On Nov. 5th 1999, my mom passed away after her struggles with ovarian cancer. Sadly, she was not diagnosed until it was Stage 4 - and at a point where there is not much hope for remission or recovery.
Ovarian cancer is one of those hard-to-detect cancers and often by the time it is detected, it is too late.
In honour of mom, I am rewriting sections from a card that I sent to her while she was in the hospital.
Lessons learned from mom:
- Look both ways before crossing the road. Several times.
- Do your best at school.
- Mind your manners - say "please" and "thank you" - often.
- Send thank you cards.
- Stay away from poisonous cleaning solutions under the sink.
- Don't be afraid to ask questions.
- Respect your elders.
- Be kind to animals.
- Share your food.
- If you drink too much coffee, you'll get red hair. (I'm still waiting!)
- If you eat the end crusts on rye bread, you'll get big boobs. (Must be true!)
- Never walk downtown with curlers in your hair. (Fortunately, a non-issue for me since I was blessed with naturally wavy hair.)
- Unplug your TV in a thunder storm.
- Make your bed right after you get up.
- If your feet are warm, you'll be warm.
- Don't smoke on the street corner because you'll look "cheap".
- Get the awful jobs over with first.
- Be kind.
- Help someone whenever you can.
- You can't always judge a book by the cover.
- Patience. (still working on that one!)
- You can look at a glass as half-full or half-empty. Which one makes you feel better?
- Skin colour doesn't matter.
- Look for the simple pleasures in life.
- Learn to be self-reliant.
- Oatmeal is best on a cold winter's day.
- Reuse and recycle. (Long before it was popular!)
- Cook from scratch - it's healthier and more economical.
Regrettably, it wasn't meant to be that she impart these lessons to the next her grandchildren.
When illness strikes, it is normal to wonder "why?". Knowing what I do know now, I think a contributing factor to her disease was the lifelong stress that she experienced.
Coming of age during WW2 in Holland, moving to a new country, living with an alcoholic, hard work on a farm, raising 3 children on a limited income and care-taking my dad who suffered his first stroke in 1983 all took its toll.
Worry was her constant companion, despite hiding it behind a cheery disposition. She didn't sleep well, had migraine headaches, high blood pressure, heart disease and hormonal issues - all of which have a connection to cortisol - "the stress hormone."
She was always willing to help out her neighbours, friends and family and could literally make something out of nothing, whether it be clothing or a meal. If creativity is the mother of necessity, then she was the poster child.
When you consider that one stressful event releases a cascade of 1,400 chemical changes, complete with side-effects, my mom was literally soaking in side-effects.
It is my desire to educate people to realize that they can do something about the stress connection so that they live as emotionally, mentally and physically healthy life as possible.
It's too late to help my mom. I hope to be able to help others to help themselves so that they may live a better life.