June 1st

Ten years ago, June 1st was the worst day of my life.  It was the day I lost my mom.  She didn’t actually die on June 1st, but that was the day everything changed.

Ten years ago my kids were 5, 3 and 1.  On June 1st I had been a stay-at-home mom for less than one week.  I had made the difficult decision to leave my engineering career behind and be home with the kids.  The first year of having 3 kids in 3 schools (and only one kid doing one activity) along with a 45 minute commute was enough to push me to make this major life change.  I did not make it lightly, I had spent 10 years at Medtronic and loved my work and the company.  They had been extremely flexible with my schedule and my pay and benefits were great.  I enjoyed getting some time out of the house and using my brain.

The week before this particular June 1st had been a whirlwind of “end of the school year” activities.  My eldest child was finishing up Kindergarten and her first season of Little League t-ball.  My son was also finishing up his last week at his preschool.  The baby was at her in-home daycare (where all 3 kids had gone) and her caregiver was almost part of our family, watching my babies for close to 4+ years while we were at work.  All of that ended that week too.  My mom had been up to my house on my days off of work to help with the kids – it was our once or twice weekly time together and I always looked forward to it.  She was one of my best friends.  She gave me a break so I could run to Target or the grocery store without hauling 3 kids there.  We spent time just catching up in person while the kids played.  My kids loved having her over and they had their own special activities with her – Playdoh, dress-up, etc. – although, at this time, it was just the younger two kids that were home.  On “that week” I was completely frazzled with wrapping up all of my worlds, my job, school, sports, etc.  I came home from the store and my mom was acting a little strangely, but I didn’t read too much into it – I should have, if my mind wasn’t already in 50 different places.  I had just gotten the baby up from her nap when my mom got there and when I got home from my short errand, I asked her where she was and she said she had put her in her crib.  I remember telling my husband that night that mom did something pretty strange…but I was more put off by it than concerned.  My mom drove herself back home that afternoon with no issues.  It was a good 25 minute drive.

I also remember calling her and telling her some news about someone we knew, an illness I believe, and she started laughing.  It wasn’t appropriate at all and completely out of character because, if anything, that sort of news was the type of thing that would quiet her and she would worry.  Again, I’m thinking…what is wrong with her? but I was, again, frazzled.

Meanwhile, I was no longer employed and I had the summer stretched out in front of us.  I was a bit nervous about keeping up with the kids all day, every day with no break and, <gasp>, no mental stimulation from my job.  I was excited and worried how I would handle things.  I had started a few lists of things we could do and places to go.  We really didn’t have many restrictions on our time, other than nap time.

So just a day or two later, on June 1st, after Paul had gotten home from work, I ran up the street to a “big box store” shopping area to look for something – shoes I think.   My cell phone rang.  It was Paul.  He said my dad had just called, that he wanted me to call him immediately.  He also said my mom was in the hospital – in a coma.  I remember dropping the phone in the store.  I’m not sure how I got home…but I walked in and Paul ushered the kids to another room.  I called my dad.  He was crying…brain tumor, possible surgery, 6 months life expectancy with surgery, radiation, ICU, steroids to reduce swelling in her brain…. This was not my mom’s first brush with cancer.  But in previous occurrences, we had some hope.  On this night we were pretty much given very little.

She was in the ICU and visiting hours were over.  I went to the hospital the next morning and IV steroids had really started to help her come back around.  Well, sort of.  She was conscious again, but the things she said and her behavior still were not “normal”.  Within a day or so she was discharged to go home, we took with us a stack of medical charts and film from her scans.  We were heartbroken.

And so began our 2 months of hell.  I did not handle any of this very well, obviously.    I say June 1st is the day I lost my mom because even though we had her for two more months, I never got to really spend time with her like I had before.  She wasn’t always there.  It was very difficult and not unlike having a 4th child.  My dad and I spent a lot of time setting up alarms and sensors because she was really unpredictable and needed monitoring 24/7.  We took her to Barrow Neurological Institute, which has some of the finest neurosurgeons in the country, but they pretty much concurred with the original diagnosis.  We could operate but the tumor surely would come back, and quickly.  The radiation she would need would be very difficult.  After her previous cancer surgeries, we had promised her no more surgeries…and brain surgery would be major.  So, we put her on hospice care.

It was not how I envisioned our summer or the start of my “stay-at-home mom” life but, thank God, I was able to be around.  If I had still been working, I would have put in my notice at that point.  I was thankful that piece was already behind me.

She died at home 3 days before school started again.  The summer break started with her diagnosis and ended with her death.  Her funeral was on the first day of school.

Up until this point I had put on some extra weight (or actually never really lost the baby weight from baby #3), but not to the degree that I did after that.  When I look back on that time in my life, and then the years I spent grieving that loss (8+), it is no wonder I added another 10 pounds or so every year.  I live a pretty calculated and planned out life.  I think things through like crazy.  My world gets rocked when the plans and dreams I have made don’t work out.  It seemed so unfair that I wasn’t going to have (and my kids weren’t going to have) those years with her.  They could have been great.  I felt so cheated.  I compensated by not giving a crap about my weight.  Or maybe I did, but I felt pretty overwhelmed and filled my life with other activities to not deal with my weight and health.

So I feel whole again knowing that I am addressing most of the areas in my life that I had been neglecting.  And with this comes some ease in weight maintenance.  Some of this peace just comes with the passing of time, the alignment of circumstances … and life gets a bit easier as your kids get older (although the stressors just become different).  But, I’m in a good spot now.  I’ve weathered a few more storms.  I have many blessings and I’m thankful for where I’m at now…and that is, really, all we have and can ask for.

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6 Responses to June 1st

  1. Christy says:

    You have endured a very heartbreaking life experience, Martha. When I read your story, it’s a reminder to me of the horrible, horrible experiences that we go through, but miraculously survive despite our hopeless feelings at the time (or even our ignored/food-stuffed feelings). You’ve come through these painful times wiser and more aware of how precious life is, and now because you shared your story, we have a little bit of that too. Thank you for being so open and honest. I’m glad you are in a good place. Hugs to you, friend.


    • It took a while for me to get here, but I’m really happy that my life experiences have eventually brought me to where I am now. Thank you for your support and understanding through a lot of this 🙂


  2. Colleen says:

    Such a strong lady. I’m proud to call you my friend.


  3. Molly says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience with your Mom. Many of us can relate, and it really helps to know how important self care is to ourselves and our family. Health is what we need to preserve if we can, while we can, and many of us need this reminder. Again, thank you Martha.


  4. Kathy Nelson says:

    I have not read your blogs lately as I have fallen off the optifast wagon but reading your posts give me more inspiration. I am going back tomorrow to weigh in and start my replacements. Thank you for the time you take to talk to us. You do inspire me


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