‘You need to go home to your wife, not be in here with me tonight,’ mom told her newlywed doctor. She was their favorite patient. They loved her determination to fight.’: Daughter feels ’emptiness’ after her mom’s 15-year battle with cancer

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“From as far back as I can remember my mom was a special lady. Everyone who she came in contact with fell in love with her from the beginning. Her personality was infectious with kindness and love with a smile that people still stop me and compliment her on. My parents have been together since they were 16 and High School sweethearts.

Courtesy Sara Breckenridge

I have one older brother and he has a beautiful family with 3 children whom are the loves of all our lives. Our childhood was the best. Looking back, we were very fortunate to have been spoiled but with life lessons on how a dollar is made. We are lucky to have been given the fundamentals as children to be successful in life while still being made to feel like we had a beautiful childhood. From a young age my mom and I were as close as we could be. We talked about everything and anything all while enjoying each other every chance we could. We went on vacations together with memories I will cherish forever.

Courtesy Sara Breckenridge

Even when moving 3.5 hours away from each other I would talk to her 3-4 times a day and we would see each other a minimum of a couple times a month. There is no one who could ever replace her, and my heart will be forever broken in half with her not here with me.

I’m at a loss for words on how to start my story… 15 years of my mom’s battle with kidney cancer seems to have me remembering how it all started.

It was April of 2004. My brother and his wife were getting ready to have their 1st child, and my parents 1st grandchild. I was getting married in 6 months and Life seemed like it was just about perfect.

Courtesy Sara Breckenridge

My mom had terrible back pain and blood in her urine which took her to get checked over at the ER. Everyone was thinking it was kidney stones but knew a CT scan would show for sure what was going on. The football sized cancerous tumor on her right kidney was not what we expected.

I lived over 3 hours away from my parents and brother’s family. When I knew there was complications I took off for Rochester at the spur of the moment. Still not knowing what was going on, my brother had me stop just before I got to the hospital so we could finish riding there together. Once I was in the passenger seat, he broke the news to me that it was cancer and surgery would be the next day to remove the kidney and tumor.

Surgery went beautifully, my mom was the patient that all the nurses wished they could have the chance to take care of. Her doctors would make their rounds in the night and she would be in the recliner in her room. They would come in a sit down on her bed to talk about the severity to which the cancer had gotten into her bloodstream and would likely go to other places. One of the doctors was a newlywed at the time and she told him ‘You need to go home to your wife, not be in here with me tonight.’

Recovery was long and hard with her cut basically in half. My dad and I being her main caregivers. Bandages, staples, medication and everyday care was what we did 24/7. She never complained and her motivation was ‘Anna’ that new precious grand baby she was able to see when she was discharged from her hospital and we immediately took her to the hospital where ‘Anna’ was.

It was a great three years of remission. Life was not quite as perfect as before the cancer came but it was close. They booked a friend trip to Jamaica with their group of best friends they’ve had since high school.

Courtesy Sara Breckenridge

My brother was getting ready to have his second child, a boy this time and I had started my own business. The cancer was back in her other kidney. This time a doctor was flown in from California to do a new procedure and teach doctors on the east coast how to do it. This doctor was a ‘specialist’ in this new surgical procedure…. my mom asked him how many surgeries like this he had done, his answer was 18…

It worked! She was in remission for seven years this time. We just were letting our guards down when it came back again in the kidney. This time a partial nephrectomy was done with extra doctors on standby in case the kidney couldn’t be saved, and they would get her ready for dialysis. I remember it was a long surgery… the waiting room was full of other families waiting on their loved one’s news to come too. Hours and hours went by. I was on the phone with one of my ‘chosen’ sisters when her doctor came out to talk to us. He Saved the kidney. Our little area of the waiting room erupted with happiness, hugs and tears.

This recovery however was so much worse than the 1st surgery. She came home with tubes coming out of her and again the incisions cut her in half. Bandages, staples, medications and etc. were around the clock. I stayed with them for the first two weeks then needed to start traveling back home for a couple days a week to take care of business. By this time, I knew my mom like the back of my hand. I knew when she was in pain, tired, hungry and etc. before she would even tell me. Mostly I could tell by her eyes exactly how she felt at that moment. With a few complications which put her back into the hospital a few times during this recovery once again my dad and I took care of her.

Two years went by when it came back again. This time her one half of kidney that she was living on was clear. However, it had metastasized to her brain, bones and lungs. Throughout all of her battle she never wanted to know or hear her doctors talk about a timeline.

Courtesy Sara Breckenridge

She would tell them ‘I’m not a number’. This time however they gave her three to seven months. Full brain and a few bone areas were radiated, and a trial chemo pill was her initial treatment this time. As time and things progressed new medicines were administered and more radiation but ultimately, she fought another three years and two months. So much for the three to seven months they thought.

Courtesy Sara Breckenridge

The last two weeks we had hospice come in to help but ultimately my dad and I took care of her 24/7. My brother was our rock. Whenever a situation would arise, he was our even keel backboard. He would do all the research for side effects and other medical situations that arouse.

She was her doctor’s favorite patient. They loved her and her determination to fight with everything she had.

She passed away on April 15, 2019 at the age of 63.

The emptiness that I feel is indescribable. She was my best friend, my go to for everything. We had a relationship that is hard for me to even describe.

Courtesy Sara Breckenridge

Our dream one day was we always wanted to go to the beach and have a cabana boy for the day. On her 60th birthday I made our dream come true. This picture is on the day that I will forever remember as our dream come true. Unfortunately, she couldn’t put her toes in the sand that day as she was in a wheelchair, but we had the perfect day cabana boy and all.”

Courtesy Sara Breckenridge

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Sara Breckenridge, 39, of Gouverneur, New York. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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