Mom’s Got Cancer – Entry 1 #fuckcancer
My 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.