Growth with a Monster  – Personal Story

By: Tamara Higgins

So today I write from a very different place.  I write today on a horrible monster which most of us have had some sort of dealing with at some point in our lives.

Cancer.  This is just such a bad word these days.  In this writing though, I would like to share some successes of this monster with some of those close to me.  Some life lessons learned and a real respect gained for life.

The year2005 was going to be a year like every other.  We would camp, spend time together, work, play and enjoy all of the young ones who had joined our family.  Little did we know this would all change and very quickly.  I have wondered for the last many years if I had a way of knowing things before they happened.  Often I think to myself that this can not be true as I do not have psychic ability nor do I have any sort of insight into the future.  Let me tell you though, this year I questioned that even more.

My grandmother was living in an in-law suite at my parents home where she spent nearly every moment of everyday.  She rarely left the house, nor did she have any desire too.  Her and I were very close and always had been, my father had died when I was very young and she was the only help my mother had.  Her and I spent countless hours together in the early months of my life while my mother nursed my father in his home death.

My mother and I had spoken a few times over the weeks prior to this, and I mentioned that colour of my grandmother’s skin not appearing as it should.  I noted that her words were slower, a little less wiser and not easy coming.  My mother agreed she didn’t seem quite right but every request of ours to see a doctor was quickly dismissed by her while she stated she was alright.  When my mother and I would discuss this further my mother wanted to chalk it all down to the heat and my grandmother’s age in not being able to deal with it.

We lost that beautiful women in August that year, to the monster Cancer, and it is a night I will just never be able to forget.  The last conversation we had was another of lecture over my not being out driving around and her worries for me.  I left the room abruptly in that conversation and didn’t look back.  That would be the last time I spoke with her while she was physically with us on this earth.

My mother’s emotions that night made me feel as if I could lose her too.  She held my grandmother while she passed, and she herself looked almost ghostly in colour while she wait for the inevitable to happen.  I never thought that I would lose my nanna with such little notice.  I took her being there for granted and in those moments stood completely in shock that I would never have another conversation with her again.

Just 2 short years later I felt that something once again wasn’t right in our lives.  My sister and I spoke of my mother displaying some unusual behaviours over sometime and our concern for her health.  In these conversations we tried finding reasons for every thing happening, but it just didn’t seem we could find one that fit.  In my thoughts I suggested to my sister that it possibly have been mini strokes or possibly a brain tumor.  These suggestions were not welcomed by my sister as the idea of us losing her just could not be bared.  Shortly after my mother was diagnosed with Cancer and passed away just 3 short months after her diagnosis in July 2007.  She was an amazing support to us all and a beautiful person in just about every way imaginable.

The pain we all felt when our mother fell ill I never thought could be felt in any worse way than it was.  It would have been my hope that losing her would have been our last battle with the monster for a long time to come.  Well, my intuition told me differently.  While my mother struggled with her illness and my sister nurse her while dying at home, my heart again begged me to listen that something else was not right.

My step dad struggled through my moms illness, barely eating, sleep, or even functioning in any way.  I again had conversations with family about what my thoughts and feelings were as well as my concerns for my dad.  In the midst of all of the emotions and family turmoil of having lost not one, but two of the people closest to us in a 2 year time span, nobody wanted to see any signs of any further battles with this monster.

Ten months to the day of my mother’s passing I received the worst news imaginable from my dad.  He had been diagnosed with Cancer.  I was furious.  I couldn’t handle the thought of losing one more person to this demon.  How could this possibly be?  Well my friends this is where the life lessons become ever more clear.  I had spent most of my life relying on my grandmother and mother for any and all support I needed.  I loved my dad, but never truly made the time to be with him, listen to him and appreciate him.  It was now that I decided I had taken too much for granted with my grandmother, too much for granted with my mother and now, I felt like I would be orphaned at 24 years old and I was just not prepared to do that.

After making this decision, moving back home to care for my dad, and after long long months of treatments, a nearly impossible to survive surgery and now 5 long years later, my dad is still in remission cancer free for nearly 5 years.  With stage 4 cancer and a type of cancer with a very low success rate he had beat it!

This long winded story today I share simply as a statement that we never truly do know what this life holds for us.  We have our thoughts, and our suspicions.  We maybe right, or maybe wrong.  The important thing to remember in this life is that it is far too short for some to ever take advantage of anyone dear to us.  I never thought that I would lose the two women I was closest too by the age of 23.  Missing my wedding day, the birth of my son, my brother and sisters children, and all of them growing; but I did.  I realize after all these years that there is not one thing big or small that should be taken for granted.  We all need to appreciate and take in every moment with anyone who means something to us.

I feel very blessed to have learned from this monster what I have at such a young age.  The people I have lost at the hands of this monster will never return but I do know that just as they lead me in life, their death also lead me to a road I needed to be on.  I hope and pray for the courage others in this world will need to fight this demon and cope through those who lose their battles.

Live everyday as if it were your last.  Let those you love know you love them without hesitation.  My mother’s favourite poem was footprints in the sand and although in those times of grief I may not have always known the lord walked with me, in looking back I surely am positive that he was.

God Bless.