‘I heard my mom sobbing in the background. ‘She has 12 months left to live.’ I fell to my knees, sobbing. I thought my parents were bulletproof.’: Woman shares grief journey after losing mom to brain tumor

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Trigger Warning: This story contains mention of suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts that may be triggering to some.

“I was naive in believing my own parents were bulletproof. Many others in the world experience the extreme sadness in the loss of a parent but not me. Nothing could harm my own parents.

Boxing Day 2018 was when our lives changed forever. While out for her routine daily walk, my mum, Karen, began to experience was resembled a stroke. She lost movement and sensation down the right side of her body and couldn’t speak. Thankfully she wasn’t alone and my uncle rang an ambulance and rushed her off to the hospital.

As my children and I were packing down the Christmas tree, I had a phone call from my dad. ‘Hi, love, is Tom with you?’ he said.

‘Yes, why, what’s going on?’ I asked.

‘Don’t panic, but I am in an ambulance with mum on our way to the hospital. We think she may have had a stroke.’ My heart dropped and my eyes welled. The thought of my mum having a stroke shook my soul. Little did I know at that point what was in store.

Courtesy of Hannah-Marie

Quickly, mum was seen by a doctor and taken for a CT scan, which was when the discovery was made. At home, I sat with sweating palms and my heart beating out of my chest, awaiting a phone call to tell me what the hell was going on. I waited for what felt like hours until I couldn’t take it anymore and decided to call my dad.

‘Hi, love…’ he answered in a very distraught sort of a tone.

I immediately knew from that moment something was seriously wrong. ‘What’s going on?’ I anxiously asked, but he said it would be best to tell my sister and me together. There was no way, no way I could wait when I knew something was very wrong.

I pled him to tell me what was going on, as I could hear Mum’s faint sobbing in the background. A long pause, a deep breath and he said those words that changed my life, ‘Mum has a brain tumor.’

The phone dropped out of my hand as I fell to my knees sobbing. I couldn’t stand, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t think. How could this be happening?! Nothing in this world was meant to EVER harm my parents.

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Fast forward some time and Mum underwent a craniotomy to remove as much of the tumor as safely possible. She was gone for a total of 8 hours and I have never felt so much paralyzing fear in my life. The morning before the surgery, I was physically sick from the terror raging inside me.

2 weeks was how long we had to wait to get the results of the biopsy to reveal what type of tumor had been growing inside Mum’s brain. I spent hours of sleepless nights googling brain tumors to prepared for what lied ahead, though nothing could prepare me for the journey ahead of us.

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The biopsy results were in. ‘Glioblastoma multiform, Stage 4 brain cancer. We can treat it with radiation and chemotherapy but this cancer can not be cured. With treatment, you have approximately 12 months left to live.’ Those words will stick in my head forever. The moment Mum began her last fight and journey through life.

Mum fought a long hard and terrifying journey. From that moment, she suffered seizures, loss of communication, many of her motor skills, and each of these things progressively worsen over the time of her illness. For 20 months, I watched the most glamorous, caring, intelligent, loving mother and best friend gradually deteriorate right before my eyes. It was the most traumatizing, heartbreaking experience I have ever gone through.

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September 6, 2020, at the age of just 62, my mum took her last breath on this earth. I held her hand right until the end and felt the life drain out of her as the warmth from her hand in mine drew colder and colder. This was the moment I had dreaded, the moment I truly never thought possible, yet here I was living it. I bowed my head onto my mum’s lifeless chest, tears flooding her nightgown asking, ‘Why, God, why her?’

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Anger, shock, disbelief, adrenaline all rushed through my body and I ran out the door, punching the walls to try to express the hurt that was deep in my heart, the anger she left me when I still needed her here.

Hours rolled into days as I sat by her open casket in her formal lounge, holding her perfectly manicured hand, praying this was just one huge horrible nightmare I would soon wake up from. Before I knew it, the day of her funeral came and it was time to close the lid on her casket, the last time I would ever see her in this lifetime. I stared at her peaceful resting face, analyzing every inch of her beautiful features, from her perfect high cheekbones, down to the scar by her eyebrow from when she had chickenpox as a kid. As the lid went on, it felt like time was in slow motion and my heart shattered all over again.

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After the funeral, the guests, the meals, the flowers, all gradually stopped coming and many people returned to their normal everyday lives. Though here I was feeling as though the world was still turning and I had jumped off, now living in my own bubble of sorrow.

Days turned into weeks, which turned into months and my grief continued to worsen. I was consumed in my grief, pushing people away, neglecting time with my husband and children, and suffering horrific flashbacks resulting in panic attacks, day in and day out.

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Although I had a husband who loved me and three beautiful children to care for, I was lost in a world of darkness, longing for my mum back. Nothing else at this moment seemed to matter other than being reunited with my mother again. She was my life, my best friend, my security and now she wasn’t here and my own life felt worthless.

It was at that dark moment, I took a bottle of lorazepam and poured the whole lot down my throat. I had eyes only for mum and seeing her again. That was my goal. My mind very quickly closed in, and much of the next few days became a blur. My husband noticed I must have taken something and somehow, I had managed to call my neighbors over to help.

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Panic set in as I began to lose consciousness and the next thing I remember was seeing the back doors of an ambulance as I lay helpless strapped in a trolley bed with many monitors connected to my chest. Lorazepam is an anti-anxiety medication used to increase the calming chemical (GABA) in your brain, which in turn slows down the central nervous system in your body. The main concern here was keeping me breathing.

Once I became stable and due to my actions, I was put on a 24/7 suicide watch. I remember feeling grateful to be alive, ashamed of my actions, yet disappointed I was unsuccessful all in one. I was being treated like a prisoner for my own safety, being escorted where ever I went and a watch guard in my room when I slept. It was awful.

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From the hospital, I was to be transferred to a respite care unit. A lady from the crisis team came with a wheelchair to collect me and wheeled me to the car. I was put in the back like how I imagine it would feel to be put in a cop car. The doors were locked and there was a safety guard between the front and back seats to protect the driver from the dangerous human I was being made to feel.

Still very confused and dazed, I sobbed the whole drive clutching my two fists together firmly on my lap. I had no idea where she was taking me. Arriving at the unit made me feel sick. There was no way I was going to stay here, I knew this would only make things worse for me not better.

I begged my husband to take me home with him and threaten to run if he didn’t. Thankfully, he saw this was not the place to help me and the staff agreed this was not the best fit for me either. I gave a huge sigh of relief and back home it was.

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For the next 2 weeks, I was not to be left alone. Our whole medicine cabinet was emptied out and securely placed under the control of my husband to distribute my medications to me as I needed them. Though I was home, I was still being very closely monitored with regular counseling sessions and doctor’s appointments to assess my mental well-being.

I had no know idea it was humanly possible to cry the buckets of tears I have created since the death of my mum. I could quite literally fill a swimming pool. Grief for me is an unexplainable sadness you can not even begin to imagine unless you have experienced it first hand with someone so big in your life. Mum was my absolute everything and still to this day, the thought of never being able to see her again and tell her just how much I love her one last time leaves an aching hole in my soul.

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I honestly feel since losing mum, I became a very different person. I feel as if I am rebuilding my whole being as it suddenly became so apparent just how much my life revolved around my mum, and now the center of my world has been taken from me. 6 months have flashed by, though I realized regardless of how much time goes past after a loved one dies, the journey of grief has no end. You never get ‘over’ grief. It’s not a journey we accomplish and think, ‘Wow, that’s was bloody awful but it’s all over now.’

Grief is a process we will carry through the remainder of our own lives. Though over time the pain for grief will lessen, it will never end.

Someone once said to me, ‘How lucky are we to have loved someone SO much, to hurt so badly?’ And I remember thinking, ‘How true is that.’ If we were to protect ourselves from pain over the loss of someone, how sad it would be to not allow ourselves to experience the joy and happiness of loving somebody.

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It’s a wild cycle and after my experience with grief thus far, I understand now there is no fighting it. No matter what you do or the external pain you inflict on yourself, nothing is going to bring your loved one back. Grief is a process and a journey that needs to be addressed and dealt with or it will consume you. I tell myself often one day, I believe all the hard times I have experienced in my short 27 years of life will have a positive outcome.

I am determined to turn my pain into my power and I hope by sharing my story I am making that first small step in that direction. To anyone who resonates with my story, you are not alone, and more importantly, it is okay to not be okay. Turn your pain into power and seek the help you deserve to have behind you. One day at a time.”

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This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Hannah-Marie from Auckland, NZ. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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