It was news no one wanted or expected to hear. “Your grandmother has cancer.” Not long after I discovered a new life within me, my mother discovered she was losing her own.
My mother has since passed away from cancer. I now understand the emotional pain she must have endured when her mother was diagnosed with the disease. Today, many cancers are often treated as “chronic conditions” to be lived with for a lengthy period of time. No one but God knows how long the time stamp will be.
My maternal grandmother was diagnosed with late stage, ovarian cancer. It was a particularly aggressive form of the disease and difficult for doctors to treat. Month after month my mother, together with her two remaining sisters watched my grandmother slowing slip away from them. She lived for nearly two years after her diagnosis. It’s never long enough…………
My grandmother was a remarkably strong and defiant woman. She fought the war of cancer with courage as any soldier would. I remember going to the Elks Club for Mother’s Day Brunch in May of 1988. Our hope was that she would enjoy the aroma of the party-pink carnation pinned to her breast, feel the warmth of the Arizona sun shining upon her face, and be without pain for one entire day. Just “one.” Instead, she tightened her thin arms around her mid-section, a sign and signal that all was not well. She tried her best for our sake, to take a bite or two. Then the pain of cancer came, not allowing many a morsel to melt upon her tongue. As triumphant as she fought, her calculated opponent was winning the battle. My grandmother raised her white flag, saying she wanted to, “rest.”
Two months later I gave birth to my second son, the last child I would ever carry. He was a big boy, weighing in at 9lbs, 4oz. I was blessed that my grandmother was well enough to see the two us. My mother brought her to the hospital shortly after my son was born. Sweeping him up from his bassinet, she gently lifted a limb to exclaim, “Oh, look how long his legs are. He’s a beautiful boy, a linebacker for sure!”
15 months later my mother lost the woman who birthed her, warmed her by the stove, and worked two jobs when the “ways of the world” warned her to stay home. What did I lose? A lady who hid a parcel of strength in my pocket for the future. A woman who taught me to shuck peanuts at Tiger stadium while she drank a beer. A feisty gal who boxed ‘bigger’ boys when she was young, yet wore high heels to work at the discount store. Sadly, my baby sons lost their great-grandmother, a lover of “little lambs” who they later knew only through scrapbooks pasted together by generations who came after her.
The Circle of Life.