learning from losing

braceletCancer is a nasty enemy.

It does not discriminate and will attack all types of people.

Too many times the disease wins the battle.

My mom has terminal cancer. I wear this bracelet each day to remind me to pray for her.

I accompanied my mom to her chemo appointment the other day. Since I live in a different state, this is the first time I had the opportunity to meet her doctor and keep her company during her treatment. My sisters have been with my mom many times for these infusions; I am very grateful to them. I counted it a privilege to help this time.

The process went like this…

  • Arrive early to modern, sterile building. Check in at desk #1. Sit and wait.
  • Pay at desk #2. Sit and wait. Make small talk.
  • Chat a bit with kind, gentle, careful technicians and aides. Answer questions. Fill out paperwork. Check wristband.
  • Take elevator upstairs. Check in at desk #3. Answer questions. Fill out paperwork. Check wristband. it’s busy. Many bald, turbaned, walker-or-cane-assisted people come and go. Sit and wait. Mom called in to prepare lab work.
  • Take elevator down one floor. Sit and wait. Get mom water and coffee.
  • Move to examination room. Sit and wait.
  • Short check up with doctor. He speaks fast with a difficult-to-understand accent and medical vocabulary, but also communicates warmth and care. He has no easy answers for leg pain and weakness but he encourages goals, bucket-list dreams, and light exercise.
  • Visit desk #4 to schedule next chemo appointment and full-torso scan to check chemo effectiveness.
  • Take elevator back up. Sit and wait, as lab results are checked and drugs mixed.
  • Move to infusion chair. Answer questions for young nurse. Check wristband with drug bags. Connect port to tubing.
  • Anti-nausea med – 10 minutes. Rinse. First drug – 15 minutes. Rinse. Second drug – 1 1/2 hours.
  • Share pictures on my iPad. Visit with nearby fellow patient(s). Chat about life, grandkids, weather, wigs, cancer support group. Talk about life and death. Eat lunch. Share about feelings, fears, lifestyle changes.
  • Nurse disconnects tubes and connects pump for next two days.
  • Take elevator down. Exit hospital, grateful for another day and time together.

A seven hour process all in all, repeated every two weeks, until the drugs are no longer effective against the cancer or the side effects are too difficult for my mom. This treatment will not cure the cancer. It is terminal. I am losing my mom.

As I sort through the emotions, I learn to look for each small gift… Mom has faith and peace. She still has her hair and walks on her own, albeit slowly. She has good days when she can go out with friends. Mom receives great care from her family and the medical staff. She is loved.

Disease changes life and sometimes ends it, but disease doesn’t define life. There is more.

Have you or someone you loved fought a life-threatening disease? What have you learned from the experience?

12 thoughts on “learning from losing

  1. Terry, I know your laughing smile brings joy to your mom. Thank you for the reminder to savor the time we have with aging parents… even when it’s hard.


  2. Wow Terry. I make the drive to San Diego every week; sometimes multiple times depending on Mom’s treatments. I have a sister up in Sacramento where Mom has also been seeing a Dr at UCDaivs for possible entry into a clinical trial. I’ve had a hard time adjusting back to being a Californian, but after being away from Mom and Dad for thirty years, it’s nice to see them a lot.
    What I’ve learned is life is short. Too short to get hung up on the past, and past hurts. There’s so little time that we get to have adult relationships with our parents where our attention is undivided. And of course, that God has plans that are for our best. For all of us. Always. All I have to do is trust Him.


    • Caroline, I did not know about your mom.. so sorry… and yet so glad that you can be near her. Your lesson learned is a good one for all of us. Life truly is too short for petty grievances – God has much more in mind for all of us. Thanks for that powerful reminder!


  3. Cancer/illness is a mixed bag of blessings. Such an unwelcome interruption. But the months that Pat was undergoing treatment and recovery were some of the sweetest we have shared. I’m thankful for the way our days were simply (although sometimes pretty stressfully) ordered. Activity is focused; energy is carefully managed – life slowed in a very “slow-motion” way.


    • Thanks, Karen, for that reflection. Simply-order, slow-motion, focused… those are great ways to descibe that days that revolve around serious illness… and they are a sort of contrast blessing – as they are so different from the frantic, hectic, multi-tasking life we usually lead. Thanks for helping me see the gift of these days.


  4. I applaud you taking the time, energy, courage to be present with your Mom. That’s a gift she’ll cherish, no matter how long she has. One you’ll cherish even when her time has come. The “sit and wait” is such a picture of life in general! May you do the “sit and wait” with grace and enjoyment for the moments you have. For the todays that are still there for you to share.


    • Thanks, Dayle… it is true, taking time with my mom is a gift to both of us! I do hope I will continue to “sit and wait” with grace and enjoyment… please pray for me! Love to you!


  5. So thankful you are getting this time with your mother,Terry! Since my mother has gone to heaven these moments when life moved rather slowly as I cared for her are cherished memories now! I love how you are viewing them as opportunities not burdens! Love you!


    • You have modeled well for me, Alice! I think often of your kind, patient, sacrificial love and care for your mom as I consider my opportunities today… thanks for loving your mom so well and giving me hope through your example! Love you back!


  6. Al passed away from pancreatic cancer 4 years ago this July. He was my step-dad, my mom’s husband, my children’s grandfather, my chat partner, my encourager, my friend. For two years we made many trips into the ER or doctor’s appointments and still, we ended up in hospice at the end. We knew we’d end up there because pancreatic is terminal, but I still wasn’t prepared for the finality of it all.

    It was a joy to care for Al. My folks live next door, so it wasn’t as hard in that sense, but the emotional was harder, I think, in some ways, to never “get away” from the situation. My children came alongside and spent nights with Bampa or brought stories or music or hand holding – or just whatever needed to be done those last many months. Life was disrupted, but nobody cared as we felt so honored to be able to show Bampa how much we loved him those last few months.

    I am grateful that GOD gives us the time we have, even if we know the final chapter. We were glad to have the time to laugh just once more or share a thought or idea or hug or kiss.

    I know this time has been hard on your family, even if everyone is always smiling in the pictures. I can’t say how you’ll feel in a year or two or three, but I am pretty sure that in the next many months, the moments of joy will be cherished and the extra time will be appreciated. GOD will be glorified and your mother will be honored. That is the aroma that I think GOD desires in this situation, and that’s what we’re praying for your family.


    • Thanks so very much, Cathy, for your prayers and your encouraging, empathetic words. Your story/testimony is agreat help… somehow just not feeling alone in the process gives strength and your example gives hope. Thanks for taking the time from your busy life to write this out for me! Love to you!


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