28 Dec The End to a Life-Changing Year…
As if 2020 could not be more challenging, a few weeks ago, my mother got diagnosed with Stage 4 Cholangiocarcinoma, also known as cancer of the bile ducts.
She is 68 years old. She has Type 2 diabetes, but apart from that, is relatively healthy. She very rarely drinks, does not smoke, or partake in recreational drugs.
She told me of her diagnosis the Wednesday after Thanksgiving.
Biliary cancer is notorious for late stage diagnosis. Most people do not exhibit symptoms until the cancer has metastasized to other organs. Fortunately for my mother, the tumor obstructed her liver so she developed jaundice (yellowish coloration), dark discoloration to her urine, right upper quadrant discomfort, and other gastrointestinal symptoms. These symptoms developed very suddenly. This led her to seek medical attention. Her primary care physician ordered lab work and a CT scan of her abdomen, which showed the tumors. Otherwise, we would not have known about this until there’s not much to be done.
With my urging, she went to Memorial-Sloan Kettering (MSK) to be treated. MSK is one of the best cancer hospitals in the world, second only to MD Anderson in Texas. It was one of the best decisions we have ever made. It turns out that she was initially misdiagnosed as having pancreatic cancer. The initial imaging done was also not very helpful. So she was admitted overnight for more testing but also to undergo a procedure that would relieve her liver obstruction.
She now feels good and says that she does not feel like she is sick. She is about to undergo a chemotherapeutic regimen.
She cannot talk enough about the care she received at MSK. Her doctor had an excellent bedside manner, the other specialists explained her diagnosis and the procedures to her in a way she understood, and she says that the level of compassionate care from the nurses and other staff members is unparalleled.
Most people would see this as a death sentence, wallow in self-pity or fall into depression. But not my mom. She has the most incredible disposition I could ever hope for. She feels at peace and has no regrets about how she lived her life. She knows that she will be leaving a beautiful legacy, with a full life, successful children, an intelligent and precocious grandson, loving family and friends, while imparting the gift of learning and touching the lives of thousands of students throughout the decades.
As for me, there are moments when I am overcome by sadness or anxiety. I do not want my mom to suffer. I do not want to see my mom in pain. I want to spend more time with her. But death is a part of life. Our time here on earth has a beginning and an end. Some are more fortunate than others to be able to prepare, like my mom, and I am grateful for that.
But apart from this, there is something so beautiful that blossomed amidst all this. My mom and I talk every day now. We have achieved a special closeness that I never thought was possible before. We talk about life, love, the past, present, and we are very hopeful about the future.
I am also so blessed to have an outpouring of love and support from my social network. It has been truly incredible.
If there is ONE THING that you can glean from this post, dear reader, let it be this:
OUR TIME HERE ON EARTH IS FLEETING. Tomorrow is not guaranteed.
So live your life in a way that you won’t have any regrets. Tell people you love how you feel about them. Do whatever it is that you have always wanted to do but have always put off because you “don’t have time for it now,” or “I will do it when I retire”. Start the novel you have been wanting to write. Learn to play that instrument you have always dreamed about playing. Take singing or dance lessons. Don’t worry about looking ridiculous or silly. Because as long as you listen to your heart and soul, whatever it may be… it is LOVELY.
You can’t take your riches with you when you die.
But you can love like there’s no tomorrow.
And create memories that can last a lifetime.
Lots of love,