A Battle with Cancer

As you know, my Mother-in-law was battling cancer last summer during my pregnancy.  To keep this from being an extremely lengthy posts i’ll bullet the main points:

  • My MIL, Kath, had ovarian cancer 2 years ago (from now) which she beat with radiation.
  • At her 6 month check-up the docs found a large, softball-size mass in her chest.
  • It was too close to her heart to operate. Instead, 6 rounds of intense chemo was ordered.
  • After 3 rounds of chemo the tumor had only shrunk a tiny bit, moving slightly off of the heart.  This was discouraging, but we knew she’d beat it, so kept the faith.
  • She finished up her 6 rounds of chemo in early October and had to wait a few weeks for the follow-up Dr visit.
  • Dad sent her to a ranch in Colorado to visit a lifelong best friend (owner of the ranch) that she hadn’t seen in years.  She loved it out there- enjoying the peaceful beauty of the outdoors.  It was odd hearing her talk about feeling as though she was meant to be there at that given time. Now we understand.
  • Upon returning we found out that the tumor hadn’t shrunk at all, which surprised even the doctors since the chemo was so intense.
  • The doctors decided to wait until after Thanksgiving (a few weeks from that time) to do anything, so that she could enjoy the holiday. The plan was to do more chemo and possibly surgery.
  • With that, they didn’t want her traveling, so my in-laws couldn’t be down here for the birth of Riley as planned.  Kath was really upset about this, but we understood and tried to downplay it all.
  • Riley was born Nov 18 and then on Nov 24 (the day before Thanksgiving) Kath came down with what we thought was the flu and ended up going to the hospital because they thought she was dehydrated.
  • After some tests we found out there was fluid by her heart.  The Drs decided to go ahead with the surgery.
  • THE PLAN: Go in and open her up. 1st- test the fluid by her heart to make sure it was not cancerous.  If not, remove the tumor and follow-up with radiation if it was even needed.  If cancerous, sew her back up and do more chemo.
  • This is where it gets bad, and fast.  After a short period the Drs came out to talk to the family.  They said, “It isn’t good.  She has months left.”
  • Basically not only was the fluid cancerous, but apparently the cancer had spread everywhere.  We were baffled.  So many questions.  How had this not been seen before?  Why wasn’t this possibility even mentioned to us?  Months?  MONTHS TO LIVE?!?!  Seriously?
  • Ryan and I immediately made plans to get home ASAP. Luckily I have a very good friend that works for an airline and got us a deal on an immediate flight.
  • Once we landed back in Detroit we found out Mom was coming home from the hospital.  She wasn’t in any pain through all of this, but was having trouble breathing thanks to the fluid that had also been draining into her lungs.
  • The minute we saw her I knew.  Months wasn’t months, it was weeks, even days, if we were lucky.
  • I immediately handed Riley over to her so that she could hold her only Granddaughter. Even though she was tired and weak, you could see a little light in her eyes from meeting Riley. That was December 3rd.
  • The next morning she was already back in the hospital.  It was just so hard for her to breathe that is was more comfortable being in the hospital with nurses and Drs to help out.
  • She came home again December 18th.
  • The night of December 20th she seemed to not be responding well to Dad, so he decided she needed to go back to the hospital again. None of us were at the house to help, so he called EMS, who took her to the nearest hospital (one different than she had been in the past few weeks). She barely made it to the hospital.
  • I got the call while at my Moms house, about 10 minutes from the hospital.  I immediately went there, walking in to find out that they put her on a breathing machine.  Kath had signed DNR papers- Do Not Resuscitate, however they were at the other hospital.
  • They put her on meds (morphine, etc) to help calm her down and then told the family that we needed to say our goodbyes. So horribly sad.
  • The next day was spent at the hospital with the entire family: her 8 brothers and sisters and all of their kids, Dad’s brothers and sisters and all of their kids- we packed the entire hospital waiting area.
  • Going into her room was the hardest thing i’ve ever had to do.  I was devastated. I have always bragged how lucky I am to have such amazing in-laws and now I was losing one. Even worse, my husband was losing his mother.  His best friend, the person he talked to about every and anything.  Yes he had me, but this was his MOM, one of the sweetest women I have honestly ever met. They were birthday buddies- both born January 26th.  He was her baby and he had just had a baby of his own.  We needed her guidance and were so excited to share such an amazing experience.
  • I got to say what I had always wanted to, but hadn’t yet had the chance.  I sat there with her and Dad and told them how proud I was to be a part of their family and how much I appreciate them and the love and guidance they’d always given us.   That she was the strongest person I know and how proud I was of her.
  • We all went home that night to try to get some sleep, and for the first time in weeks, everyone did.
  • We got the call the next morning (Dec 22nd) that she had passed.
  • No one was there. We were all at home, asleep.  Everyone.  Her best friend, her husband, her children, her brothers and sisters, mother.
  • The nurse had gone into her room at 7am and asked her if she wanted the tube taken out.  Kath, who didn’t want it in the first place, said, “Yes”.  The nurse asked if she wanted to wait for family, but Kath declined.
  • The nurse said it was a matter of seconds.  She removed the tube and Kath took one last peaceful breath and was gone.
This was honestly the most difficult time of my life, of a lot of our lives.  I was so incredibly happy with the birth of my baby girl, but beyond devastated that I had just lost a Mom, that my husband had just lost the last person he’d ever want to.  Having been with Ryan for over 7 years, Kath was truly a Mother to me.
We waited until just after Christmas to have the funeral.  I have NEVER seen a funeral home or church so packed for one person.  I remember being at the funeral home and having such a warm feeling come over me.  The place was packed- literally.  There was a line out the door the entire day and you could barely move about the room.  One couldn’t help but smile at the outpouring of love being shown for this woman.  People came out of the wood works to show their respects and share their stories- it was amazing.
Christmas was not the same and will obviously never be again.  The weeks to follow were very tough, but we stuck together as a family and did all that we could to support one another.  Having such an emotional, loving, tight-knit family made this time much easier to deal with.  We cried together a lot.  We hugged a lot.  We also played a lot of cards :)  ~A family ritual at holiday times.
Today marked 5 months since Kaths passing.  I miss her so much.  I constantly find myself fighting tears when I see Riley do something new and wish Kath could be here to see it.  I honestly know that she is, watching from heaven and smiling down on us, but I wish I could talk to her.  I wish I could have a lifetime of long talks over coffee.  I wish I could hear her advice on parenting.  I wish I could hear her funny stories about Ryan as a baby.  I wish I could just give her a hug and hold her hand, say just one more time how much I love her.
I was just about to publish but had to add one more thing~ I just got the call that Ryan’s sister just had her second baby boy- Kade Lappan. 8lbs 5oz, born at 11pm.  Ryan’s brother had his 3rd son, Jace, back in February.
I know Kath is watching down over us, so proud and knows we’re all prepared to be the best parents possible, much thanks to her.
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2 Responses to A Battle with Cancer

  1. Pingback: #womensrunning Chat | Roller Koester Runs

  2. Pingback: Pregnancy Update: 39 Weeks | Roller Koester Run

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