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IF WE ARE LUCKY WE WILL WATCH OUR PARENTS DIE

I know, that sounds morbid, but think about it for a second. What is the alternative?

I have recently been diagnosed with cervical cancer, and have undergone a procedure to remove it. The cells have been taken out and sent off to “the lab” to ensure that they have ALL been removed.

Following my procedure, I was having difficulty sleeping as the thought of that blackness, only being removed from such a small area of my body, crept into my brain. I am haunted by the question “What if there is more? What if there is more somewhere else?” Anyone who has ever been diagnosed, probably has the same questions, and our medical system, although its better than most, does not just “offer” a full CT scan or a full MRI to look at the rest of you. The medical professionals find something, and fix it. They don’t go looking for more. It is much like when a plumber fixes a leaky tap. They come in, fix the tap, and thats all. They don’t go looking through the house at ALL the taps or the hot water tank, or the garden hose. They fix the problem, they give you their bill and they leave.

With that said, I am sure if I have symptoms or signs of it spreading, and discussed them with my doctor, he would order further testing and scans. But I feel FINE. However, I felt FINE before I was diagnosed, and in all honesty, I am still FINE. The procedure and healing has made me tired and sore, but overall I feel ….well, FINE.

Rewind to November of 2017. I was waiting for my appointment with a Women’s Health Centre, to have biopsies taken of my “lady bits”. The appointment was scheduled December 6. On November 26, we were hosting our neighbors for the Grey Cup game. We had just settled in for the opening, when I received a text message from my niece saying that my mother was taken to the hospital. My niece had no idea what was wrong with my mom. She just said that she was told my mother had been taken by ambulance. The next day, I was in my car, driving 3 hours to go and see what the hell happened.

My mother is 73, has been a smoker since her early teen years, and has lived a very sedentary life. She doesn’t exercise, and her basic food groups are coffee, bread, and more coffee. She has never lived a “healthy lifestyle”.

When my sister and I arrived by her bedside in the hospital, I was taken aback. I hadn’t seen my mother since summer time, and she had lost about 15 to 20 lbs since then. Her complexion was greyish yellow and her eyes were as dull as muddy pennies. Her small feet were poking out of her blankets and I could see they were starting to turn black and were beyond swollen. Her oxygen levels were at 60% and she was being treated for pneumonia. She was incoherent in her speech and it took her 10 minutes to utter a 7 word sentence. At this point, my sister and I realized, we were losing our mother.

Over the next few days, mom had CT scans, and was given full time oxygen, and nebulizers, with a constant IV drip of antibiotics. There was talk of who was going to sign the “do not resuscitate” (DNR) order, and our worlds were spinning. I have NEVER been very close to my mother as she was not always a “mom”, but all the years of “could have beens” and “what ifs” and regrets started creeping in, along with thoughts of funerals, and dealing with all of my mother’s “things”. It was absolutely awful.

Then….SHE GOT BETTER. I went to visit her on my last available day, and she had sparkle in her eyes again, and was coherently forming sentences (she still couldn’t remember my name), but she was almost back to her former self. She was told that within the past 6 moths she had suffered a stroke, which she couldn’t remember, and that she tested positive for Influenza! They sent her home after an 8 day stay, and I called her on her house phone the following day. As I was on the phone with her, I could hear her taking drags and exhaling off a cigarette. I asked her if she was smoking, and in true form, she replied “no”. (She has been a closet smoker for about a decade or more now). Everyone knows she smokes. Apparently, her release from the hospital gave her a new lease on life. The same lease as her old one.

So, this is what lead me to ponder, WHAT IF I DIE FIRST? Is this some kind of sick race to the “end”? What is SHE is the one at MY funeral, because I have had cancer? What if I don’t get to watch my parents die? They have both lead very toxic, and at times, extremely unhealthy lives due to bad choices, and I have worked extremely hard to improve my lifestyle and have made the conscious effort to make GOOD choices! What if I am not at their funerals but they are at mine? My life has always had ironic twists and turns, so THIS is almost an expectation, rather than a worry.

Death is a part of life’s equation. “No one gets out alive”, so they say. I feel though, that as children of parents, a major component of our life as adults, is to deal with the death of our parents. To deal with the grief, and the memories, whether they are good or bad. To go through their “stuff” as adults, to remind us of where we came from, and remind us who our parents were and are. In some cases, parents still have items from their children since birth. Some parents have nothing of their children’s, but they still have their “stuff”. We, as their children are obligated to make arrangements for their deaths and to help others through the loss of grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends etc. It is our duty to ensure that our parent’s last wishes are fulfilled, and that they are “taken care of” in a dignified and caring manner. That is our role.

So, lying in bed, thinking of the twists and turns over the past 3 months, has resonated with me. We are LUCKY to watch our parents die. Its all part of being adults.

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Writer of relationships / early childhood and mental health . Poetry and fiction dabbler

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