Dear Mom


Dear Mom,

Last Saturday I was signed up for a computer class.  I grabbed my laptop and headed towards the front door.  As I walked past the front room to turn off the TV, the Olympic Hockey game caught my attention.  The USA was playing.  There are a few Blackhawks on the team and I saw Kane whiz by.  So I sat down on the arm of the chair and watched the remainder of it.   For the life of me, I now can not remember who the USA was playing but I remember that it was an amazing game.   We ended up winning in a shootout.

Sitting there and watching that game made me late for my class.  But it didn’t matter.  As I turned off the TV and stood up to leave, my phone rang.  I thought about not answering it because I was running late, but something prompted me to pick it up.  So I juggled the heavy things I was carrying, freed up my right hand and answered it.  It was Tim.  I could not understand him.  Something about you.  He was talking in broken sentences.   I caught bits and pieces of it.  Panic started to rise in me.  And then, my heart stopped.

I don’t think I could have ever been prepared for that call.  I don’t understand how this could have happened.  You did everything right.  You exercised and ate right.  You lived an active lifestyle…..

The week was a blur of emotions.  The phone calls started immediately.  The txt’s came, too.  And the condolences via social media.  Isn’t it odd how fast word spreads now-a-days?  It’s rather comforting to know that when tragedy strikes, we are instantly lifted up in prayer.  Amy immediately jumped on a flight from Houston to Chicago.  She got in late.  (Well, late for me. You know how I love to be in my pj’s early.)  So I picked her up at the airport and we drove together in the dark to get home.  Home to Indiana.  Home to where we were raised.  Home to gather together with our other siblings.  The drive was hazardous.  I was white knuckled by the time I got there.  I’m not sure if it was because we were driving through whiteouts on icy, snow covered roads or if it was because I was holding onto the steering wheel a bit too tight for fear of what lie ahead for all of us.

Bruce took the week off of work.  He was by my side every step of the way.  Tim, Bobby, Nancy, Amy and myself – along with our spouses –  all found comfort in being surrounded by each other.  All week.

I miss you so much.  I can’t believe I’m never going to see you or talk to you again in this lifetime.  There’s so many things I still want to ask you.  And talk to you about.  And tell you……

Scottie got the job.  Remember I told you about his interview?  You said you would start a Novena for him.  Did you have time to start it?  Bruce and Lauren are going on a long weekend somewhere.  They are waiting to see which flights are open.   Remember the first time Bruce Robt. flew in to see you and take you to lunch?  He talks about it often.  That visit was the first of many trips back and forth to visit you.  In his words, “Grandma is the coolest!!”  Brian has a lead on an internship this summer.  He’s working hard and continues to keep his GPA up.  And he loves the college life.  He has become so independent.  It’s hard to believe he is almost done with college.  You were right.  Time does go fast.  Too fast.

You were taken from us way too soon.  The thought of never seeing you again or talking to you in this lifetime is too much….

Me?  I miss you more than words can describe.  My heart is heavy and I walk around with a pit in my stomach and a constant feeling deep inside that something is wrong.  I know you always told me that your prayer was that when your time was up, that the Lord would take you quickly.  He heard your prayer, Mom.  But I have a huge hole in my heart because I did not get to say goodbye to you.  I did not get to tell you how blessed I was to have you as my mother.  I wanted to be next to you when your time came to leave this earth, holding your hand and telling you how incredibly much I love you.  To tell you that I will miss you.  And that I will see you again one day and until that day, pray for me.  But God had a plan for you and He decides when our time on earth is done.  He decides when to call us home.  And in my heart I know you are in a better place.  You are at peace.

So Please, Don’t worry about any of us.  Right now our hearts are heavy.  But through our faith and in time, our feelings of sadness and devastating loss will be replaced by happy memories of our time spent with you.  I’m going to miss you so much.  I already do.  I can not thank you enough for the strong faith you instilled in me and for the unconditional love you showered me with.  I’ll pray for you everyday.  And I know you’ll pray for me, too.

I Love You,

“We never really get over devastating loss. In the thick of it, we almost stop breathing; sometimes even wishing we could. And we know deep within that we will never be the same. Yet, one day we feel the sun on our face again. We find ourselves smiling at a child or a joke or a memory. And at that moment, we realize we are finding our way back. Changed forever? Yes. But also softer, deeper, more vulnerable and more loving too. And we are breathing again…..”


the new normal


“Are you ready,  Mrs Bere?”

Was I ready?  I guess so.  As ready was I was going to be.

“Okay, I’m going to slide you under now.  If at any time you start to feel claustrophobic,  let me know.  I’ll be in the room the entire time.”

The technician slid me in and I was directly under what could only be described as a huge, flat, white board.  It was twice the width of my body and twice the length.  I felt like I was in one of those huge commercial iron presses that you see at the dry cleaners.

I was relaxed.  I was sleepy.  My oncologist had given me a prescription for something to help relax me.  I was going to be under the “open” scan press for 2 hours.  I did not want to take a chance.  So I took the prescribed medication an hour before the test.  As the test time got closer, I took another pill for good measure.  I felt an odd sensation moving through my body.  As if everything was moving in slow motion.

“Ok, Im going to lower the top down now.  It will come very close to you but it will not touch you.”  It started to lower slowly towards me.  Closer, Closer.  By the time it was finally in position, I was amazed that it was not touching my nose.  It was positioned, literally,  about 1 -2 inches from me.  I smiled to myself and almost giggled.  I thought that if it was one of my other siblings having the scan, who had inherited  certain features from my Dad’s side of the family,  it would be squashing their noses.

I had my iPod earbuds in and was listening to music.  The night before, I had made sure I had a playlist that would last 2 hours.  I wanted it to be a perfect playlist.  Something quiet and soothing.  I chose country.  Not the rambunctious, fast paced tunes that I play sometimes while cooking.  But the softer melodies.  Mostly about loves lost and found.  About the love of God and our country and of course, driving on country roads and summer nights and beer.  It made no difference.  I fell asleep within 10 minutes.

I had another scan a few weeks prior.  That scan was also 2 hours.  Bruce had driven me to the hospital.  We drove in silence down to the city.  Partly because of the early hour.  And partly because we both knew that this was the big day.   We would get the results before we left the hospital that day of whether or not my cancer had spread. The levels of radiation I would receive would ultimately be determined by the results of that scan.

He kept reaching over and patting my leg on the drive in.  I was emotional and every now and then a tear would escape and roll down my cheek.

It had been an emotional roller coaster the past year.    Towards the end of last summer, there were signs that something was wrong.  I had suddenly started gaining weight.  I was extremely fatigued.  My good friend, Karen, suggested I go see her specialist about my thyroid.  I did.  And so my journey began.

“There’s something suspicious.”   “We need to remove the mass.  You need surgery”    And then ~  “You’ll need a second operation.”  ” You have stage 3 Papillary cancer.”  “You need radiation.”

I remember going in for my first round of radiation.  You go back to a special waiting room.  It was filled with women of all ages.  All waiting for their radiation or chemo sessions to start.  I looked around the room as I walked in.  I sat next to a woman and she told me she was 6 months cancer free.  She was back for her 6 month scan.  She told me that she was given little hope because of the type of cancer she had and the stage it was at.  She had beat the odds.  As my name was called I smiled at her and walked out of that room, knowing I would probably never see her again.  Yet, I felt a bond with her.  We both had the same look in our eyes.  Was it the fear of the unknown?  Was it a sense of peace that we both knew we were going to be ok?  We never asked each others names.

I’ve been through my radiation.  It was not what I had expected.  Because my surgeries went so well and I had bounced back so quickly,  I assumed the same would apply to the radiation treatments.   It was not the same.  I got very sick.  Nausea overtook me for days and days.

My body reacted in a negative way.  My face swelled up to the point that I took on a different appearance.  It’s still swollen.  When it first started to swell, I got very upset.  Not because of my ego, but because I realized that it was the first time throughout this journey that I showed outward signs of being sick.  That something was very wrong.  Up to that point,  the weight gain was the only outward clue that something had changed.  Most people would probably look at me and just think. “Oh, she’s gained weight.”  Today, my oncologist told me that it was a rare side effect.  That it should go away in the next few weeks.

I received good news at the outcome of my scan last week.  The cancer, while it is still present at the original site, has not spread.  This is VERRRY Good news.  Answered prayers!!  The radiation in my body will continue to work on the remaining cancer and if all goes well, I should receive a very good report in 6 months. Six Months!!  I can handle this.  My Cancer did not Spread!

I will get my final report from my Drs. tomorrow.  Neither they nor I expect any surprises.  The real results came in last week.  So after tomorrow, I will be sent on my merry way.  To heal.  To get my life back in order.  To continue to get healthy.  For things to return to normal.  Except my normal is now a new normal.

My dear, dear friend Patti and I were talking about this a few days ago.  She lost her son-in-law to Melanoma the past few years.  We talked about how anyone going through cancer, whether as the patient or as the caregiver, does not really go back to “normal” afterwards.  We are changed.  I will take this experience and turn it into something positive.  Just as Patti seems to have done.  She is such an inspiration to me.  She is one of the kindest and most compassionate people I know.

“Peggy, all done”

I slowly woke up.  I was done with my scan.  This was it, the final step for now.  I looked at the clock and 3 hours had passed.  They helped me up and guided me back through the waiting room to the dressing rooms.  I got dressed , walked out and went to find Bruce who was waiting for me.  He saw me and stood up.  He has been my angel through all of this.  For better or for worse.  Through sickness and in health.  We smiled at each other, he grabbed my hand and we walked out of the hospital together.  Knowing it would be our last visit there for a while.  Our normal is a new normal.