Wow, this is not the blog I thought I would be writing.
I am a midwife. I read all of the natural birth and attachment parenting blogs, and I write for birth related publications on occasion. I have thought for quite some time about how on earth I would write a birth blog that was new and fresh in the sea of fabulous and powerful birth blogs.
Instead, here I am, writing my blog, not as a midwife or a mom, but as a daughter. And it’s not about birth at all – it’s about death.
Several times every month, I am privileged to touch life as it emerges into this world, surely the most glorious moment. But as my family and I navigated our three-year journey with my mother after her diagnosis of breast cancer, culminating in the inevitable end of her life, I discovered the beauty in moving through this most acute of human challenges.
This is a big one for me, and I’m sure it is for you too. Death is the big scary thing. Losing my mother in her fifties wasn’t even on my radar when I was living in Phoenix a little more than three and a half years ago, working in an insanely busy practice, and raising three kids. Around Thanksgiving, Mom called me from her home in a Denver suburb to tell me about some pain she had been having in her breast (for quite a while, as it turned out – we’ll talk more about how important body awareness and self-care is in a future post). She believed she had breast cancer because when she finally worked up the nerve to do a breast self-exam, she could see that her left nipple was severely inverted, and her breast was red, hard and sore. This news was alarming to me as a health care provider, as what she was describing sounded like a vicious, fast-moving form of breast cancer called inflammatory breast cancer. When I flew in to Denver in mid-December to meet with her oncologist, this suspicion was confirmed. She was diagnosed at stage 4; the cancer had filled her entire left breast, her sternum, several ribs and vertebrae, and had spread to adjacent lymph nodes.
So, that’s the scary beginning of the story, but as this blog unfolds, I am going to tell you about how this piece of horrible news changed our lives in some incredible ways. For example, even though my relationship with my mom had been strained in the previous years, my trip to meet with Mom’s doctors led me to make the crazy suggestion to my husband upon my return that we move to Denver to take care of her. And because this disease was so aggressive, we had to leave right then. And we did. If you can believe it, we packed up our home in Phoenix over the next two weeks, and I made arrangements with my business partner to start getting my practice covered. My husband, myself, our three children, our two dogs, two tortoises and our moving truck pulled into my mom’s driveway on January 1st, ready to begin the fight.
My mom’s name was Marsi, by the way, and she was a beautiful, loving, youthful woman. I hope you stick with me as I tell you about her and all that we learned about how to do this awful dying stuff.
I think the biggest thing we found out is that it’s not so bad if you don’t have to do it alone.