"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
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
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
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 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
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.