Tuesday, January 21, 2014

My Mother's Cancer

My mother got ovarian cancer when she was around 44 or 45 years old. This was back in the 70's and her treatment consisted of  a hysterectomy followed by around 6 weeks of daily colbalt treatments which was a form of radiation they did back in the 70's.
Everyday she had to go to into Atlanta for her treatment which was about a 120 mile trek, (give or take a few miles) round trip.
She was like Blanche DuBois, depending though not on the kindness of strangers, but rather the lecherous intent of a would be suiter whom I'll refer to as Bick McNutshell.

My mother was an attractive divorcee', having rid herself of my father (at least on paper)  after 10 children and many years of sorrow. We did not have a car so Mama did the best she could with getting rides here and there.

Usually my Aunt Frances would take her where ever she needed to go,  but for the long haul into Atlanta she had to make do.
It fell upon either me or my cousin Nanci to chaperone on these daily sojourns. I usually didn't mind, because it got me a day out of school.

And being the intuitive child that I was, I also did not trust old Bick's supposedly "Good Samaritan" facade. Now it was on one of these trips back from Atlanta that Bick decided he wanted to show us his boat.
All I remember is finding myself huddled into my jacket against the cold wind out on Lake Lanier, while Bick attempted to show my mama how to steer his old rust bucket.

Being a snarky teenager, I totally rebuffed all of old Bick's attempts to "make nice", and soundly lectured my mother on the evils of "dirty old men" when we got home. Mama calmly reminded me that sometimes we just have to "make do" with whatever is at at hand.

Well I digress into foolish childhood memories, but the gist of this story is this. My mama was the first Teal Warrior. She did what she had to do to survive and get by. Oh and by the way, the colbalt treatments worked. My mother was very sick that first year following her treatment. She had radiation burns and scarring on her abdomen. Her doctors told her they had "done all they could do" and basically sent her home to die.
She was so sick that first year, she thought she was dying.

Gradually though, she began to regain her strength, and surprising her doctors, she went on to live for about another 25 years.
Her cancer recurred in 1998 when she was 68 years old.
I remember when she called me to say she was stopping her chemo.
She was tired and she was ready to stop fighting. This was her decision and her's alone.

I think about her a lot. Ovarian cancer was just one of many battles my Mama fought and won. And let us be clear on that-she did win. (As for old Bick, he won neither her heart nor her hand, himself having to "make do" with being merely a "friend without benefits".)

What I learned from Mama was this. There are times when you just have to "make do"  with what you have, and usually that will be enough. I miss my Mama.
I wish she were here, but I draw strength from my memories of her courage and her Warrior's Heart.


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