A – Diagnosis & Choice

My mama was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer officially on May 11, 2015. This was the day after Mother’s Day.  Shortly after, we met with specialists at MUSC in Charleston, SC, and with mama’s local oncologist, to seek out professional advice and options available.  Mama decided to live life, instead of fight death, and began receiving end of life hospice care in our home by the first of June.

Mama always said, “I’m a special case.  I don’t do anything the easy way.  If I’m going to go out, I’m going to go all out.”  See, mama previously battled breast cancer in 2010 and successfully overcame that with a grand combination of chemo & radiation therapy.  Then in 2013, after months of being, literally, unable to get off of the couch or out of the bed due to lethargy, she was diagnosed with a blood disorder, essential thrombocythemia,Jak+2 (excessive growth of malignant platelets). Until her pancreatic cancer deal, mama was on routine oral chemo medications to help keep her platelet count down.

One afternoon not too long ago, mama came into the kitchen where I was cooking dinner, and said, “I’m so sorry for all of this.”  I could see her chin quivering a little, as she fought back tears.   I turned to her, hoping to sound nonchalant and playful, saying, “Mama, just tell me there’s no where else you’d rather be right now.”   Knowing good and well that if she had it her way, she’d be healthy and at the beach, she said, with a smile on her face and dew-heavy eyes, “There’s no where else I’d rather be”.  Without missing a beat and stirring whatever I had cooking in the pan, I said, “Good! I’m going to hold you to that! There’s no where else you’d rather be than in the kitchen watching me cook supper!”  Mama always liked to be in the kitchen with me.  She’d tell me how I use too many spices and herbs (oh, how she disliked oregano!), warn me to go light on the salt, and offer instructions on how to better cook whatever I was fixing. So this little exchange we were having was our way of dealing with what could be a heavy moment.  Mama and I didn’t have too many moments of heaviness.  Instead, we lived out mama’s life long mantra, “This too shall pass”, focusing on the goodness of just being together.

A life long beach lover, we changed mama’s room into a “beach getaway” as much as we could, with colorful outdoor furniture, a huge window painting “overlooking the ocean”, and bird feeders and flowers right outside of her actual bedroom window. I’d always hoped after the May diagnosis that somehow we’d be able to get mama back to the oceanfront one more time, but as it turned out, our visits to Charleston in May would be the last warm salt air we enjoyed together.  Until the day mama was admitted as an inpatient at the McLeod Hospice House in Room 15, my husband and our two youngest sons cared for her, laughed with her, prayed over her and just loved her…right here in our home.

There is a saying on the wall above our kitchen window – as a matter of fact, it was right above mama’s head as she and I had that almost heavy moment in the kitchen – it reads, 


I am so thankful for the last few years that mama lived with us in our home, and for those special last few days of her life in the McLeod Hospice House, where she was once again my mother, instead of a patient, and I was her daughter, instead of a caregiver.  It was ten days gifted to us from A Loving Father.  Together, mama and I stepped outside of the world’s time continuum, and lived precious moments together.  Room 15 is my mama’s end of life story – how she left this fractured world behind and rushed the gates of heaven, in God’s perfect timing, with peace and dignity.   

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