Mama’s Last Wish

The 3 of Us (taken just weeks before Mama’s diagnosis last year)

A year ago, my sweet mama had brain surgery. It was one of the scariest days of my life, to come that near to losing my only close family and my lifelong best friend. I am still struggling with the grieving process. Thank G-d, she survived and we were blessed with a wonderful surgeon who was able to remove most of the tumor. While waking from her 7-hour surgery, my adorable mama asked me for Johnny, though we know none; she was asking for Johnny Depp (she loves his work and their common besottedness with Venice, Italy)! Post surgery, Mama also exclaims “Goody.” Seriously.

Abby won’t leave Mama’s side

Mama’s tumor turned out not to be benign, rather an extremely rare, malignant and aggressive cancer. Only 4/10 of a percentage of people with primary brain tumors get Anaplastic Hemingiopericytoma (try saying that 3 times fast) ― that’s 0.04 percent chance of getting this kind of primary brain tumor, a rare thing in itself! Brain tumors represent only 1.4% of all cancer. (We estimate, one’s got better odds in the lottery, so now we buy tickets every once in a while.) Very little is known about my mama’s rare brain cancer. In fact, it is more commonly found in the lung. In any case, the prognosis is not very good, even with treatments. She was given an estimate of 2-5 years from the time of discovery, which was more than a year ago. (I share this with you not to scare you or garner sympathy. Rather, this knowledge was seriously hard won. Finding a specialist doctor with whom you are comfortable and compatible and who will be honest with you, can prove seriously rough. There are so few with personal experiences to even share.)

@ Shakespeare Santa Cruz

You may wonder how I know all of this. Well, in a big role reversal, I’m a sole caregiver for my mama. It has been an incredibly difficult year ― physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually and socially ― and yet I would not trade this time together. Though Mama’s short-term memory suffers greatly, her long-term seems enhanced as she recalls bits and stories of her life previously not shared. Her fiercely strong spirit and deep love of Venice drive her healing.

Our Cousin, Miriam Margolyes, & Us

Besides the 6 weeks of radiation, months of physical therapy and various medical setbacks of the last year, we’ve enjoyed a few mini trips together going up and down the coast in the camper van, celebrating my 30th birthday, spreading The Penny Ice Creamery love, meeting our wonderful famous cousin (see picture) and picnicking at Shakespeare Santa Cruz. There are days when Mama is too fatigued to rise; and on those we spend time reading books, watching Tivo’d forensics TV dramas and late-night comedy (& Ellen!), cuddling Abby the love dog and making plans for G-d’s amusement (it sometimes seems). There are times when we struggle with our new roles, and when Abby is the only being to bring laughter and help us get through the day. The bond between Mama and Abby is beautiful and incredibly restorative (A service dog, Abby would not leave Mama’s side post-surgery and has been Velcro’d there ever since). We’ve used an online caring community (LotsaHelpingHands) to update our loved ones on Mama’s progress; and in the last year, Mama has repeated that she’s never felt more loved. Ultimately, my goal as a caregiver: good food and authentic love.

Abby (aka Piglet)

What’s Next?
Here we go again (on plan-making)… Our trusted brain cancer specialist gave the OK to accompany Mama to her beloved Venice, Italy for a 4-week trip culminating in her 70th birthday celebration. This trip is Mama’s greatest last wish and with a clean brain scan in August, we hope to leave in the first days of September. We will be looking for a 2+BD/2+BA apartment on on the Grand Canal. Comfortable indoor views of the canals are necessary so Mama can enjoy her beloved city even on days she’s not well enough to explore (and not too many stairs). Though our preference is to plan in advance, medical circumstances prevented such; now many of the homes for rent are taken, so if you know of any available Venice homes for rent, please let us know!

What else are we doing besides trying to focus on the positive in the now? Struggling to arrange in-home care, searching for work, dealing with financial matters, decluttering and downsizing household/personal items, preparing the house for sale, going to doctor appointments and tests, scouting possible apartments in downtown Redwood City, and planning our exciting trip to Venice, Italy… (oh, and I’m finishing up a TESOL/TEFL certification course so I can work as an English tutor abroad). Hmmm, no wonder we’re exhausted!

Abby ♥ Johhny too

Subscribe to follow our progress… Arrivederci!

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