Watching Your Parent Die From Cancer

Life Events

It is December 2019 when my Mom was admitted to the hospital. She had a distension in her abdomen and is suffering constipation. She is very thin, she can barely eat, and she throws up after drinking water. She had cancer.

Months before the incident, she complains of constipation. The doctor simply gave her laxatives for her constipation. Our family supported her treatment. We gave her what she needs. She was well for a few weeks before it became worse. She was throwing up after eating just a spoonful of food. After a few visits to the doctor, I was horrified with what I read. The paper says “Working Diagnosis: Gastric Mass probably malignant”. I searched around the internet and found Stomach Cancer.

The doctor asked for a CT Scan to confirm the diagnosis. We went to another hospital to get the CT Scan because the current hospital has a month long queue. CT Scans are expensive and money became an issue immediately. Hopefully, we were able to proceed to the CT Scan despite the financial challenges. The results of the CT Scan arrived 3 days after the test. I was horrified yet again. This time, Stomach Cancer was not just confirmed, it has metastasized. The new diagnostic is Stomach Cancer with possible rare Krukenberg Disease (ovarian cancer). My Mom was finally admitted to the hospital after the doctor received the CT Scan.

My Mom knew of the cancer since the doctor told her. Due to my work, I was not able to go with her to the hospital. I went the second day and sat beside her in the ER. I told her “Ma, whatever happens, know that we love you.” and she replied “Don’t worry, I will not die.”. Tears fell from my eyes. I grabbed her hand and held it for a few minutes before leaving.

The hospital requires a family member to watch over the patient. We watch over my Mom in rotation. My dad, me, my aunt, my siblings. Mostly it’s my sister who watches over my mom because me and my other siblings had to go to work.

Overtime, my Mom grew weaker and thinner at the hospital. She declined NGT treatment. She has low Blood Pressure so she had a bunch of needles attached to her to keep her BP stable. Due to her unstable BP, she was not given surgery. Sleep is horrible. Every now and then, a nursing aide wakes up my Mom so she could get her Blood Pressure. It was horrible. Getting a sound sleep at the hospital is next to impossible. No wonder patients are slow to recover. Mom’s skin is full of wound. Her arteries began to develop callouses. Overtime, needles won’t penetrate anymore. Needles have to be attached to her legs just so the medicine can be intravenously delivered to her system. Her body aches all the time. She is experiencing numbness and spasms throughout her body. We have to apply essential oils and do hour long massages in order to relieve her pain. She lived in pain during the hospital stay.

Seeing my mom in pain broke my heart. I cried every time I am assigned to watched over her. I always say that she should sleep. I even asked the aide to not wake her up. I always held her hand. She had a cold hand. I celebrated the new year with her at the hospital. She was very weak during this time.

A week after the new year, due to Mom’s constant vomiting, she was given NGT. It turns out that she is vomiting blood, dead blood. The purpose of the NGT is to not give her food, but to drain the blood from her stomach. Black liquid with coffee like powder constantly flowed from her nose down to a container. She often complains of pain from her throat where the NGT passes through. The distension in her stomach is a liquid that the doctor called Ascites had also been drained. Around 7 liters of Ascites was drained from her. By then, I visited her almost everyday after work, though I only stayed a few hours.

One time she told me that she wanted to rest, that she wanted to die. I cried. I know that she is in pain and I know that the only way to stop her pain is for her to die. She is growing very weak by this time, weaker than the week before.

One day, my sister called in panic. It was her turn to watched over. My Mom just had a seizure. I immediately went out from the office, grabbed a cab, and went to the hospital as fast as I could. I saw my mom lying in bed, breathing heavily, her eyes are looking straight to the ceiling. My sister is crying, I was crying. I whispered some words to her, “Ma, if you can hear me, please respond.” My dad and other siblings also came. They were crying. My brother told Mom to rest. He said, “Ma, it’s okay. You can rest now. Don’t fight anymore.”. His voice is shaking while saying this. A few minutes after the seizure, Mom’s finger began twitching. An hour later, she slowly began moving though not fully recovered. It’s as if the seizure put her into temporary paralysis. Her whole body began to itch. She was scratching in different parts of her body. We scratched the itch for her. The scratching was endless. It took hours before she was able to speak again.

Few days after the incident, Mom asked me if she can go home. We arranged for her departure from the hospital. One of the doctors told us that bringing her home is dangerous. Her low BP will definitely kill her. Even with all the advised and precautions that the doctors discussed to us, we still brought her home like she asked.

My mom was happy to be home again after a month and a half at the hospital. We brought her all the stuff she needs. All the needles and the NGT was removed. She lie at home at her bed. Even though she fell awful, she was happy to have come home again. We gave her medicines for pain, we gave her food in small amounts. We speak to her about things other than dying. She felt relieved at home. She was able to sleep more. She was able to rest more.

Mom’s eyes are almost white. When she sleeps, it’s as if her eyelids are never close. She looks like an old lady by now. My mom is not that old yet though, she was 57. I kissed her at the forehead every chance I got. Sometimes, I talked to her and she gets annoyed. Though, I wished I had talk to her more. I never thought that Mom would passed away a week after leaving the hospital.

The night Mom passed away, I was about to leave from the office when two of my siblings texted me that mom had died. “Ma has passed away”, one of them texted. I texted back that they should talk to Mom for at least 5 minutes since I read that the dead can still hear 5 minutes after the heart stopped. I immediately went home. She suffered a seizure before passing away. They said that she was catching her breath and after that one last breath, she did not respond anymore. Her eyes were open when she died. Her mouth was also open. I cried. I held her hand and cried. I kissed her forehead one last time. She died with her family. She didn’t die alone.

Everyday, I missed my Mom. Everyday, I have this urge to call her phone. Sometimes, I joke my way out of it but the truth is that I really missed her. Living with a dying parent is horrible. Seeing her wither away everyday is painful. My dad cried everyday during her wake. As for us siblings, we have accepted her death long before she died. I thought of the things that she will missed in my life. Life events that will come long after she died. Though the pain remains, it just reminds us that I or rather we loved our mom and will miss her throughout our lifetime.

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