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Faces of Blue: Dena Corey & Angela Neeb

By March 31, 2013Faces of Blue

Editor’s Note: Dena Cory and Angela Neeb lost their mother in 2012, after battling colon cancer for less than a year. Their stories are intertwined here.

Hold my hand and I will hike every step of the way with you….

FOB-DenaCorey1(Dena Corey) My mother was a lovable, outgoing, funny and open person.  She loved the outdoors, dancing, singing, and supporting her family.  My mother never spoke bad about anyone, she held no grudges, she knew how to forgive, she taught others to love, and always told me “you have to love yourself before you can love anyone else.”

In 1998 she suffered from a stroke and was unable to work. After her stroke she lost speech, memory and movement, of which she regained almost all back.  She joined the speech therapy group at The California State University of Hayward and found herself teaching other stroke victims who were neurologists, rocket scientists, teachers, doctors, etc.  It was an eye opener to see who can succumb to unexpected life changes.

At night, mom and I would stay up late at night watching TV. She had a TV schedule of what she watched each night and every night it ended with Frasier. A good laugh is always good right before bed. During the day she enjoyed the Food Network, but her favorite pastime was QVC.

(Angela Neeb) My mother, a young 60, was struggling with health.  She was not feeling right, foods were making her feel worse, she was losing weight, and as two years pass doctor visits, blood work and different medicine that “shouldFOB-DenaCorey2 make you feel better Karla” or “I am so glad you are losing weight.”  The day finally came, the day of “maybe I will finally find out what’s wrong with my momma,” but I was scared as heck to know what it can be.

(Dena) A few years prior to her diagnosis I was taking her to the doctors because she did not feel well. She was nauseated all the time, her bowl movements were not normal, and she started losing weight. The doctor did blood tests and the results were showing she was anemic.  He thought since she was taking Coumadin that could be the reason and then he would adjust the dosage. Again and again I took her to the doctor and still nothing, nothing was working…. 2 years later a visit to a GI doctor who immediately sent her to the ER solved the reason why she was feeling so bad and not herself. Diagnosed with colon cancer 2/1/2012.

(Angela) On February 1,2012, I got a call from dad saying mom was in the ER with extreme pain. In a few long hours she was told she has stage IV colon cancer, and a tumor that was as big as a coconut.  Knowing nothing about colon cancer I try to defog my eyes that sob with hurt and fear for my momma. I decide to Google “What is colon cancer?” and “What does stage IV mean?”  Wow, how scary, how am I going to tell my mom about all the facts about this awful thing called colon cancer and this advance stage she has?


(Dena) The night I received the call from my dad on my mom’s diagnosis, stage IV colon cancer. Then he handed the phone to my mom and she said “Dena, I have cancer.”  I held back the tears until I hung the phone up.  I cried and cried saying I did not want my mom to die, I do not want to lose her, I just knew I would lose her to cancer.  My boyfriend held me tight and all I could think of is the unknown time left she would have. Immediately the next day I started researching colon cancer.  I found that most only live about a year with stage IV diagnosis and I did find some miracle stories. I never told my mom what I knew and I kept positive praying and hoping for a positive outcome, perhaps a miracle.

(Angela) The journey starts…  Mom gets admitted for weeks at a time, in and out of the hospital with pain management, major surgeries, and eventually chemotherapy treatments.   Between my father, my sister Dena, family and friends, we made sure she was not alone at the hospital or at home.  What I saw was a courageous woman, a fighter that I had never have seen, I mean NEVER. This was so powerful and strong only to see and be around to feel it, and then you might understand.  Yes, my mom was a strong lady, awesome mother, dear friend and a great soul, she was that one person that no matter what I could go to.  But was she this strong? So strong to go through emotions of the unknown, extreme pain and one thing after the next to go wrong? Yes, amazing woman! Her views were fight, head up, and live the time she has.

(Dena) I read on different types of treatments: radiation, chemo, plant based diets. As well as the causes of colon cancer and the new studies/treatments out there. Some new advances of drugs that work for other types of cancer shown could help reduce colon cancer but yet it is too new and not available for everyone.  All I could do is fight for her and with her. I encourage her to walk and helped her with physical therapy.  She would tell me “don’t get pushy Dena,” but I would because I knew it was good for her.  She was losing too much weight as well and when she did gain weight she could not keep it on for long.

(Angela) The cancer BEAST, the tumor that exploded inside her body and no longer was a coconut size, now a volleyball size was just the start of a major surgery and hurdle.  Some other battles she fought through: she developed a extremely dangerous blood clot in her arm to her neck, acid reflex that caused her to get very sick and not allow chemo for weeks upon weeks, infections, blood transfusions, body not regulating her salt, so much pain medications, low blood pressure was a major hourly concern, a new tumor making a fistula force out of her skin, and now to have a colostomy bag that most of the time that’s how her body would get rid of her bowel movements was not the last, but I could go on and on.

(Dena) She had a surgery that took her tumor out, the doctors talked very positive about her fighting the cancer. It was a miracle that she made it through the surgery.  She then started having complications with blood clots, nausea, FOB-DenaCorey4losing weight which kept her from receiving chemo until April.  That was two months since the tumor was removed.  By end of July a fistula would grow from the tumor and cause more of a setback.  By the first week of August I left work and did not plan on going back to work. I had many late nights at the hospital and mom would say you better get going home you need to sleep…and I would hang out for an hour or two more….sometimes not leaving the hospital until 1 am.  I never knew if that would be the last time I would tell her “I love you.” Mom was priority and she needed to be taken care of.

(Angela) You wouldn’t know mom was sick if she was in normal clothes and at the local grocery store, her spirit lived far beyond the fear and pain.  That is amazing! Stunning! And my super hero rocked the fight!  Her battle was short and long in many ways.  The doctors were impressed on how advanced her cancer became “we never seen colon cancer in this huge of a stage with this mass of a tumor”. Doctors impressed how her fight was going so well, and couldn’t believe with all the walls that she hit with different health set backs she was still way ahead of her game.   Then they told they don’t know why the chemo was not working.


With hopes of getting stronger, mom wanted to get daily physical therapy, so she wanted to go to a rehabilitation center that has long and short-term residents.  She made friends and lit up some people’s lives the weeks that she would be living there.  After some back-to-back last hope chemo treatments, doctors told her they don’t have much more they do for her or her cancer.  That last resort moment, the confusion on how we can’t do more, the deep feeling of sadness that hope can’t cure this time.

(Dena) In the hospital she felt so bad every time she needed help or something from the nurse.  She would apologize to the nurse for bothering them. The nurse would chuckle and say Karla it is okay we are here for you. She was so appreciative and told me the last few weeks of her life that she appreciated everything I did for her and kept telling me. I told I know and I would do anything for her.  When she finally got to come home at the end of Sept for the few weeks that we know now that she would be there…. I was there to ensure she had what she needed, company, food, QVC, chap stick, lotion, medicine etc…

(Angela) Hospice it is, mom came home set up a room with all the comforts we could think of to make mom’s stay back at home the best possible.  She was doing great, almost the best we have ever seen her with her cancer.  Very talkative, ordering things off QVC , cracking jokes, reading her magazines, eating great and building relationships with her nurses.

Then something happened in a flash of just hours and I knew personally momma isn’t going to make it much longer.  Very high temperatures, sleeping a lot, having to press the pain medicine button more, her fingertips starting to turn blue, and food and drinking were no longer a want.  Her breathing started to get heavy and alertness was dimming.  Family was called to let them know mom was not going to make it long.  I was asked how? I just saw her two days ago and she was doing great.  It was fast and I believe not painful, soon my mom was lying in bed in a comma with deep breathing and no life or fight left in her body.  I told her to go take care of my baby girl in heaven Grammy, go to the lord and be pain free.

Mom was then taken home to the Lord with her short, but long hard battle on October 10, 2012. Mom traded her hero cape for a pair of angel wings. When my aunt came into the bedroom I was in to tell me my mom has passed away I ran to mom’s room and I felt it.  It was a feeling of deep sadness, grief I never have felt, but then it slowly turned to a feeling of mom’s sunrise just has started, her pain was gone, she was no longer in pain and have to worry about the BEAST.

(Dena) Mom passed on 10/10/2012, at the young age of 60. Sad because she had wanted to live past her mother’s age, my grandmother passed away on 10/8/1978, also at the age of 60 years old. She was a person that anyone could love.  You could talk to her about anything and she would be there for support and advice. She could love others, be your cheerleader, she loved to be around family, she could forgive, she spoke no negativity about anyone, she had no enemies, she always ensured that you were ok, it was always about you and not her.  Even in the hospital she would ask about you, your life, how things were, etc but it was not about her at all.  She was a simple woman with simple needs. All she wanted was to be with her family and that was enough to make her happy.

(Angela) With the months of my moms fight, I was right there fighting with her.  Cancer affects not just the patient, but it spreads to family and close friends.  As her daughter I quickly turned and stepped up to the caregiver.  I made sure to understand every doctor, thought process, ask the questions and make sure she was receiving the best care and hope.  I did it for my momma, my best friend, and did it for myself.  Maybe a little selfish, but I need my mom and wanted her to live a longer life to spend with family and her soon to be grandchild.  I wanted to give her happy times and give her what she has been looking forward to for years.  I as well knew if I didn’t give her my all I would let myself down and mom needed a few rocks to lean on.  I was to be my mom’s rock like she was mine my entire life.

FOB-DenaCorey6(Dena) If I had learned anything at all from my mother and to teach anyone else it would to learn to forgive, learn to let go, love yourself, thankful for the life you were given.  She also stated that “you do not want this, it is very painful this monster,” and “promise to take care of yourself and do not let this happen to you.”

(Angela) And Mom, you are still my rock, you might have died after a battle to cancer, but your sprit, love and presence are still strong in my everyday life.   Everyday I ask why my mom? Why so fast? Why so young? Why did it take so long to find? Why, why, why, I sob, I go off in a daze of memories and I cry great tears of how lucky I was to have you for the short time.  How lucky I was to have that great of a mom, one that in my eyes couldn’t be a better parent and person in life.  Everyday I feel like I’m growing more and more like you and I couldn’t have asked for a better compliment.

(Dena) Since my learning of colon cancer, I still research the studies and perhaps the new advances to find ways to fight the monster. I make colon cancer bracelets and sell them with proceeds going to cancer organizations.

I have told many about my mother’s story and spread the word of the importance of a colonoscopy. If my mom would have had one she might be here today. I have learned the importance of a high fiber diet, as well as eating more veggies and fruits. I have also learned to stay away from red meats and processed foods which I have also spread the importance of our food choices to those around me as well. I am 34 years old and plan on screening soon.  My mother’s home health nurse told our family that most of her patients have colon cancer and some are in their late 20’s early 30’s.  I believe it is our diets. I do plan on getting more involved in spreading the word and encouraging others for early screening as well as smart food choices.

(Angela) How to fight back? I strive to give the word, letting people know about this cancer.   Inform how to prevent, how to help, donate, and spread the word to help others that might just get the news or in the process of the battle.  I hope someday cancer gets cancer and dies.  May not only my mom, but also all the cancer angels rest in peace and pain free.

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