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My Mother...


Originally posted on my Patreon on January 29th, 2024


photo of my mother, Libby
My Mother, Libby

First, I want to apologize for the lack of posts and updates over these last few months. Things with my mother's health got very complicated at the end of 2023. And I, along with my father, brother, and husband were her main caregivers. 

On January 17th, 2024, at 2:28pm Eastern Time, My mother, Libby, passed away in her home surrounded by my brother, Jeff; my father, Pat; and me and my husband, Paul.


I have been quiet about everything that my mother endured over these last five years out of respect for her. She was a private person, but she also didn't want sympathy. She was a strong woman, whose kindness knew no bounds and shined through in everything that she did. What I'm telling at this point is a 'Cliff's notes' summary of exactly what my mother went through, all of which I was there by her side, and why I sometimes would 'disappear' from Patreon as well as my other social media accounts. If you do not wish to read further, I understand - no worries.


In December of 2018 my mother was diagnosed with colon cancer. She had been complaining of abdominal pain for a few months and finally went to the doctor to get checked out. The scans showed a mass in the colon and it was later confirmed to be cancer. January of 2019 she had surgery to remove the mass. The following months, beginning in February, she underwent twelve chemotherapy treatments. She finished chemotherapy in late July of 2019. While undergoing treatment, she was being monitored with blood work and routine scans. Those routine scans happened to show something on her left kidney. And it turned out to be a cancerous mass on her kidney. Within a few weeks a microwave ablation was scheduled and she came through it with flying colors. However, cancer would rear it's ugly head again when another scan showed thyroid cancer. So again, all of the appointments and everything were made for her to have surgery to have her thyroid removed in 2020. She did great again and was put on thyroid meds afterwards. And of course oncology recommended another twelve rounds of chemotherapy treatments. Which took the better part of 2021. 


Also, throughout most of her surgeries and chemotherapy treatments, she was wheelchair bound due to a bad knee, which she had replaced in March of 2020 right before everything shut down due to Covid. 


2022 was still a year full of appointments, check-ups, and blood tests. But for the most part, she didn't have to worry about having chemotherapy any longer. Until her blood tests started showing a rise in her CEA levels, which is an indicator in the bloodwork that cancer is more than likely present. Specifically, colon cancer markers... it had come back in the lymph nodes and there was another mass just below her kidneys up against the main artery that made it inoperable. At this point, all of the regular infusion methods of chemo had been tried as well. The only options left were to try to chemo pills. They had done genetic testing on my mom because she had had so many cancers simultaneously, and turns out she had a genetic mutation that made her ineligible for immunotherapies or other trials. Needless to say that the first chemo pill did not agree with her system. It was very strong, and she was even sicker on that than the infusion treatments. The second chemo pill, when prescribed, she was told that this was their last line of treatment and if this did not work they had no other options. This all took place earlier in 2023. She stopped taking the second chemo pill in August of 2023 because it just did not seem to be working and her body could not handle the sickness. Also, she had a pretty harsh UTI in August that went unchecked until the pain got so bad we took her to the ER where they found it, despite the cancer center doing routine urinalysis tests. I guess they missed it, though it was hard to miss. But I'll keep those opinions to myself at this point. 


Fast forward to September of 2023 and my mom ended up back in the hospital, but we chose a different one on the other side of town - with hopes that they might be able to offer a different opinion or options. She was there for 4 days. Her pain had been increasing in her lower back and stomach so much that she couldn't stand for long, or sit up for very long either. She was confined to laying on her back due to pain on her sides and stomach. Her appetite had also reduced quite a bit. She was losing weight without trying. I think she ended up losing around 65 to 70 pounds total by the end.


Throughout October, November, most of her doctors had told her that her pain was from the cancer and there's nothing more they could do. She decided to check with radiology and get a consultation, and the doctor there was pretty confident that he could help at least alleviate some of her symptoms and pain with a lose dose targeted radiation treatment. Well... that didn't go as planned. She was in too much pain to sit, so they allowed her to lay down before the treatment. On December 4th, my mom went in for her first and last radiation treatment. When they rolled her back out of treatment, she was speaking strange, garbled. She couldn't form sentences and wasn't making any sense, but she was obviously in pain. She was once again taken to the emergency room where they gave her fluids and pain meds. After an hour or so, she started coming back around. We were terrified that she had had a stroke or something. But that wasn't the case. When they did another CT scan at the ER they discovered that her cancer had spread very fast since her last scan in September and was now in her liver and lungs.


At that point, every single doctor and specialist told us that there is nothing more they can do for her and recommended hospice care. She didn't want to go that route at first, she was resistant. But eventually she called them and they came in the week before Christmas to set everything up at home for her. Throughout a good portion of November and from December on until January 17th, I was with her every day, taking care of her, cooking for her when she would eat, bathing her, changing her, making sure she took her meds, I did as much as I could or knew how to do. 


Christmas was always her favorite holiday, and she made it through the holidays, even though bed-ridden at this point, and she made it through the New Year. About a week after the New Year, I started noticing she was sleeping more, not wanting to take her meds, and just wasn't herself. Looking back, I see that she was giving me signs, and she outright told me one day "Jenny, just let me go, I'm so tired." I didn't want to accept that, obviously... she had fought so hard for so long, I didn't want her to give up. But looking back, I think that the last few months before hospice, she felt that the doctors had given up on her... and she lost her nerve and will to keep pushing forward. 


The last two weeks of her life, she was mostly asleep. Her appetite had gone way down, and I was having to crush her meds to make sure she wasn't in pain. She was still somewhat lucid up until a few days before she passed. She was no longer opening her eyes and just resting. Only showing the slightest of expression changes or head nods to let you know she heard you. And then just after 12:30am on the 17th of January, she started to make some weird sounds while breathing. My dad was with her, I had gone home to get some rest that night, and my brother was coming early in the morning to give me a bit of a rest that day. I had a feeling that she was close, I knew... I knew in my heart, but I was hoping against hope that it wouldn't happen so soon. But that morning, my dad had messaged my brother and told him of her breathing and he rushed over. Then my brother called me and let me hear her. I knew what it was... the 'death rattle' when they're hours away from death. I didn't bother changing my clothes, I rushed over still wearing my PJ's. We called hospice for them to send the nurse out, and they confirmed that that's what it was... that she was near the end.


We had enough time to call family members and let them know that she was close. We put the phone on speaker and held it near her so she could hear them say their goodbye's. And finally, when my brother, myself, and my dad said our final goodbyes and told her it was okay, that she could go... no less than 10 minutes had passed and she took her last breath surrounded by us.


I've never witnessed someone pass away in my presence. Let alone have it be a parent. My mother was, in many ways, my best friend. Especially as I got older. Her wisdom, humor, and creativity were and are an inspiration. I see a lot of her in myself, she is a part of me. I even sound like her at times, too. I just hope that going forward, I am able to make her proud. 

These last five years have taught me a lot about what it is to love someone, support them, take care of them, and then lose them. It's a pain that I don't wish upon others to have to endure. It changes you in profound ways... and for some, not in a good way. As for myself, I'm going to turn my grief into art - I'm going to get back to creating. I don't think that my mother would want it any other way. She was creative and crafty, it was her therapy. And my artwork is my therapy in so many ways. Brighter days will come soon, but for now I will process my grief with my art, and post things as I go along.


Thank you for reading this far if you have - this was truly the craziest, strangest, and most heartbreaking years of my life to witness everything that I did. But I know that I'm stronger and more compassionate for it. So please, hug your loved ones, forgive as often as you can, be sure to tell your loved ones that you love them, because you just never know what the future will hold. 


-Jenn



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