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Lost My Mother To Cancer

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My mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer on May 1st and died on July 14th. She has had cronic colon problems for many years, and also a very nervous and fearful disposition towards ... many things in life; basically living I guess. Anyway - during the last year she had gotten worse; just generally not feeling well, not wanting to do anything - she was very tired and expressed sometimes that she didn't want to live anymore. She was 77.

She used to see doctors all the time. I mean all the time. Once a week almost. And yet her cancer was not discovered till she was in stage 4. I am so angry with the whole healthcare system. And then they talked as if she had time to live still... So much they could do nowadays about cancer. Well... two and a half months was what she got.

I had just quit my job, cause I was planning on moving abroad to be with the man I love. Last day at work was the very samme day she came home from the hospital and told me that they had found a tumor on the colon. I felt it that moment, that she was gonna die and she knew it too. It was the saddest moment of my life.

The next two months everything went so fast it was unreal. I sometimes felt I was watching a movie. Someone else's life. She only had one chemo treatment. It just about killed her right there and then. Well - I guess it did kill her. That and the cancer. Her colon couldn't take the chemo. They called us at 5 am from the hospital and said we had to come now. All the way there in the car I was preparing myself for her dying. She was constipated to the point where they had to do a stoma or she would die. So she had a major operation 3 days after receiving chemo. I thought the operation would kill her. But she lived through it. She was so weak and frail at this point. Her hair, that she was so attached to, fell off... My mother has always been a very vain woman. Looks were very important to her. But she took it so well. She was so brave and I am so proud of her. She didn't even want a scarf on her head - except when guests game; but not around us. She still took pride in 'doing her face' and putting on nice clothes. The lady from the beauty-parlor even came to the hospital to do her nails. They were old friends.

My sister, who lives far away, came for weeks at a time, stayed in a hotel and went to the hospital every day. I haven't mentioned my stepfather yet. He was also there. In fact he was living with me. My parents had been living with me on and off during the last year, because my mother had to go for examinations at the hospital in the city where I live. I have a lot of animosity against my stepfather at this time. So I guess I don't like talking about him right now.

I tried working again, as a temp. But I couldn't handle it. I work with the elderly, sick and dying. It was too much for me to have that kind of work and a mother dying. I could not be taking care of other people's dying parents while my own mother was dying too. So I just didn't work. Had some money to live on but not too much. I just couldn't. So I didn't.

My mother and I have a long and troubled history that I don't need to go through here (I am sure we all have one) - but after many years of 'war' - and not without hard work, we had reached some understanding during the last years which had brought us closer. I am very happy about that now. And the last weeks of my mother's life, was probably the best time I have ever spent with her. It was like I saw the real her, all her love for me, for the first time in my life. And that makes it so sad to lose her now. - At the same time as I cherish those days. And know that without the cancer they might not even have been there. Life is a strange thing and so is death.

She was clearly not recovering but getting worse. They moved her to a palliative care unit. I still didn't know she was supposed to die NOW - I mean I knew she was dying - but I kept thinking there was hope for some TIME atleast. That somehow she would get a little better and be able to come home. I could not stand the hospital. But it went fast from there. From day to day I could see her losing strength. And yet she was so brave. She kept hoping herself. But the last few days before she lost consciousness - she kept saying: "Am I gonna die now?" And the despair in her eyes just hurt me so much. The bedsores on her ears. The oh-so-skinny body and then the swollen hands. The bald scalp. She looked like a little, tiny bird and I just wanted to pick her up and hold her - and make it all better somehow. But I couldn't. I couldn't save her. And it hurt so much. I sat next to her for hours. I held her tiny body when she was wrecked with coughing. I fed her and made sure she was comfortable. One day I took her bed outside. It was warm, clear blue skye and there were flowers on the bushes. I picked her one and held it to her nose so she could smell it. She told me that she was so grateful to have me with her. That I took care of her so well. That I was such a warm person and that she loved me so much. I am so grateful for that. I am so grateful for that day.

2 days after that she lost consciousness. She was heavily medicated. She stayed like that for 2 weeks. And then she mercifully, died.

They had dressed her and put her on the bed. Her hands folded over some flowers. Candles were lit on the bedtable. I felt this overwhelming peace and almost total happiness - knowing she was at peace. No more pain. No more fear.


But now it's all a mess. I can't sleep. I am worried. I miss her. I cry a lot. I go to work and handle it but come home and fall apart almost. I never enjoy my days off and yet I dread going back to work. My boyfriend has a hard time with it. Me crying all the time. Not having energy for him. So much is a mess. My whole life has changed. I don't know what to do.

I can't stand my stepfather and yet I know he is grieving also in his own way. I just feel that he never loved her, that he never saw her or even knew her. I am angry with him for not loving her, for not saving her. I know I am being irrational in many ways. I keep telling my bf that my stepfather is 'hardly human' - he 'can't think' and things like that.

He annoyed me with his whining all during her time at the hospital. His feeling so sorry for himself that he couldn't be there for her. He was there yes, but he hated every minutte of it. He did not use that time to get closer to her. Once she lost consciousness he stopped whining and could stay overnight at the hospice and so on. Before then he could not wait to leave the hospital the moment he set foot there. And then they got married - 2 days before she lost consciousness. They have lived together for 34 years without being married. She wanted to, to secure him financially. I hated it. I hated the funeral where he took my oldest son from me - he had to sit next to my stepfather. Just as he used him emotionally during my mother's illness. Having him come to talks with the doctors and so on. So he could hold his hand while he cried.

I know I probably sound horrible - I am just trying to be honest here. Cause I really need some input. I am tired of not sleeping. I just don't work that way. It's all a drag. I can't be feeling like this all the time. It's just too much.

It has helped me to read this site. I am not American but I have lived in America (New York) before and most of my life has been lived 'in English' even if I am Danish and presently living in Copenhagen. That's another long story.

Just as this 'missive' - I run from hot to cold - attached to detached - smiling to crying... intellectual to emotional. And I know people will tell me it takes time. But I feel like I don't have that time. I have to function here and now - efficiently. How else can I keep everything together?

My bf already is not too happy with me being 'too emotional' - he claims I cry too easily. And now I have my mother to cry about. I haven't even done a lot of it till lately. I guess that's why I can't sleep. I wake up and I am alone and I think of my mother. And I miss her.

She was there when I had all my babies - 3. How could I have another baby without her by my side? No matter what we went through, emotionally, and how distant we sometimes were - she was always there for me if I really needed her. That's a mother.

I think I just really needed to put something out there - as much for myself as anyone else - but I would love some responses.

Thank you for reading.



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I am so sorry about your mom. I am glad you found this site, but sad for the reason.

My mom died almost 2 years ago, that still shocks me when I say that, most days it seems like just weeks ago that she died. My dad died 10 months after my mom. If you read alot of the posts, I think you will find that most of us really struggled around 4-8 months after the death of our loved ones, so I think how you are feeling is to be expected. I was so touched by the way you talked about working things out with your mom , and how you took care of her and her she was able to tell you that she was so glad you were with her. My mom and I had always been close, but I was the only one that would talk to her about dying. So, we were able to say all the things we wanted to say to eachother and she could talk to me about dying.I treasure those days. So, I think I can understand how much that time meant to you.I wish I had something helpful to say, please know you are not alone. Take care of yourself and don't push yourself right now or expect too much from yourself. Keep posting, it helps.

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I think everything you are feeling is very normal,especially the sleeplessness. If you will go th the loss of spouse forum and go to Sept 3rd? and read the thread "In the middle of the night" I think you'll find there are a lot of us here who don't sleep. It has been 9 mos for me and still have a lot of hard times sleeping. Right now I'm so exhausted with work, taking care of my mom (she just had open heart surg) and working on a benefit that I'm having in Tom's memory that I am sleeping all night but I still wake tired.

When you talked about them not finding you mom's cancer sooner, sometimes I think it just isn't meant to be. We had a 32 y/o pt. who we had basically put through HELL for almost a year. She had always been kind of the little boy who cries wolf person, but we kept persuing her symptoms. Then all of the sudden on a CT scan ovarian cancer that had spread showed up. 4 mos earlier her CT was perfectly fine. So I don't mean to be trite and believe me I've had a hard time with a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer and why weren't there symptoms earlier, but something I'm sure you're tired of hearing is it was in God's hands and we can't change it and usually when we really think about it we wouldn't want to because that means they would have to suffer. We are all a little selfish in this respect because we are hurting so much we want them back no matter what, but is that fair to them?

I am so glad you had the chance to get close to your mom again. You will never regret that.

As far as your stepdad goes, some people just cannot handle watching the person they love dwindle away. They can't take the distance in their eyes and their suffering, but it doesn't mean that they don't love them. Each person handles grief in their own way and we can't force our way on them. Some people can't touch someone they know is dying - like it will make them die too. Even though they weren't married all those years, I am sure he loved her like a wife and believe me those of us who have lost spouses will tell you that there is nothing worse unless it would be to lose a child and I hope I never have to find that out.

Just take your time and don't be so hard on yourself. There are people who are 3 years + out and are stll having "bad times". If your bf cannot be supportive maybe it's time to look elsewhere. Do you have grief support groups over there? There are differecnt kinds in the states and you just have to find what fits you best.

I hope you find some answers and peace. Keep bringing your problems here and the people here will try to help you.

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Thank you both. Yes it was good to find this site - I have been reading a lot of posts and it does help to realize that I am not the only one to go through this, the sleeplessness and to have all these ambivalent feelings.

I am so sorry for both of your loss. (((AnnieO))) (((mlg)))

I understand what you are saying about what is meant to be or not. I don't think my mother is the kind of person who could have taken it too well living a long time with cancer, knowing she was going to die anyway. And I wouldn't have wanted it for her or myself. I am just upset sometimes that they didn't just tell us straight up - or me anyway - I told the doctor that I could handle the truth. She kept talking to me as if I was 5-years-old and I don't appreciate it.

It also helped what you said about my stepfather. It's all a little more complicated than I can explain here - but I talked to him about it all today and it helped some. Also helped me see him more as dealing with this in his own way.

It just seems everyone see it the way you said; there is nothing worse than losing a spouse. And I do understand that. But losing one's mother is also painful and it seems my own family even don't understand that I am also grieving. They only worry about my stepfather. I don't think it's fair to have to measure grief, as in he is more worthy of grieving cause he was her spouse than it is for me, being her daughter...

They keep calling him, asking how he is, inviting him over for dinner - but no one calls me.

My bf is being as supportive as he can. I just think it's really hard on him too, not being here for me (physically) and have me calling, crying on the phone. He wants me to talk more with my family, but I feel they don't really care, and that he is the only one who can listen to me. He has listened to me for hours and he does care, I just think it's a bit much for him too. (So far you are all just hearing my side of the story... lol)

Anyway - it's daytime now and the grief is not so bad as it is in the middle of the night when you cannot sleep. We call it The Wolfing Hour or: "The Hour of the Wolf - is the hour between night and dawn. It is the hour when most people die. It is the hour when the sleepless are haunted by their deepest fear, when ghosts and demons are most powerful." (It's also a movie by Ingmar Bergman.)

Anyway - I will keep coming back here, I really appreciate everyone sharing so much and responding in such loving ways. I hope I will be able to also give something at some point.



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I didn;t mean to minimize your grief in any way. The loss of a parent and I'm sure a sibiling is still terrible. I lost my father 18 years ago and had a really hard time with it and missed him enormously until all this happened with Tom. Now when I talk to him I tell him how sorry I am that I have put him on the back burner so to speak because I cannot get over my new grief.

I'm sorry that people have deserted you so to speak by not calling or coming to see you. I know how much it hurts but what I found was I WAS NOT going to let them get me down and that is when I joined a support group and found new friends who understand my sorrow. Sometimes we laugh together and sometimes we cry but we are always there for each other.

By the way, I forgot to tell you that I thought it was so lovely the way they presented your mom (being dressed and holding flowers) instead of just in bed with a sheet over her. I don't know if that is a tradition there or not but think every place should consider it.

If you haven't found her while looking at past posts, we have a friend here called Teny and she can probably relate to some things that the rest of us can't that you may encounter because she too is from a far away country (Greece). I'm sure she would love it if you emailed her.

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I don't think you intended that, Mlg, I also think, personally, that losing your spouse is 'different' from losing a parent, even though again you cannot measure grief.

I understand what you are saying about a group. I really don't feel I have the energy to do much of anything when I come home from work though. My job is hard, physically and emotionally (working as a caretaker in a nursinghome) and when I come home from work I just need to stay off my feet for a minutte.

My doctor has prescribed some really strong sleeping-pills, 'cause I told her it wasn't the falling asleep that was a problem - but staying asleep. So anyway - I can't take these pills more than 2-3 days in a row - then I have to take a break, not to get addicted. So there will always be a few days during the week where I don't get any sleep and still have to go to work. And it's rough on those days.

I've always been a person to whom sleep was really important, even though I am sure it is for most people. But I get really irate after just one night with only very little sleep.

I wonder what others have done about the sleeping-issue?

Yes, it is a tradition here - to wash and dress the diseased and present them in a beautiful and respectful way for their relatives to come say goodbye. I do that myself for other families at the nursing-home, if one of my patients die. I know some people are grossed out about it but I actually love being part of that ritual. On the other hand, we don't do embalming and open caskets here.

Thank you for the communication it really helps to be able to talk about it all...



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