|My mother in the center with me and my sister. In this picture, mom|
is at M.D. Anderson during radiation treatment to the brain.
What I find very sad during this time is that I had been so very ill the year my mother had passed away that I feel sometimes as if our little time left together was severely interrupted by illness for both of us. Yet, I was still working full-time and raising two daughters, doing my best to hide my cardio issue. I already knew that a rarely performed decompression surgery would need to be performed. This involved cutting out a rib, several muscles in my neck and just about anything else the surgeon could cut out to give the artery more room to pump blood through. But, I put myself into auto-pilot so I could live life as "normal" as possible. Few people knew I was so ill, few people knew my mother was dying...it was ridiculous, but I had a hard time sharing things that were so personal. Life was kept at a brutally busy level, just so I would not fall into the deep recesses of my mind and think too much about my reality. On top of my own bad medical news, my mother discovered two lumps and they turned out to be breast cancer. We were overwhelmed. My mother, the tireless helper, became the one who would need a small army of help since her battle would be so fierce and quick.
The year before she died, I had no choice but to move forward with my first cardio-thoracic surgery, a dangerous arterial decompression surgery that required the removal of my left, first rib and some of the muscles in my neck. The surgery could not be delayed. On the chopping block I went and I sure did feel pulverized. They left surgical jewelry inside my chest wall, a couple of adorable artery clips in my thoracic region that will forever be a part of me. The Lana Landscape was changing on the outside and the inside.
But, the real kicker was the collapsed lung that lasted for nine months and the internal bleeding into the chest wall and the nerve damage that prevented one eye from opening fully. I was a complete mess with tubes running from inside my body to the outside world, everything was terribly abnormal and disturbing and painful. And, the worst part was that I was going to have to go back into surgery the following year to do the same thing for my right side. Little did I know, my mother would already be gone by then.
After my first cardio-thoracic surgery, I was often hanging onto life by a thread, in and out of the hospital, especially because my Addison's disease was being pushed to the limits. Through that first cardio-thoracic surgery, my mom was there to help, even as she was battling her cancer. We were quite a pair. Our joint sense of humor carried us through some very dark times. At one point, during a hospitalization, I needed my surgical stress dose for Addison's and we had been telling the staff for over one hour that it had been long overdue. I was slumped over in the hospital bed, unable to talk any more and my mother knew the situation was dire. She stepped into the hallway and began yelling, "She needs her injection now! It might be too late already - get the Endocrinologist NOW!" Guess what? A TEAM with Endocrinology came bursting into the room and the head honcho told his team, "You'll probably never see this again, so pay attention" and he pushed a huge loaded syringe of medicine into my IV. Within minutes, I was able to hold my head up, sit up and say, "Thank you," as five residents stood in awe. I hoped that they would be able to help the next person in my position so they wouldn't die either. But, my mother was the one who saved my life.
|My mom in the 70's - holding my newborn sister just before|
we left to live overseas in Scotland.
One day, I was driving her to an appointment at M.D. Anderson and she told me that she was at peace about my cardio health because she'd had a dream that I would eventually be healed. At that time, with another serious cardio-thoracic surgery facing me and knowing that my body would be yet again introduced to bone saws, huge incisions, muscles extractions and scar tissue removal with more artery clips installed, I had a hard time seeing any healing in my future. But, I agreed with her because I mostly wanted her to live out her few remaining days in peace over my well-being. Today, after nearly five years, she is right. My cardio side of health has been "healed" because of the surgeries doing their job. My upper body has a strong pulse and I am no longer feeling an invisible hand around my neck strangling me. Life is better.
My mother died from home on a beautiful day that March...her body was free from pain and able to finally relax into a final release from this world. I went back to work within two days of her passing - straight back into denial because mourning was too painful. I still did not have enough lung power to cry, so I avoided it at all costs. I knew she needed to leave her body, I understood pain, so I did not feel selfish and want her stay in spite of her pain, yet I did not want my mother to go. I'd never have another mother. She was beautiful.
Within approximately three months after her death, I had my second cardio-thoracic surgery at Hermann Hospital in Houston, Texas and most of the same post-operative complications as I had the first time around. But this time as I lay with a paralyzed diaphragm - which is the muscle that controls the lung - I suffered again with a collapsed lung and terrible things too difficult to revisit and my mother was no longer present. I had no mom to worry about any more. No more cancer to fight. No more endless trips to M.D. Anderson as I watched her deteriorate. No more phone calls. No more sharing. No more mom.
Since my last cardio-thoracic surgery in 2006, I'd have to say that her dream was right. Of that condition, I feel so much better. It's taken time and one more related surgery in 2008 to take out more muscles that had been grinded up during the last surgery and I did start to feel stronger and better. Her dream circled me.
So, we're hitting the five year mark of her passing as of today and I want to tell her:
Mom, during our last couple of years together, our bodies just didn't want to give us a break. But, I am still hanging in there. We'll see each other again one day in Heaven and we won't have anything health-related to distract us from being silly together. I love you mom, I feel your love always, but I want you to rest and not worry about us because you deserve the peace you now enjoy. One day, in Heaven, we'll climb a big banana split and slide down through the chocolate syrup and not gain one calorie! Until then, love NEVER dies.