For more than ten years of my life I’ve been writing a daily blog, yet these last eleven days I haven’t been able to bring myself to write about what’s been going on because writing about it makes it real and I don’t want it to be real…
When my father-in-law first called to let us know my mother-in-law had fallen down and seemed confused we immediately got worried. They’d been preparing to drive down for a visit the next day but we told them they needed to go to the Emergency Room instead to ensure Mom was okay. From that point forward everything became so surreal…
We got a text saying Mom’s MRI in the ER showed a large mass and the hospital wanted her to see a neurosurgeon the next day. I immediately called my brother that’s a doctor to ask him what it could possibly be. He expressed the high likelihood that my mother-in-law may have a Glioblastoma tumor in her brain and suggested I tell my husband Rollin of that possibility and express that her time left would be very short if that turned out to be the case. I pushed back telling my brother there was no way I could suggest that to my husband as it would devastate him to even think about that possibility. But my brother again stated that he felt it was important that I tell Rollin how serious the situation could be and we got off the phone. My heart told me he was right…
My husband was visibly shook up at the suggestion and said we should just wait until she had her appointment the next morning before jumping to any extreme conclusions. It was midnight at this point so we said our prayers and climbed into bed. Four and a half hours later Rollin jumped out of bed, grabbed his keys, didn’t even so much as pack a toothbrush and got in his truck and started driving to Idaho. He knew he needed to be there when they met with the neurosurgeon to hear her diagnosis.
He was able to FaceTime me into the appointment as they met with the Neurosurgeon. When he pulled up the image of her MRI and showed us the size of her tumor my heart sank…my brother had been right…it was a stage 4 Glioblastoma brain tumor.
The level of shock we felt was indescribable as we learned how little time she had left and that she would need to decide whether she’d undergo surgery with chemo and radiation in hopes of maybe gaining a matter of months to live, or whether to engage hospice to help her be comfortable for the few weeks she’d have to live without surgery. How could any of this be real when she hasn’t even seemed to be ill?
I don’t know to describe the heaviness of breaking the news to the rest of her family, or the immense sorrow we feel about being faced with losing her. But I will try and describe the tremendous gratitude we feel – Gratitude that Mom fell, because had she not fallen she wouldn’t have gotten the MRI that let us know how limited her time left was so we could all come together to be with her before she passes. Gratitude that my brother pushed me to tell my husband how serious the situation might be, because without that Rollin wouldn’t have rushed up to Idaho to be with his parents as the doctor broke the news to them. Gratitude that her entire family – all 9 of her living children and almost all of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, as well as all her siblings and their spouses – have all been able to drop everything and gather in Idaho to be with her as a family so we can spend the time she has left together laughing, crying, recalling memories, singing songs, and expressing our love to her….what a blessing that is…
Yesterday my Mother-in-law made her decision to forgo surgery with chemo and radiation so she can spend the short amount of time she has left at home surrounded by her family as she sits in the recliner side by side with her husband of 60 years holding hands and looking out at the river flowing through the backyard.
The shock of learning you are losing someone you love is devastating. But it’s also a reminder of just how important it is to treasure every moment we have to be with our families.
I sincerely appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding as we take this time to be with the family.
~Amy Rees Anderson (author of the book “What Awesome Looks Like: How To Excel in Business & Life” )
I have always admired your wisdom and compassionate heart. I just passed my 50th anniversary and even without knowing your parents-in-love I know how deeply they have become joined together. I will put you, Rollin, and your family on my prayer list and really pray for these coming days to be all they can be.
So sorry to hear. My brother in law Kip had the same thing but it was inoperable. We did get almost 5 months longer with him. So glad you could all be together. We did that with Kip and our family as well and were able to laugh, cry and joke about silly things that he did or we did and more. It’s hard but was so worth it. No regrets!
Blessings to you all. I’ve been in your shoes and I can honestly say this is where you need to be and you will forever be grateful for this time. Sending prayers for all!
How wonderful the family can all take the time to be with her! It is precious time you will never regret spending with someone you love. And I am sorry to hear of her diagnosis.
Thank you for sharing. Too often we as professionals only share our professional lives – putting our best foot forward often tempts us to hide our personal lives. But when we see each other for who we really are – and open a window into our real lives – we can inspire others.
Thank you for sharing this deeply moving story. I lost both parents to cancer, but enjoyed spending quality time before they passed. Your story brings back sad yet joyous memories. Death is a part of life and to pass away surrounded by loved ones makes the transition peaceful and powerfully memorable. Thank you!
Last September my good friend, Sean Kruger, passed away after a two year battle with the same brain cancer. A large tumour was removed from his brain in December 2019 and he underwent treatment. He was 56 at the time and a successful senior partner at EY and had a family that he lived for. He fought for time with them and always said that God has got this. Even when the cancer came back and caused a stroke that paralysed the left part of his body and caused him to go blind, he soldiered on.
After his death, his brain was given to McMaster University near Toronto. It had 12 tumours and will provide the researchers there with an opportunity to work on finding a cure or at least better treatment for this cancer.
Your mother-in-law is brave and I wish as much as happiness and joy as there is sunshine in the time that she has left. God bless and keep her, you and your extended family during this time. I know that we all die but the death of a mother (my mom passed away in 2020), father, brother, sister or just a good friend leaves a hole in the fabric of our lives. We can never fill that hole but we can always remember the person who filled it while they were still with us.