The Phenomenal Fighter

While some people may pay attention to the doctor’s diagnosis that dictates just how much longer we haveon this earth, God has the last word and verdict. It’s a thin line between love and hate; it’s an even more delicate line between life and death. Life can change at the drop of a dime, and if we allow it, it can bring us falling to our knees. When I think about the life and death of my mother-in-law, I’ve never seen a woman fight so hard and long for survival. This experience has taught me so much about our individual inner strength and how powerful the will to survive is.

The year 2011 started off as many New Years preceding it. The usual New Year’s resolutions of weight loss, kicking the nicotine habit, then the infamous promise of being fruitful and prosperous. I’m sure at this point, you think you see where I’m going, not by a long shot!  Although our year started off as many other people, that exhilaration didn’t last long at all.  I can’t remember the exact time of year, but my mother-in-law suddenly began to get consistently sick. 

Typically we thought it was the usual stomach virus that she would fight over time. Many visits to the doctor only returned misdiagnosis and an overwhelming amount of prescriptions, one to stop one symptom and then another one to stop the symptoms the first medication caused. Time went on and on without out any episodes of wellness or explanations of why her health suddenly began to fail.

    Her body started to weaken from all of the vomiting and thrusting of her inner body. Before long her now-reduced frame began to weaken and become frailer with each passing day. Her diminishing physique also began to pale, and eventually she lost so much weight, that her skin started to ripple. She was always a pretty healthy woman, but because of the unhealthy weight loss, she lost any remaining muscle mass and was left was nothing but lifeless skin.  

    Amazingly, although her body had weakened, her spirit remained unscathed. Through it all, she still maintained that jovial spirit about herself.  She would make you laugh as if nothing ever changed concerning her health and well-being. I remembered she would jokingly ask me if I was taking care of her son; I can hear her say “You’re still taking care of my boy right?” I would always respond by saying, "Yes Ma'am.” Each time her response would be, “Okay, don’t let me come down there and bust your head on the stove until the white meat show.” We both would burst out laughing so hard, my stomach would begin to hurt and cramp. She was always upbeat and funny as a barrel of monkeys. My mother-in-law was small in stature, had a big heart, and was the sweetest person you would ever meet. So to hear about and witness her suffering was extremely heartbreaking.

     The constant vomiting and the many trips to the doctor, not only began to take its toll on her body, but we as a family were very concerned as well. The constant weight loss, gain and the frustration of not knowing what was wrong was also troubling since we were all the way in Georgia and she was in Virginia. The issue of what could be causing her illness suddenly felt as if an elephant was in the room.  At home, I could remember my husband often say, “Tiff, I can’t lose my mother, I don’t know what I would do without her!” The hope and faith that I was always raised to cling onto would respond by saying,“ Your mother will be alright, she is a tough lady and has many more years on this earth.” Unfortunately at that time, in all honesty, my faith and hope began to waiver.

     Finally more diagnostic test were performed; a CT scan here, colonoscopy there and lastly some biopsies were taken.  We held our breaths and tightly grasped onto those uncertain strings of hope and faith, trusting and believing that all was okay and that all of the tests would return clear and benign. After all, nothing could happen to my mother-in- law. Not this sweet lady that had been through so much in her short life, this humble woman that has overcome so many trials and tribulations. A woman that just retired after committing over thirty-five years of life working her feet and hands to the bone. No, this can’t be, not for my husband’s sake, not to mention his two older brothers, she has to be okay!  This was her time to relax, travel and finally enjoy life.  As far as we were concerned she had many more years ahead.

     Unfortunately the news we received from the doctors painted another picture. The doctor said that ugly word I’ve grown to hate; CANCER.  Not only that, it was so bad she had maybe a little over a year to live. Lord, that can’t be true, how it could be possible, whose report should we believe, you’re the great sovereign healer, your word and only your word is true. That doctor didn’t know what he was talking about. This horrible news was devastating, and forever life changing. I can’t began to conceive how she felt inside. It saddens me even further to think about it.  I had never seen my husband cry, until then. He was being faced with knowing that fragile line of life and death was being crossed by his beloved mother sooner than we could ever anticipate. At this point, I felt so helpless in knowing that there was nothing I could do to console him or make things better.

    One minute you think life is going great, then life throws you this enormous curve ball. The fragility of life was challenged, and the tables suddenly turned for the worse. Needless to say, once faced with this news, my mother-in-law put on her mental armor and prepared for battle because she was now facing the battle of her life. At this point, we all could only depend on our Hope and Faith in God. The fight of this unwavering, non-faltering warrior was something to witness. At that time, I would ask myself, how does she do it? Watching her spirit always lifted, her consistent humor, and her larger than life personality was always present until the end.

    Even at the end she kept going as if nothing was wrong. When she was given ten days to live while spending his last moments with his mom, my husband recalled a time when he fell asleep on the sofa. Shortly after, he felt this weakened woman wrap a warm blanket around him. Even with life vastly coming to an end, she never lost her loving and nurturing spirit. That same unselfish spirit allowed her to get up in her weaken state, walk down the hall, retrieve a blanket and cover her baby boy up for one last time.

     With a couple of days left on this earth, she began to have dreams of crossing over and would descriptively tell us about it. She would describe herself walking by a beautiful stream of water. By this water, children were laughing and playing. She also spoke of a long walk ahead and a walk that she knew she had to take alone.  This beautiful warrior and woman was so brave until the very end. Sadly tears are rolling down my face as I compose these words.

      In conclusion, watching this true warrior battling cancer was a very humbling experience. After witnessing her pass on, my life will never be the same. The walk and finale of life is a powerful thing that we should never take for granted. We should laugh, play, joke around more and live each day as if it were our last.