Mom’s Got Cancer – Entry 1 #fuckcancer

160_mikigormanMy mom, Michiko (Miki) Suwa Gorman was diagnosed with metastasized lung cancer four years ago. My mom is a two time Boston and New York Marathon winner and author. You can read her bio on Wikipedia.
I’ve started documenting my mom’s journey for my own therapy and am sharing our experience including the dark moments, tears, laughter, drugs and the abundance of love in hopes that it will help anyone get through these moments.

Entry 1 #fuckcancer
How can my mom have lung cancer? She never smoked and is probably one of the healthiest people I know. I hardly ever remember my mom getting sick over a cold in her life. I had the girls with me, (Blanca age 6 back then and Gabby 4), in the doctor’s office with my mom in Bellingham, WA. The nurse came in with cookies, milk, juice boxes and a compassionate smile. You know they’re about to deliver some devastating news when you get cookies at the doctor’s office. The girls were bouncing around giggling and playing, so full of life, as my mom was wasting away from what was originally diagnosed as bronchitis. It was the representation of the circle of life right in front of me. Once we were given the news, the reaction was mixed, not really like how these things are expressed in Hollywood movies where the families start crying profusely. There was shock and lack of emotion initially and the girls were still enjoying their cookies. The cancer had already spread to her liver and spine at that point. The doctor had mentioned that everyone is different but statistically, she had about a year and a half to live. We walked out of that doctor’s office feeling like the ground beneath our feet was no longer there.

My mom had been suffering from depression for a couple of years prior to being diagnosed. I had never been around anyone who had depression and had not experienced it first hand. I had very little tolerance or compassion for it though. My mom had lost her will to live and wanted to die. Her lack of enthusiasm for anything, pissed me off. She had two beautiful granddaughters who loved her, a loving son-in-law and a busy daughter who acted like a teenager much of the time. How could she not appreciate her life?! Once she heard the news of her diagnosis, she felt this sense of gratitude, as if she was thankful for the cancer. We had a snack in Fairhaven at the park that day and she started crying tears of joy. She had completely accepted death and even welcomed it. She commented on how beautiful we were and how amazing the trees looked. Her eyes were sparkling and I hadn’t seen her this happy, ever. I had tears streaming down my face but they were not of joy. I couldn’t speak. There was a big lump in my throat and my heart was breaking.

As we were waiting for the next steps after the diagnosis, I took my mom to the Chopra Center for a week-long panchakarma retreat. Panchakarma is an Ayurvedic cleansing of the body, mind and spirit. My mom was really not doing well at this point and had a lot of pain in her back from the tumors. She was not able to sit upright for any period of time. The staff at the Chopra Center and the participants of the panchakarma week were so nurturing and loving. I had let go of my role as irritated daughter and turned into compassionate caregiver. My mom learned to meditate and most importantly, we had a week together without any distractions and the only intention was healing.

Once we got back to Vancouver, her GP had recommended an oncologist in Burlington and we went to see him immediately. He came into the patient room wearing a huge smile, full of optimism. My mom had found her will to live again, so the depression came back, not as badly as before the diagnosis though. He said “I’ve been waiting for you! You are the perfect candidate for a drug called Tarceva”. There have been studies done on Asian women who never smoked who develop non-small cell lung cancer and the cancer goes into remission. He was so excited and so were we.

It did work. Her cancer went into remission for about a year and then it came back.

4 Comments

  • Cora Geroux

    Thanks so much for sharing this Danielle. Powerful. xx

    • Efe

      hi you brave young man, i truly congratulare you, thatb4s the right way to rellay heal yourself, i donb4t know how you got to ayurveda, but you will surely get well. i have cfs as well, my problem is related allways to constipation. when i gen bowel movements correctly i can have a deep full rest night, and next day no brain fog at all, good temper, nice feeling of happiness, the contrary happens with constipation days. i am waiting an appointment with a ayurveda doctor for nex december, unfortunately i am not as brave as you are to travel so far by myself but when my digestion is well and mi caloric intake taken care of, i can run 3 to 4 miles, or swim one mile, etc. keep on taking care of your digestion back home, long time disfunctions probably take long time reversing, it is hard with the social life for me, but itb4s worth a million

  • Bill Graham

    I am sorry, I hope it will go back into remission your honesty is refreshing.

  • Bill Barder

    Danielle,
    I first became aware of Miki when her photo graced the cover of the February 1977 issue of Runner’s World Magazine. I was a poor college student who literally had to save my pennies in order to buy my monthly issue. (In fact I still have the magazine itself.)
    In October of 1977, I met your mom in person, as she was the “official starter” of the Big Green Team Marathon held in Minneapolis, MN. (The race consisted of 3 ½ laps around two small lakes.) Once the starter’s gun went off, your mom ran one of the laps greeting everyone runner with a warm smile and a “good luck.”
    Being my first marathon and extremely naïve I started out way too fast and hit the proverbial wall at mile 20. However, my ego wouldn’t let me quit and I plodded along finishing dead last by at least 30 minutes. As I crossed the finish line, the crowds were long gone (as well as the traditional post-race beef stew)…but your mother still there, waiting to congratulate me. I believe we even shared a beer.
    30 years of running later that moment is without a doubt the high point of my running career.

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