After many months of absence, I have a bit of time to get back into blogging. To put the last nine months into a nutshell, I had temporarily moved back to PA with my family in Amish County…I mean Lancaster County, PA. *Quank* Yes, it was almost as boring as it sounds, so there will not be many adventures to tell there.
On a more serious note, my life in PA revolved around my mother who had been diagnosed with Stage IV Colorectal Cancer
with liver and peritoneum
metastasis, and we later discovered large tumors growing in her ovaries. As soon as I heard the news, I hopped on the next flight to the States to help my family in every which way I saw possible.
It wasn’t easy going back to the US last year under those circumstances nor did I realize what any of it meant at the time. Everything seemed so surreal and you have very little to no time to understand it all before you have to start making life changing decisions.
I left on the premise that my mother had Stage IV Colorectal Cancer, and I didn’t even want to know whether they had mentioned her survival rate. Worse was facing the effects and seeing my mom at her weakest, something I had never imagined. Needless to say, I assumed the function of being a strong pillar in the family that they could depend on.
It was a stressing couple of months, to say the least, and, on top of that, I had become accustomed to my life in Chile. Since my semester abroad in 2009, everytime I go back to the States, I experience reverse culture shock. In addition, this also meant reversing into a long distance relationship with my fiance, Francisco. As you can imagine, it was quite frustrating at times, but he made his way to my side whenever my mother had any important procedures.
While I was there, she went through a number of procedures including;
- a stent placement,
- a colostomy,
- a liver embulization, and
- a major surgery (where they removed an ovary with a large tumor, but were unable to proceed with the purpose of the surgery because it would have greatly and negatively affected her quality of life given that the cancer had spread to more places than the doctors had thought prior to the surgery itself).
Sadly, my family knows that my mother has no cure. We have done everything in our power to get her the best treatment at our disposal we have visited multiple doctors at three different hospitals in two states, and, to our dismay, all of their opinions have been the same. At such an advanced stage of cancer, we are only left with chemotherapy to stabilize the cancer and keep her ‘’comfortable’’. The idea of comfort is very different in terms of cancer. Doctors repeat that word as if it were a solution, but what that really means is that there is nothing left to do but attempt to be as comfortable with the fact that you will be in pain, exhausted and in treatment until your body can’t take any more of it.
Seeing a parent sick and in need of assistance isn’t something most children think about, especially since I have never really worried about her health because she has was as healthy as a horse as far as we were concerned, and she was only 51 when she was diagnosed. Not too long ago, she was my father’s kidney donor, and after undergoing rigorous testing, she had absolutely nothing wrong with her at the time. In this respect, my father’s health was always an issues; my mother was invincible in my eyes. On the other hand, colon cancer is known as the silent killer because there are few symptoms until it reaches its more developed stages; this is the case with my mother.
She has become a great friend to me in the past couple months. I have learned so much about her, her life, actions, and many bits and pieces of my foggy childhood are so much clearer to me. It still amazes me that she has come from nothing, struggled practically her whole life, overcame difficulties, and, despite her condition, she is still one of the strongest and inspiring people I know.
Bucket List: California and Mexico
One of the big events that I experienced before I came back to Chile was fulfilling a promise that I had made to my mother. I promised to accompanying her on an adventure to our home state of California and her native country, Mexico, as well as see her mother and family before she became too ill to enjoy it.
I added this to my bucket list (1. Visit Mexicali with my mom; 2. Take my mom to Cali to see her family) because I wanted to be the one to be at my mother’s side and experience those moments with her; I wanted to see her face and hear her expressions all along the way. On another front, as a second generation Mexican-American, when would I get the chance to go back to my mother’s hometown in Mexico and visit her family again and get to know them more? In reality, would I ever go again if she weren’t with me? Unfortunatley, these family connections are so frequently lost with the second generation. I wonder if my future children will have a connection to their family in the States? I digress…
In preparation, I made sure to speak with her doctors. There is no better time than now, and after getting the OK, we purchased our tickets and we were on our way! We took a twelve day adventure consisting of visiting our family and friends in the Bay Area and Calexico, California and Mexicali, Mexico, places she hasn’t been to in 8 and 17 years respectively.
Parts of our trip are unexplainable; the energy that we felt there was overwhelmingly positive. We were surrounded by love, happiness, well wishing, long awaited reunions and a sense of home everywhere we went.
I had originally thought that this trip would be sad because I had no idea what our family was thinking when they heard that my mother was in the last stage of colon cancer. I pictured awkward moments and sadness, but it was the polar opposite, which is exactly what we needed, especially my mom. We had fun everywhere we went! Everyone was positive and understanding, and it filled us with the vibes we were lacking back home in our reality.
It was truly relaxing, and we didn’t have a care in the world. It was the first time I saw my mom with so much energy since she was diagnosed; it was as if the cancer never existed and we were just mother and daughter hopping through a picture frame in the past and living the life that we once had…just a couple years older and wiser.
Here are some photos:
We visited our old homes in Oakland and the neighborhood I lived on my whole life until I was 16yrs old. My mother lived on this block for 25+ years.
A view from the Oakland Hills.
The Fruitvale Bridge connecting to Alameda was just a couple blocks from our home.
We walked through our neighborhood and ate at some of our favorite spots and had some really good comfort food.
We took a plane down to San Diego and drove to Mexico.
Our driving directions to my uncle’s home in Mexicali.
We made a stop in Calexico to visit my mom’s cousins.
We finally made it to Mexicali and they threw a party for her. 50+ family members were present and 5 generations. That’s my crazy uncle Juan up there.
We visited the home she grew up in until she was 16yrs. when she thus made the move to California with her mother and just a few of her brothers and sisters. She is one of 15!
We also, did a handful of special things like, meet with my mother’s father in Mexico who she has only met a handful of times, visited my mother’s previous coworkers and friends for a reunion dinner, as well as reunions with family and friends all over the Bay Area. This woderful trip couln’t have been possible without their support and good vibes!
Now, it’s time to plan her trip to Chile. She’s quite excited and eager to see where I live and where her future grandchildren will grow up. I know she will love it here.