Sunday, October 6, 2013

What Causes This Type of Cancer?

Better days. 1978.
(Written February 17th, 2012, edited October 6, 2013) I can't help becoming selfishly annoyed when I read posts on social networking sites by well meaning friends in regard to my relationship with my recently deceased mum.  “Your mom was such a sweet woman.” “Her love for you really showed.” “You were so close.” Ugh. Do these people remember at all the many nights I cried because I couldn’t give my mum a call to say “hello” without her screaming at me, saying, “What do you want?!” or “Goddamnit, why do you always call me when I’m eating?! Can’t you call me at a better time?!”? I couldn’t have a conversation with her for more than ten minutes, as she’d turn something I said into a “judgment” coming from me, though judging was never my intention. She’d scream, not allow me to speak, then hang up, where I wouldn’t have the opportunity to right my supposed wrong, explain my intentions, nor apologize. I was always an annoyance to her, at least 80% of the time. An inconvenience. She had me at the very young age of twenty-one – I presume that could be quite inconvenient when you want to be a famous singer, or painter, or model, or . . .

I was always the “good girl” in my eyes. No drinking, no smoking, no drugs. Read, read, read. Save money, pay bills on time, have no outstanding debt. Eat healthy. I don’t know who I was trying to prove myself to as Mum would have much rather had me as a drinking buddy that could bitch about not having money, not being able to afford the bills, how my stomach hurt all the time, then grab a burger and fries at McDonald’s—to wallow in the mud together as unfortunate swine.  

In this very moment, I am missing her so much that I half wish I had spent some time with her in the manner, as she wished. However, I know in my heart and mind that these activities are what ultimately took her life.

As she was wheeled in to surgery on December 7th, 2011, my step-father Bill, my grandparents, younger sister Kelli, my husband Shyam and I walked her to her room. The nurses let us in to hug her and wish her the best of luck. We were told she’d be going in to have a hysterectomy as she had ovarian cancer – though they wouldn’t know until they went in at what stage her cancer was. As we were walking down the hall leaving her behind, trusting they would treat her well, she called out for my husband Shyam. She wanted to give him a hug. She always took a strong liking to him and it brought tears to my eyes that she had made that effort.

“She should be done in about four hours, so sit tight.”

Twenty minutes after she went under, Dr. Rodriguez entered the waiting room where we were anxiously awaiting the “good” news. Kelli had left for work, Shyam had left to run some errands, so it was just Bill, my grandfather, and I.

“We’ve discovered it is not ovarian cancer that Donn has, in fact her ovaries are fine. We’ve discovered stomach cancer. There is a large tumor in her abdomen and it has metastasized to other organs in her body, including her intestines. This does not look good."

After everyone began to hug, sob, and curse the heavens, I somehow gathered the brain power to ask, “What causes this type of cancer? Is it hereditary?”

“Well, there are mainly two causes. Either you’re of Asian descent, which your mom is not, as far as we know, or heavy drinking and smoking.”

All this time, I’d been the bad guy when asking my mom to please stop drinking and smoking. She hated me for that. Hated me. She wouldn’t talk to me for months on end because I even mentioned the word “drinking” over the phone. I distinctly recall standing in front of her when I was 12 years old after catching her snorting a powdery white substance, saying to her "If you don't stop, it will kill you one day." I was right, and now I was livid.

1 comment:

Di said...

I wonder, if in missing her and grieving you are simultaneously grieving the kind of relationship you never had, yet so desperately longed for.
I had many, many similar conversations with my mom, and often grieve the childhood/teen relationship that never was. It's hard to have total peace about that.