“We went to the hospital and they did all kinds of tests and at the end a doctor came out, took me into a little room and asked me ‘What do you think is happening?’ And of course I thought the worst was happening. I said ‘I think maybe the cancer’s just gone everywhere and taken over.’ And he just sort of nodded and told me it wouldn’t be long for my mom. And you sort of don’t know what that means – like ‘What do you mean it won’t be long?’ But you do know what it means. But you don’t want to know what it means…”
I knew I wanted my mom to die at home, with me.
“I had never been with someone who was dying before and I really didn’t know what to expect. I just knew that I wanted my mom to be where she could be comfortable and have somebody with her all the time, and that I wouldn’t have to hear from somebody ‘Oh, your mom’s died.’ So that I would be there with her.”
Within about five minutes after I got home I had a call putting all these things into motion…
“That a doctor would visit, the nurses would be sent, and someone would come to see if they had to improve my home. It was just like magic to me. I never expected anything like that. The doctor came the very same day. A young doctor; a most incredibly wonderful person, not only with my mom but with me and my daughter. Just explaining things. And the two nurses – obviously not everyone can do that job – they had such skill and compassion. The whole time I never got the feeling for one minute that this was some sort of job. They were both always so incredibly present, so lovely and wonderful.”
This one nurse in particular was always so skilled at letting me know what was coming, and at every stage what I could expect.
“I was worried because my mom was hardly eating anything. I’d make her something and she’d have a tablespoon of it. I was very concerned about that. I said to the nurse ‘My mom isn’t eating and she needs her strength.’ The nurse explained to me that things were shutting down, she didn’t need all of that nourishment, and that it was fine if that’s all she was eating. That took so much anxiety from me. It made me see things through a very different lens and I thought ‘Okay, I don’t have to keep trying to push food on my mom.’ Just those little bits of education were incredible.”
“They have these forms that they leave with you, and you’re supposed to measure what goes in and what comes out.”
It made me feel bad, like my mom was being reduced to these numbers on a paper.
“I asked the nurse one day, ‘Why are we doing this?’ And she said, ‘Well it kind of gives us an idea of how long your mom may last.’ And I said ‘Well, it just makes me feel bad. We know my mom is going to die and whether it’s going to be in 3 days or in 2 weeks it doesn’t really matter to me.’ And she said ‘Well, then just don’t do it. Frankly, we find this job often makes people feel like they are part of the care. But if it’s making you feel bad, you don’t have to do it.’ And I thought ‘Wow, that’s so responsive to what I was going through.'”
Whenever she came over, the nurse seemed just as concerned about me and my daughter as about my mom.
“One day she came out of my mom’s bedroom and we were sitting at my dining room table. She took 5 bottles of nail polish out of her bag and lined them up in front of me and said ‘Choose a colour.’ I kind of looked at her quizzically and she said ‘I am going to do your nails for you. You need to take care of yourself so you can be there for your mom.’ And she gave me a manicure and painted my nails. It was just phenomenal – I just couldn’t believe that.”
“My mother died in the night. It was about an hour before I was supposed to give her next injection.”
“I was just sitting with my mom, it was about 4:00 in the morning. I was talking to her on and off, just holding her hand. When you are sitting with someone who might die anytime, you’re very focused on their breathing. And I thought, ‘I think my mom stopped breathing.’ My sister was sleeping in the other room and I went in and said to my sister ‘I think mom’s stopped breathing.’ And she came in and she said ‘Yeah…'”
“This is a really odd thing to say, but since people have to die, it was a far lovelier death then I could ever have imagined.”
“I was so happy she was at home and so incredibly stunned by and grateful for everything that was put into place to help me through that whole thing.”