end of the summer storm is there because it belongs, the love that springs eternal keeps going on.”
What could Mama have done differently in order to prevent those cancer cells from growing in her lungs? They were there for a long time lying dormant yet there must have been a trigger?
- Mama ate a good healthy balanced diet of whole foods cooked at home most all her life
- Mama did cook delicious desserts but always from scratch with measured sugar and powdered cocoa. Her chocolate pie was out of this world delicious.
- Mama was a tiny woman without an ounce of fat to attract cancer cell growth
- Mama was so physically active; inflammation never had the opportunity to take root
- Mama had a quiet sense of humor about her and picked up where my Daddy left off with dry witty remarks… she was good at laughing at herself as well as along with others… always looking at the bright side of things
- Yes, I am sure Mama breathed in a fair amount of dust especially during the dust bowl days, smoke from the wood or coal stoves she used for cooking and heating, and maybe even some toxins from all the houses she cleaned up and painted to make them livable for her family
- My brother has wondered if there was a chance there was radon in the ground where Mama lived in an adobe house for many years … it was never tested
- Mama’s strong faith and trust in God did not allow much room for stress
- Sometimes we will just never know what triggers cancer growth
My daughter shared some thoughts about her Granny that describes the attitude Mama had about life.
“As I reflect on my Granny, I can’t help but think of her love and faithfulness to God, to her family and my Granddad, to a way of life in which she worked hard but lived well. She was a person of quiet strength, relying on God, never seeking accolades for herself, but delighting in the service she gave others – and, of course occasionally stealing your dessert when you weren’t looking or winning games of dominoes as she would often hold that last domino tightly in her hand and sneak it out there in surprise!
My grandparents were people who inspired me to be a better person, to greater faith in God, to love without conditions, and to treasure time together. My Granny, especially, was one of my heroes, quietly working away at whatever life held for her with trust in her Lord, whether it was life on a ranch without running water, doing her own wrangling of that stubborn man she was married to for over 60 years, my beloved Granddad, or the cancer that ravaged her small body at the end.”
Yes, my Mama quietly worked and trusted her Lord as the cancer eventually took over her body. Even after it confined her to bed, when someone would come to visit and ask how she was doing … it was “just fine” or “just as ornery as ever.”
Mama’s last appointment with her oncologist showed the cancer in her body was 100% inactive. At that point the oncologist dismissed her as a patient saying there was nothing more that could be done medically for Mama’s cancer.
That was June 2014; 7 months after this 93 year old woman had been told she had only about 3 months to live or maybe 9 months if she went through aggressive chemo. As I said in my last blog about Mama’s cancer journey, she had chosen to go through the chemo. It was her attitude and faith in God that got her through.
Did the chemo work?
- It decreased her appetite
- It made her tired and weak
- It caused her to sleep more
- It gave her brain fog
- It made her more susceptible to the cancer coming back with more vengeance
Yet, she did live another 15 months after being told she only had 3 months to live!
Mama bounced back as much as possible at her age. She was able to take some of her supplements but she had lost her ability to swallow enough to really fight the cancer. Her loss of appetite caused her to refuse to take any liquid supplements as well as refuse to eat many of the foods she needed.
The decline was slow until a little over a month after her 94th birthday in October 2014. By December, she had lost the ability to use the left side of her body and could no longer be mobile without major assistance.
A huge blessing was that Mama had not had major, unbearable pain with her lung/bone cancer until about mid December. It was at that point that we had to reach out to the medical community for stronger pain meds in order to keep her comfortable. The local volunteer Hospice was able to help us coordinate home care and equipment needed to keep Mama comfortable.
I felt privileged to be able to be with Mama full time during her last 7 weeks of life. She had been living with my brother and sister-in-law for several years so we were all with her. Our older brother was able to be with us during part of those last weeks. I am so thankful for family that cared so much for Mama that they were willing to make those sacrifices.
Mama left behind a legacy of love. She did not know a stranger nor did she have any enemies. Mama was known for her ranch cooking, especially her bread making skills which provided dinner rolls for many family, church, and community meals. Her sewing skills kept Daddy and other family members in custom western shirts for many years. After Daddy went to heaven in 2001, Mama kept right on making quilts for family members and special friends. Mama was the other Grandma to many, many children even in her last days when neighbor children came to visit her.
One of the last quilts Mama made was for my youngest granddaughter. Her father, my son posted this on Facebook the day after Mama peacefully took her last breath.
“Granny was the heart of our family. Her gentle and kind voice will stay with us, as will her calm and enduring strength. We all slept under your warm quilts last night, Granny. I will miss you.”
Mama had an amazing faith in God and had accepted Jesus Christ as her eternal Savior when she was a young woman. That meant that she had peace about where her eternal home was which gave us that same peace. We have God’s promise that there will be no pain or suffering in heaven so I know without a doubt that Mama went to Heaven Cancer Free.
I know you have your stories about cancer and someone you love. As you treasure those stories in your heart and mind, I encourage you to share them. God allowed you to experience those times so you can encourage and bless someone else as you will be more sensitive to his or her pain and concerns.
I would love to hear what you have to share in the comment section below…
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Pat has been married to the same man for 53 years, is the mother of 3 adult children, and grandma to 8 grandchildren. Growing up in the country gave her a head start to living a healthy lifestyle. This grandma became interested in nutrition as a mother and for the past 27 plus years she has specialized in teaching others the importance of good nutrition. Challenges along the road have been many; her father overcoming congestive heart failure with nutrition, her husband's battle with GERD and dealing with major heart issues, her daughter's battle with a brain tumor, her grandson beating Hodgkin's Lymphoma, her mother's stage 4 lung cancer, her mom-n-law's dementia, and others. Her goal is to empower the future health of others with wisdom, knowledge and common sense so they can have the BEST REAL HEALTH possible.
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