The week of obituaries and The Glad Game. This week has been a highly emotional week for me. Typically the end of January each year brings an assortment of emotions for me. In January 2004 I was coming to grips with the end of my Mother’s life. She had dealt with breast cancer for 12 years and was winding down her journey on this earth. The assignment of reading the obituaries daily has made me think of my Mom who also happens to be my Hero.
My Mom had what I call the Pollyanna outlook on life. She was always finding the positive in every situation. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer she took everything in stride. She resigned herself to the fact that the mastectomy was necessary. I flew to Ohio from California to be with my Mom for her surgery. On the way there I had a layover in Dayton, Ohio. There was a massive snow storm and I got delayed and was not going to be able to see my Mom before she went into surgery. I called the hospital and one of the Angel Nurses took the phone to my Mom so that we could speak before she went into surgery. I assured her that everything was going to be alright and that I would be there when she woke up. I kept my promise. My Mom told me later on how grateful she was that we were able to speak before her surgery.
The day after surgery the surgeon came in and spoke with my Mom. He informed her that she would need an oncologist and that chemotherapy was necessary. This was one of the only times that I ever saw my Mom cry in her lifetime. I hugged her and told her that everything was going to be alright. She told me that she thought that having the mastectomy was going to be the end of the cancer journey and that the thought of chemotherapy caught her off guard. It took her a few hours and she slowly began to adjust to the idea of the chemotherapy.
Dr. Vincent Anku entered my Mom’s world. He was an amazing oncologist with an high survival rate for his patients. Dr. Anku saw something in my Mom that maybe she did not initially see in herself. Dr. Anku was writing a book for cancer patients. He wanted this book to be easy for anyone to read. He enlisted my Mom’s help with this. She poured over each chapter and made the suggestions that she felt were needed. Dr. Anku did not ask any of his other patient’s for their opinions on his book. He put a dedication to my Mom at the beginning of his book titled Hope at Last in Cancer Treatment. Maybe he saw that Pollyanna outlook too just like I did.
My Mom also volunteered to have the students at the hospital speak with her and learn about her condition. She wanted to help in any way that she could so that maybe someone else would not have to go through what she was going through. I remember the first time that she lost her hair because of the chemotherapy treatments. She told me that she had looked at her bald head and decided that she had a very nice shape to her head. I took her wig shopping and we waited for the day for her hair to start growing back.
After chemotherapy your hair can grow back differently than it previously was. It could be a different color or texture. It could be curly instead of straight. My Mom hoped for brown curly hair but got gray straight hair. She joked that the next time that her hair fell out it would come back in just the the way that she wanted it to.
She called me up before her first radiation treatment to inform me that she had just gotten her first tattoo. The tattoo was three dots in a triangular pattern so that her radiation treatments would always be in the same spot. When I went back to visit her I went with Mom to her radiation appointment. She proudly showed me the machine that was saving her life. She wanted me to see it so that I wouldn’t be afraid.
My Mother’s cancer went into remission and came back a few times. Each time Dr. Anku was there to help her though it.While Dr. Anku was helping people deal with their cancer he was also helping AIDS patients in Africa. In 2003 Dr. Anku decided to retire and sold his practice. Mom was not at all happy with the new oncologist. She felt like she was not being taken care of in the same manner. After a few months she found a new oncologist but unfortunately the news was not good. I was with both of my parents when they got the news that Mom had less that six months to live.
Mom and I sprung into action. I wanted to make sure that she had exactly the type of funeral that she wanted. We discussed everything down to the dress that she was to be buried in and the types of flowers that she did and did not want. I found how how she wanted to be remembered. She did not want to talk about what she had endured or the length of her illness. She referred to cancer as something that she dealt with as best she could. She was very adamant that the minister was not to ask if anyone wanted to say anything about my Mom. She felt that funerals were uncomfortable enough and she did not want anyone to be put on the spot. I assured her that I would take care of everything.
In March of 2004 my Mother passed away. The funeral was just as she had requested. I personally greeted every single person who came to pay their respects. I wanted everyone to know how much they were appreciated and how happy my Mom would be to know that they were there. Most of all I wanted them to feel welcome and not the least bit uncomfortable.
As I spoke with her friends and coworkers the theme was always the same. They said that my Mom always looked for the good in people and found the positive in every situation. My brothers and I were so blessed to have this amazing woman as our Mother. The rest of the people were blessed that she was part of their lives.
On Sunday in honor of my Mom I read the book Pollyanna. For those of you are are unfamiliar with this book it was written in the early 1900s. It is about a little girl whose Mother and siblings have died. Her Father has also recently passed away. She is being sent to live with her maiden Aunt in Vermont. The Aunt decides to raise her out of obligation or duty rather than out of love for the child. Pollyanna is a very happy child and is always glad about everything. Before her Father died he taught her The Glad Game. He told Pollyanna that there was always something to be glad about no matter what the situation was. Amazing transformations begin to occur because of Pollyanna and her Glad Game.
On Monday I began playing The Glad Game to honor my Mom’s memory. I cannot tell you how many lives I have touched this week. Happy people became happier. Grouchy people became less grouchy. I saw other people passing their happiness on. I am going to continue to play the game and hope that you will all join me. In case you are interested in reading Pollyanna’s story here is the link for the book:
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. I wish you all a week filled with happiness and joy!!