Don’t Wait: Lessons Learned From Personal Experience
By Carl A. Trapani, MA, MS, LPC, Chippewa Manor Campus Chaplain
I remember the day my mother told me she had breast cancer. A chill ran down my spine. I asked her all the questions, “When did you find this out? What did the doctor say? How serious is it? Are you in any pain? She related that she had felt a lump almost 15 months earlier, but since it didn’t hurt or seem to get any bigger, she decided to ignore it. But in the past few weeks the lump had grown and begun to hurt. She finally became concerned enough to have it checked. X-rays, mammograms and a biopsy all confirmed that she indeed had breast cancer and it had metastasized to her bones. A flurry of doctor visits and hospital stays resulted in a radical breast removal along with radiation and chemotherapy.
Despite the treatments, she learned her prognosis was grim. The cancer had spread not only to her bones, but also her lymph nodes and brain. The next few months were horrible for her to experience and endure. Mom was living in Akron, Ohio but after seriously discussing the situation, my wife and family agreed it would be better to move her to live with us in Indianapolis, Indiana. At that time, our home was going to be the best option to help provide the care and personal attention she was obviously going to need.
My wife and three young children all willingly made major adjustments in their daily living. Our two boys gave up their bedroom and moved to a makeshift space in the basement, so their grandmother could be closer to the one bathroom in our house. Our daughter, who was three, helped brighten grandma’s days by having tea parties and cuddle time. My wife was a saint; she took care of mom, tirelessly, as if she was her own mother. She selflessly took on the exhausting role of hospice nurse in addition to managing the already chaotic and demanding schedule of our home. She even learned how to administer insulin shots after mom developed cancer-induced diabetes.
Over the next eight months, the cancer took its toll. The once vibrant, strong woman my mother had always been grew steadily weaker. There were frequent hospital stays of several days duration as the medical staff made attempts to offer pain relief and improve her status. These days in the hospital were welcomed by all of us as days of respite from the hardships of caring for her at home. We needed those rest periods to recharge almost as much as she needed the specialized care and medications!
In the midst of all this, a wonderful thing happened. The Little Red Door Cancer Agency in Indianapolis heard about our situation and said they wanted to help us. They delivered and setup a hospital bed for mom in our home. They provided all kinds of supplies and medical equipment at no charge and were constantly checking in with us to see how we were doing. They were a wonderful source of help, information and encouragement. God bless them – and all the wonderful, supportive organizations who help families during these difficult times!
Mom fought hard, but finally lost the battle with cancer. The end came the week before Mother’s Day. In our last conversations, she said she appreciated all my family had done and wished she could have more time to watch her grandkids grow. It was difficult to say goodbye, but the hardest part was hearing how sorry she was for waiting so long to have the little lump in her breast examined. “I knew I should have had it looked at,” she said. “But I put it off.”
If you or a loved one is facing a similar situation - don’t wait! There are so many amazing treatments and incredible medical advances that can help in the fight against breast cancer. Mom regretted not taking action sooner and as a result we were shortchanged many years – you don’t have to be…
Carl Trapani, MA, MS, LPC serves as campus Chaplain at Chippewa Manor. He has more than 50 years of pastoral service and professional counseling experience. For more information please call (715) 723-4437 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.