My mother needs to write her life story. She is an amazing woman. She has been through so many things that seem to me to be ‘the stuff they make movies about’. She doesn’t see these things individually as extremely dramatic, but I think that is because she has grown so strong in dealing with these things that she looks back and perhaps believes they were simply a ‘part of life’. Even though she may say this to herself, she certainly made SURE I never experienced some of those ‘life experiences’ (that I could control) and for that I am forever blessed and thankful.
I remember sitting on the back porch with my husband drinking a little red wine with mom one night about two or three years ago. I asked her to share some of her life stories with my husband… and taking a deep sigh, she did so. She shared some wonderful, sweet things from her childhood, her dreams as a young adult, and then some of her experiences that I consider ‘nightmarish, unfair, and tragic’ – of which she spoke about almost in the third person (probably to get through explaining it). I wish I would have recorded those few hours of her talking. She would smile as she shared the good things, but you could tell that the bad things were difficult to express, to remember, and to relive. Although she obviously couldn’t share everything that night, my husband immediately begged her to write her life story. Since then, we have both begged, bugged, and reminded her to do this. Trust me, she has a biography that would win an Oscar. It will help someone. It will uplift someone. It will most probably save someone’s life.
Don’t get me wrong. It isn’t as if her entire life has been some awful, horrible horror story. Not at all! In fact, I can tell you personally (as I was with her since she was 19) that even when things were bad, she always brought ‘magic’ into our lives as children. We didn’t have much money, but I honestly never knew that until I was an adult. Birthdays and holidays were the sweetest days in our lives and in our home she would simply NOT tolerate anything but happiness on those days. My childhood was bittersweet, and the sweet part… was because of my mom. She had good moments throughout her life as we all do, and her life is probably the sweetest now than it has ever been.
If you met my mother today and got to know her.. You would find a woman who is loving, kind, giving, loyal and one that tries to enjoy the small pleasures in life. You would also find a woman who is strong-willed, a woman who is absolutely fierce when it comes to something she passionately believes in, a savvy business woman, and a woman who when attacked (by people, life or circumstance).. is a FIGHTER.
IT IS FOR THESE VERY REASONS, because of the beautiful soul she is today, that she needs to write her story. People need to see HOW to see the good things while going through horrible things. People need to see HOW bad things can often turn us into amazing, strong, yet also kind and loving people. People need to know that even if life is difficult at times, that you can change your circumstances, your outlook, and give your children an entirely different perspective for their own lives. People need to know that playing ‘victim’ is easy. Overcoming obstacles and living your life out loud is not – but clearly worth the effort. This is what my mom’s story will do for so many people.
So a few weeks ago, she sent me about three pages of her life story. I’m happy she started it. She has a long way to go though. Time to get back on it now, mom…
I set up a blog post for her through WordPress sometime in March… and I’m happy to say she is using it! She is not only an amazing woman… but also an AMAZING writer. Her blog posts hit various topics.. They range from posts about relationships – to funny off-beat commentaries – to the serious issues of health, life and death.
The following post is her latest (written yesterday) and is regarding her health issues and the nightmare she has gone through concerning her kidney cancer from the Camp Lejeune water contamination. Before reading it, see the PRELUDE story below the link to catch up (if you don’t yet know the history of her recent health issue).
(link above is her article “Waiting to Exhale” on her ‘Linsey Speaks’ blog)
PRELUDE TO HER POST:
Two years ago mom was diagnosed with kidney (renal cancer) and had a radical nephrectomy. We discovered this was caused from the water contamination in Camp Lejeune while we were stationed there when I was a child.
My father also had kidney cancer six years ago! Kidney cancer is very rare in itself (only about 2% of all cancers) and the chemicals that were in the contaminated water (PCE, TCE, and Benzine) specifically cause kidney cancer along with male breast cancer, leukemia, and birth defects. These chemicals can lay dormant for 10 to 50 years. Uggh… What a nightmare.
We knew instantly this was not a mere coincidence – yet the government continues to deny any responsibility. It is only until recently that a Bill was presented to congress to cover the Vets (AND THEIR FAMILIES) that lived in Camp Lejeune (from 1957 to 1987) for these health issues. Unfortunately this Bill continues to sit in Congress, stonewalled for how long… we still wonder. Fortunately for my dad, he had VA Healthcare for his nephrectomy six years ago. My mother however, had and continues to have NO health insurance. The VA will not allow her to apply for health benefits because she is not a VET. They are only just now quietly beginning to award benefits to the vets themselves related to this (kidney cancer included), but they publicly deny any correlation despite the proven studies, reports and tests on that water and those chemicals found within it.
Just recently CBS did a documentary that is available on Netflix via online streaming called, “Semper Fi. Always Faithful”. PLEASE WATCH IT. You can do it right from your computer or smart phone. It is fascinating and horrific, and oh so very important.
To continue.. Over three months ago, during her routine annual exams, there were four nodules found in her lungs. We were told this was most likely renal (kidney) cancer metastases (as is the case 90% of the time when lung nodules appear within 2 years of a kidney cancer nephrectomy). We were also told it was possible it was primary lung cancer (as her mother and two brothers – my grandmother and two uncles) all passed away from this. They couldn’t diagnose it either way however, without getting a cell sample to definitively figure out exactly what kind of tumor cells they were. We were told the chances of it NOT being cancer was very, very small. In fact, the oncologist literally said, “Look, it really ‘can’t’ be anything but cancer, but we can’t treat it without knowing exactly what kind of cell it is.”. When we asked why he couldn’t just operate and remove them (or even one) it was only then he told us, “Well, because that is very invasive and with even a small chance of it being a benign tumor or granuloma, we wouldn’t do that without a diagnosis.” Ahh.. so there was at leas a ‘chance’ of something other than cancer… but honestly the chances were so slim that everyone assumed it was cancer, so we simply waited test after test to determine what KIND it was in order to figure out the next step.
My mother was so brave and positive through all of this. Our family was scared and ready to face to obvious, but I think every one of us held on to that small chance of hope that there was an escape. We tried to forget about it and live our lives daily, but the black cloud hung there… every single day.
She went through two lung needle biopsies, pulling three cell samples in all. All three tissue samples contained only necrotic (dead) cells. No… that is not a good thing (as we initially thought) because cancer tumors, especially renal cancer tumors are HIGHLY necrotic. It just made it more probable that it was cancer. Nevertheless we all held onto that glimmer of hope for that slight chance of it being non-cancerous.
Mom didn’t want to know the details until she had to. She wanted to live her life as much as possible without knowing the statistics, the trials, the chances. She didn’t even want the doctors to talk to her regarding these things. She was ready to face the facts when they were available, but until then she told them to talk to me about what was ‘probable’, what was ‘suspicious’, etc., etc. I’m glad she chose that. It helped me as much as her perhaps because I was able to keep myself busy (I was able to DO something at least). I read all the trial studies. I knew the percentages of this and the chances of that. I wrote it down and waited with my mom for the results. First this test (nothing). Then that scan (nothing). Then a second needle biopsy (nothing). Then another CT scan… Uggh. We have been waiting since March for someone to tell us WHAT this is, so we could start some kind of treatment, schedule a surgery, something.. anything.
Without a diagnosis of the type of tumor cells however, the doctors could not begin treatment (as each cancer cell type responds to each treatment entirely differently than another).
Finally… yesterday, the clinic called me regarding her latest biopsy results. Over the telephone, the Nurse Practitioner read the pathology report from the procedure she had undergone last week (using a Super-Dimensional GPS-like laser bronchoscopy machine to get the biopsy tissue sample). I was stunned.
WE FINALLY GOT VIABLE CELL TISSUE SAMPLE.
A DIAGNOSIS HAS FINALLY MADE.
Mom’s blog regarding her experience yesterday is here… This is her story to tell