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….
(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 “should 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, losing 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.
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