Ovarian Cancer at Johns Hopkins What's New? Resources Ovarian Cancer Community Coping with Ovarian Cancer Clinical Trials

Select a sorting method above or choose from the list below
Return to main stories page

Abbreviations & Acronyms
dx diagnose, diagnosis
FSH follicle-stimulating hormone
IBS irritable bowel syndrome
IVP intravenous pyelogram — study to look at the kidneys and ureters
NED no evidence of disease
s/s signs & symptoms
SLS second-look surgery
TAH / BSO total abdominal hysterectomy / bilateral salpingectomy and oophorectomy — removal of, respectively: uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries
tx treat, treatment
US ultrasound
WAR whole abdominal radiation
Share you story with others!
Judy Lidgate

Submitted on 12/08/2003
Photo of Judy Lidgate "A YEAR OF HELL"
By Shelby, Judy's daughter

We knew there was something wrong in July of 2002, when my mother who was way beyond menopause, had her period and her abdomen was swollen to look like she was three months pregnant. She went to the doctor and all of our worst fears came true; it was cancer and it was in her ovaries. The news came as a shocking blow, like we had just been run over by a speeding truck. This only happens to other people, but no, it was happening to us and this is where my mother's "year of hell" began.

About two weeks after getting the news, she had an appointment to get rid of everything that made her a woman. What we didn't know was that the tumour had already grown large enough to attach itself to her bowel. The cancer had already spread to other parts of her body. The operation went as planned, or so we thought. After the operation, we went to see her and she was in very good spirits. She didn't even complain of pain but that was my mother; anyway you never could tell if she hurt or not.

A little while later she was able to go home. I will never forget the tone in her voice when she went home, she was like a little girl in a candy store, so excited to be there. Then the chemo started. It was six months of once a month treatments. The chemo treatments were two and a half hours south of where they lived. So, once a month my father would drive her down there. My father. Now there is a man of every woman's dream. He is the type of man who would bend over backwards for you and not ask questions. My mother was so lucky to have him.

My mother was receiving the strongest chemo you could get because she had the fast action cancer. I remember during those six months she was tired and sick from the chemo. Some days she would just feel tired and other days she could barely get up in the morning but the doctors said if she didn't have the chemo she would not be with us today.

After the six months of chemo, she had a two-month break and then the radiation began that was across the country. It took a five-hour plane ride to get there. I was writing her e-mail letters all the time. She seemed very happy in her e-mails. My mother had two months of radiation and when she came home, she was a brand new woman. She had a new outlook on life. She and I bonded the way I have always wanted to bond with her. It was the best time of my life. Then three months later she started getting sick again. We were told it was a side-effect of the radiation. I remember being on the phone with her telling her to get to a doctor but she would just come back with, "I just got back from there a week ago." My mother was very stubborn.

Then there was a phone call I will never forget. I was talking to her and she didn't sound like her; her words were very slow and she was slurring. When I got off the phone, I said to my sister, "Mom does not sound right." That night she went back into the hospital; after many tests we found out why she sounded the way she did. Her calcium had shot up through the roof. The doctors said they had never seen anyone alive with that high calcium before.

The day she went into the hospital, I was going out of town for three weeks to see a friend, so I gave my sister the phone number and told her to keep me posted. After about two weeks of me being at my friends, my mother was moved to the same town I was in, to get more tests. I called her almost every day to tell her how I was doing and to see how she was. Then one cloudy day my sister called me and told me that my mom had three days to live. I broke down in tears on the phone. My friend was sitting beside me. She held my hand not knowing what was said to me. After a while, my sister and father came to get my son and I. Then off we went to the hospital to go see my mother.

When we got there, I didn't know what to expect. We walked into her room and the woman lying in the bed was not my mother. It was some other woman who was very pale and thin. I didn't want to believe that the woman who was lying there was my mother. I sat beside her. My sister sat beside me and my father sat on the bed. She looked at us and said, "I have no I idea on what's going on. They said if this chemo doesn't take then there is nothing more that they can do." Thankfully that chemo worked. But the chemo was killing her blood so she didn't want it after that.

Two weeks later, she was transferred back to the hospital close to her home. After a few days stay, she was allowed to go home. It was nice seeing her outside of a hospital and it was especially nice seeing her in her own element. She was home for at about a week. Then one day, the following week, my mother got up to go to the bathroom, fell down and she could not get back up. My father came in to help her up and put her back in bed. Then my mother said to him that she could not move and that she thought it would be best to go to the hospital.

I called my father that day and I knew something was wrong the minute he answered the phone. He had a panic tone to his voice and I knew it was mom. I asked him what was going on. He said that mom couldn't get out of bed and that he was going to call 911 to get her to the hospital and that's what he did.

My sister, who was out with her husband, had left their cell phone on the charger. I didn't know the phone was at home. I was calling her for two hours. By the time they did get home I was in a panic wondering where they were. My friend had come over that night to watch movies, but instead ended up looking after my son. She didn't mind, given the situation, so we went to the hospital and found our mother in the emergency room.

When we arrived we all sat around her bed. I was sitting on the left side of my mother. My sister and her husband were sitting on her right side; my father was sitting at her feet. We waited for the doctor.

The time goes by so slowly. I watch nurse after nurse walk by wondering if one of them will come to my mother's bedside. All I can do is sit there while the smell of the hospital makes me feel ill. It feels like years of waiting for someone, anyone to come see my mother. I have never had a stronger feeling of helplessness in my life. I watch a woman with black hair who was wearing black pants and a white and black striped shirt walk by. I don't know why I chose to "study" her as she walked by. I guess it was to pass the time while waiting for a doctor. Then I see him. The doctor; as he walks right on by to another bed. Why does he not realize that my mother is the one who needs him? I am finding it very hard to sit still. I want to stand and to sit. I am not sure what to do with myself so I sit next to her holding her hand, hoping that someone will be there soon. As I look into her eyes, I do not see my mother, the woman who raised my sister and I. I am not sure what I see. When I look up, I see more nurses walk by with their shoes squeaky on the emergency room floor. Then I look at my father and I take notice of the look of despair in his eyes. The woman lying on the bed, my mother, his wife, was so thin. Then I look into her eyes and I feel a sense of calmness, even when my sister and I are crying ... my mother is so calm and in her eyes I see the look of "hope" comforting me letting me know that everything will be fine . then he walked in ... the doctor.

I have never felt such an overwhelming feeling of "relief." He says to her that he will do blood work and keep her in over night. As my sister, her husband, and I depart, we all give her a kiss and tell her that we will see her tomorrow.

The next day we are driving to the "Doctor's house" (that's what I told my son the hospital was), to see my mother and I feel the tears coming. I try to choke them back but I am unsuccessful. Walking into the hospital through the long hallway to the elevator, it seemed the hallway got longer and longer with every step I took. Finally, we reach the elevator and we stand there and wait. When the door finally opens, we walk inside, not a word spoken since we left the car. We get out of the elevator, go to the nurse's station, and ask if it was okay to go see her. "She is in room 203" one said.

As we leave the station to walk to her room, I feel the tears coming on again. She had a private room. I walked up to her bed and there she was. My mother started crying. She looked at me and said "You be a good girl." I could no longer hold back my tears. I looked at her through my watery eyes and I said, "Don't you say your goodbyes, don't do that". I took her hand and rubbed her index finger. My sister was behind my father who was sitting in a chair beside my mother. We tried to talk about happy times but I knew that we were all thinking about the outcome of this terrible situation. Just like in the emergency room, I have never felt so helpless. I could not do anything. I could just sit there and watch my mother drift away from me.

After a week, she started getting day passes and my father took her for nice drives and then home where she loved to be. Because at her home, there was a creek with a wooden bridge that my father had made out of a fallen tree. It was so beautiful and peaceful. My mother loved to sit beside the creek on the bench and just listen to the water running over the rocks; that was her "happy place". A place where she could forget what was going on in her life and just relax.

It wasn't long before she had to go back to the hospital because her health was slipping away from her. She would be in the hospital on her IV for a couple of days and then would be given another pass. On Friday, August 15, she got a three-day pass to go home. That night, my sister slept with her in the bed and my father slept on the couch. Every hour during the night, my sister was up taking her to the bathroom. In the morning, she started hallucinating and my sister said that my mother could no longer stay home, so they called the ambulance and took her back to the hospital.

That Saturday night my sister took me to see her. My mother had slipped into a partial coma. I walked into the room. I saw my mother lying on the bed motionless with her eyes open. I had a book in my hand ... it hit the floor; then I saw my mother's chest move, so I slowly bent down to get my book. I walked over to her bed, sat beside her, and started crying. I held her hand and said a "special" prayer for her.

After about thirty minutes or so, my mother's best friend came in and she gave me a big hug. We just held each other for a while. I told her that my mother had spent the previous night at home and that my sister had been up a lot with my mom during the night. My mother's best friend then told me, that that night she had had a very restless sleep and that she kept waking up about every 45 minutes. So, I told her that it was probably my mother telling her to come see her and that is what she did.

We both sat there for a while and then she said we should go for a walk to move our legs so we went down to the cafeteria. I had a muffin and a soda and she had chips. We just sat there talking about my mother and we both knew that any day it was going to happen.

We both decided that it was time to go back to her room so we went upstairs to see her again. We sat beside my mother talking about the past and the happy times we both shared with her. I didn't know if my mother knew that I was there or not, so her best friend asked her to let me know. My mother opened her blue eyes wide and looked directly at me. I was very relieved, because I then knew for sure, that she knew that I was there. I took her hand in mine and asked her to squeeze it and she did. Then her best friend said that she was going to leave to give me some time alone with my mother. She waited for me at the nurse's station. When she left, I took my mother's hand again, kissed it, and told her that I loved her. She made some noises like she was trying to communicate with me. After a few minutes, I had to leave; I stood up, kissed her forehead, and told her that I would see her later. I never said "Good-bye" whenever I went to see her. I left her room, met her best friend at the nurse's station and then we left the hospital.

The next day I was watching TV and my sister came downstairs and told me Mom was gone. The news didn't hit me as hard as I thought it would. We all knew it was going to happen. We just didn't know when and that was the hard part for me ... not knowing when. I felt relieved knowing that my mom's long hard year of hell was finally over. My sister called and asked if I wanted to see her because she was still in her room. I said that I wanted to, not knowing if I could or not.

As my sister was driving me there, I got butterflies in my tummy and I started feeling ill. My sister parked and told me she would catch up, so I walked into the hospital down the long hallway telling myself that I could do this and that everything was going to be okay. When I got to the second floor, my mother's best friend and her husband were there. She gave me a huge hug and I told her that my mom had "come to see her" on Friday night. She told me that my father was in her room with a pastor, so I walked in, gave my father a huge hug, and started to cry on his shoulder. The pastor said he was going to leave us alone and he left and shut the door.

When I let go of my father, I looked at my mother. She looked so peaceful . like she was asleep ... although she was not going to wake up. I sat beside her and got up enough courage to rub her arm. My father went to the other side of the bed, kissed her forehead, and told her that he loved her. I also went to the other side of the bed and rubbed her hair, which I never thought I would do; but for me, seeing her lying there helped me to deal with this terrible thing. I bent down and kissed her forehead, and said to her, that I knew where ever she was; she was at a better place. I told her that I loved her and then I left the room.

My mother, Judy Lidgate passed away on August 17, 2003 at the age of 56. I know wherever she is; she is finally at peace.

To top of story To top of page

Copyright © 2000-2020 Johns Hopkins University. All rights reserved. Disclaimer    Last modified December 08, 2003