Saturday, March 27, 2010

My Mom's Brain Tumor

From the age of 23 to 40, when she died, I had very little to do with my mother. Hopefully you’ve already read enough of my stuff to know why. Even though most of the pain and suffering I had in my life was caused by her, I still felt the need to help her when she needed it.

As you know she was a heavy drinker, smoker, and sometimes drug user. She first contracted lung cancer, and several years later it spread to her brain. My mom couldn’t do much on her own anymore and needed a ride to see her doctor, because of bad headaches. I agreed to take her. They eventually did a scan of her brain and concluded that she had an inoperable malignant brain tumor. Despite what she had put me through in my childhood, I still felt bad for her.

She was living in a senior’s only apartment complex at the time. There were no services available, so I had to spend quite a bit of time with her. Her condition caused her thinking process to deteriorate and didn’t allow her to do a lot of what she was used to. So I did her grocery shopping and bought her items that were simple to prepare. She got worse to the point where I had to deliver her meals, or prepare them for her at her apartment.

One day I went to check in on her and arrived just in time to see her finish cutting up all our family pictures and documents. Another time she cut up some cash she had hidden. The last straw was the time I walked in on her trying to load a pistol to kill herself. I knew that my mom carried a pistol in her purse for much of her life, but I thought she had gotten rid of it. Maybe she was just doing it for effect. It was always almost impossible to read her intent.

One day I tried to call several times without success. I hopped in the car and went to her place. I found her in the bathroom lying on the floor. Apparently she fell down a couple of hours earlier and couldn’t get up or move. I called the paramedics and they took her to the hospital. The emergency room doctor consulted with a surgeon and then told us that cortisone would make the tumor shrink for a while and then she would improve for short periods. They gave her an injection and sure enough her ability to think and move freely improved dramatically. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t last for more than a day. She was admitted to the hospital and I spoke to the social services unit there for some advice. She told me that my mom shouldn’t live by herself, and she most certainly shouldn’t live unassisted. The cortisone would work some, but not for long. They said that the headaches would stop soon as the tumor started to “turn out the lights.” So she wouldn’t suffer.

I searched all around Orange County for a nursing home for her. I must have visited 20 of them. This may sound strange, but I could tell by the way the place smelled if I was going to like it or not. A lot of them smelled terrible. Before my mom could get any help from Medi-Cal to pay for the nursing home I had to come up with a bunch of documents relating to her financial situation and many other things. A month or so earlier my mom had an attorney draw up a “Power of Attorney” document so I could make her decisions for her.

I went to her last job, I talked to social security, and I went through her stuff. I found everything I needed. And something I wish I hadn’t. My mom had a will. I’ve said in my other entries that my mom hated me for some reason; it became very clear that she still felt that way. My mother left me one dollar!

She left every penny and everything she owned to my older brother. My older brother who was in Arizona and didn’t come to help me, or to visit mom until the day she actually died.

I had power of attorney, I could have done something about her will, but I didn’t. If that was the way she felt there wasn’t much I could do about it. I called her current attorney and asked if she had a newer will. He told me that he hadn’t drawn one up for her. The attorney who did draw up her will had died a couple of years earlier and his business was closed. I couldn’t have simply thrown the will away and acted like I never knew it existed. Great time for some payback, but I couldn’t do it.

I got my mom into a nursing home and that is where she died. She was still smoking! She embraced the thing that killed her up until the end.

I thought long and hard about the entire ordeal. What the heck was I doing? I owed her nothing! Was I still waiting for her to pat me on the head and tell me that I was a good boy? I tell myself I did it because it was the right thing to do. But I’m not so sure.

Based on her insistence, she had no funeral, no memorial service, and was cremated. I purchased a niche for her ashes in Westminster Memorial Park. She was placed in her niche in February of 1991. I made sure it was done and that it was where it was supposed to be.  I haven’t been back since…


  1. What a story... Here it shows that you really a VERY strong... It definitely was the right thing to do and no matter how much it hurts. I am sure that if she could have thought for herself those last few months she would tell you how much she was proud of you and that you stayed by her side even though she treated you like you were nothing! I am sorry fo what has happened to you but its amazing to see the kind of character you have! Amazing!

  2. Kimberly - thanks for the nice words. Yes, for me, it was the right thing to do, but I don't think I did it for the right reasons. I was still looking for that pat on the head from her.
    If my mom could have thought for herself she most certainly WOULDN'T have told me she was proud of me. I promise you she wouldn't have. I'm also not sure if I would have been "by her side" if she had her wits about her. Because she would have pushed me away. When I said in one of my poems that she had "a pitiful walnut heart," I meant it. She hated me and I eventually grew to hate her (as a kid). I don't hate her today. It doesn't make any sense to hate an insane woman.

  3. It's natural to want that love and that approval from your mother. Rather you feel you did it for the wrong reason, you still did it and that makes you a great person despite one anyone thinks.

    Great story pat that one touched me I even shared it with my boyfriend.

    Thank you for sharing =)

  4. Wow, Pat. What a story - thank you for sharing. I'm new here, so I don't know your history. What I can see is that you are obviously a very strong person to deal with everything - not to mention helping your mother after everything she did to you. I really admire you!

  5. I agree with Kimberly - It is very easy to turn our backs on those that have turned our backs on us, but you showed great character to be there for your mother, even if throughout life she was less than good about being there for you. You have some amazing stories to share - love reading your blog! Thank you for sharing! :)

  6. If nothing else you can live the rest of your life without any second guessing, and regret with regards to the way you dealt with her final years. You did everything you could do and whether your intentions were purely unselfish - or not - it was still the 'right thing to do'.

  7. I am sorry to hear what happened too, but I agree with Kimberly that it seems like you did the right thing.
    I think it is natural to look for the pat on the head (gain acceptance) and most people in your position would do the same thing.

    Deep down maybe she always gave it to you, but also maybe she didn't. But it seems like you tried the best for the situation and if you give acceptance yourself then that is what matters.

  8. Can I be honest? She was f'd up. What a telling story of you, though.

  9. Alle, Talli, Athina, Katie, T.A.P.
    thanks for reading and the nice words!

    As a kid I knew I wasn't going to get it (the pat), so I quit wanting it from her. Pretty darn ironic that many years later, I did...amazing!

  10. WoW. Hey, you've got a memoir here. Seriously, I read the post before this one. You were a good person to her, even though she may not have deserved it. You'll always be glad you did the right thing.

    Fascinating and compelling've had, uh, a colorful life!

  11. She Writes - in a nutshell... you are right, she was. If she had lived in today's world, she would have been diagnosed, medicated, and maybe in a mental hospital...

  12. You did right by your Mom. You know? You can look back and know you have nothing to be sorry for. In ways I know how you feel. My Mom was very hard on me. She didn't do most of the things your Mom did. But she hit me for things my sister did and made me feel like she hated me. Even still when she got breast cancer I helped, my sister who she put on a pedestal did nothing. I am lucky my mother survived and now sees her mistakes. She is trying to make it up to me.

    So I hope you look back someday and feel confident you did right by her. You were the better person!

  13. you probably were looking for her to pat you on the head and tell you what a great son you were and how sorry she was for everything she'd ever done or said to you and for not being there. you were likely trying to prove to her that you WERE good enough for her to love and that she had no right to hate you. probably almost wanted her to regret missing out on so much of your life.....

    probably all the same reasons i felt it necessary to hop on a plane at the drop of a dime and fly to tennessee to help with my dad. i'm glad that i came to the realization that he was never going to tell me how wonderful i was, instead he laughed and called me a "wannabe nurse."
    oh that bad "E" word. it'll get you every time..... (expectations)....

    you were f'd up too. just about as effed up as she was.... but at least you got into therapy and turned your life around.... much more than many people could ever say

  14. Did anyone ever say how long the tumor had been there. Was it (for sure) a direct result of the lung cancer? My Mom had a brain tumor. Doctors speculated it could have started growing when she was fairly young, which could explain some of the balance and emotional problems she had.(just a thought)

    Wonderful you could rise above it all and show your true character.

  15. Christiejolu - thanks!
    I hate to say it, but if she hadn't died, I never would have never been reunited with....nah...I'm not going to ruin the next couple of stories for you....besides, when I think of you right now, all I can I see is that damn yellow banana video....LOL

    Ashley - Thanks!
    You are probably correct. Therapy is a wonderful thing (seriously). You are absolutely right about the "E" word! It's interesting that as much as I hated her growing up, it was nothing when compared to later when I found out the about the lies...
    I'm going to jump way out of order tomorrow and post why I just said that...

  16. Ms. Anthropy -
    the tumor hadn't been there very long, but it was in a bad place. they said it started in her lungs, but who knows. She was pretty much crazy her entire life. thanks for the nice words!!!

  17. I've just read this and your previous post, so can now understand a bit more about your mom. You have an amazingly strong character to have come through such a tough childhood and still do the right thing for your mom, despite everything. She had a good son!

  18. It's definitely natural to want love and approval of your parents. You did the right thing because that's the person you are. Again, I'm sorry for what you've been through. No child (small or adult) should have to go through what you have. I know how hard tumors can be, too. My aunt had one (died at 45) and turned into a meany. In her case she wasn't really like that, but it was hard to look past when she'd say mean things.

  19. Pat, you know that I have read a lot about your life, both younger and later years. Yes, we do what we think is right but we can't know the outcome. Luckily you were there, and I still think that you would have done all that you could anyway, no matter what the outcome of it all. I just think that that is the sort of guy that you are.
    Your Mother just didn't know what she was doing, and she was ill. Would it be worth falling out with the rest of your family over it? Yes, your brother should have helped you out more, but it was left up to you to carry the can.
    Thoughts are always with you, Pat and you know that you are never alone. In fact, I know a guy who is going through the same thing right now with his Mother and she is in her 90s. He sold up everything that he had to move in with her and he has had a hell of a life. In fact, you two are very much alike! He used to blog all the time up until Christmas when his Mother tried to burn the house down!
    When he gets back to blogging regular again, I'll put you in touch. He is in his 50s and is still going through this everyday.

  20. Pat you were human and humane. Just proves that sometimes environment doesn't rule the outcome. Proud of you man.

  21. The more I read your blog the more I can see how much integrity, faith, forgiveness and strength you have. I think I have told you this before, but God has quite a treasure of peace stored up for you someday.

  22. Seems like you closed that chapter of your life in the best way possible. I have a lot of respect for how (after everything you've been through) you still are able to step forward in life with your chin up.

  23. nat lisa alice chuck joe jesse
    Thanks for the nice and supportive words! I guess it did have a positive effect on my karma, cause I sure am happy now!!!
    thanks again!!! I really appreciate it.. four or five more posts and I'll change subjects!! back to zany...

  24. Sometimes, there's a question of whether you did the right thing for the right reasons or the wrongs ones. I know I analyze that in myself a lot too, whether I do things because I genuinely want to/is the right thing to do or whether I do it because I know that people will notice me being a good person, the aforementioned "pat on the head." Its hard separating your inner desires and what needs to be done, but at the end of the day, you rolled up your sleeves, took care of your mother, didn't rip up the will, and were strong. That's all karma can ask :)

  25. We all want approval from our mom's!!! What can I do to convince her that I'm a great kid? Ah ha, let me take care of her when she gets older, that will surely convince her!! Like Ashley said, E-X-P-E-C-T-A-T-I-O-N-S......It didn't work for me and still doesn't to this day. You have such a big heart and you are so genuine. Your acts of kindness toward people is what made me fall in love with you!!!!

  26. When I hear stories like yours I am reminded that I have to live with myself at the end of the day so no matter how I have been treated I have to be above the pettiness of revenge. An eye for an eye just leaves the whole word blind.
    You are a good man who did the right thing for the right reasons. Despite how you were treated you did right by her at the end. The fact that you knew that while being in that situation fills me with a hope for our entire human race and our capacity for good. It's why I can't forgive deliberate evil. There is always another choice we can make. Good on ya my brother.

  27. I have a very similar story between me and my mother. All I can say is you did what you had to do for yourself, so that you could live with yourself, and then moved on still being able to look at yourself in the mirror. I believe in karma, and think you banked up a ton. :)

  28. Thanks to everyone for the nice words.

    Soft Nonsense - I think you are right. I'm glad I opted to do it the way I did. For me, not for her.

    Cal - I had all those feelings. My brain went from "screw her" to "I better get over there," more than a few times. The saddest part was that I didn't mourn her passing at all. thanks for the nice words. It means a lot to me...

    Sarahjayne - Sorry you had to experience things like that. I know it sucks. I think I did bank up some Karma...Part of the reason I say that is coming up next is in the next comment.

    Buymebarbies - Hey, what if my wife reads this?
    Whatever I had to endure in my early life was worth it. If I hadn't gone through it, I'd have made different choices and wouldn't have ended up on a collision course with you. We're the same you and I, and we both know it. You are my reward...

  29. I'm glad you did the right thing by taking care of her in the end and not letting any bitterness get in the way of that. You had every reason in the world to wash your hands of her, and some would say the right, but you were there for her, even though she wasn't for you.

    I'm glad you share these stories, Pat. It takes a lot of courage to bare one's soul this way.

  30. Wow, your stories are just amazing. I couldn't imagine living through some of the things you went through. You are an awesome person.

  31. man, what a heartbreaking story. I am sorry to hear that Patrick. That you are the person you are now, is quite incredible.

    Thanks for sharing.

  32. Brandi - Jerry - Anthony
    Thanks for reading and commenting!
    As young kid, I thought everybody lived like I did...crazy...

  33. You are a good man Pat....

    One of these days, I'd like to take you for a cup of coffee....

    For some reason, you seem like one of those guys that goes to the coffee shop at 5 am for cup of black coffee and a donut.... lol


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