Here is the final portion of Mom's Cancer story. This is the speech that I presented for Lung Force - a campaign started on May 12th by the American Lung Association to bring awareness, recognition, and support to Lung Disease. I've made a few tweaks, but hope you'll appreciate the message.
I hope this goes without saying, but please recognize how difficult it was for me to write and then publicize this. Any harsh words or criticism will be removed to protect my family and I.
On Friday, September 7th, I went home to pick-up Mom and take her for a chemo treatment at the hospital, but something didn’t seem right. She was still in bed, seeming to be in more pain than before, and wasn’t dressed and ready to go. This was the first time in her treatment that she wasn’t dressed, ready, and waiting for me when I arrived. After a few minutes with mom, I had some concerns and called my go-to for medical advice, my husband Kevin, we discussed the weakness in her grip and speech patterns and decided that a trip to the Emergency Room was in order. I’ve never been so sad to be right in my whole life, Mom had suffered a stroke sometime that day. The next three days were filled with tests, information that there were even more tumors than previously, and a transfer to intensive care. We spent my dad’s 60th birthday in the hospital, and possibly the hardest phone call my dad has ever had to make to the Red Cross. The Red Cross was our lifeline to the Army, to contact my brother who during Mom’s hospital stay was training in Georgia.
Just 5 days after she walked into the hospital, my little brother finally made it home, and she was discharged via ambulance to come home on hospice. We had another 7 days with mom at home, and filled her days with friends, family, and books – the things she knew and loved. I’ve said for a lot of years that when I “grew up” I wanted to have friends like my parents – this was only cemented after these two weeks. Friends would stop by, with beer, muffins, or just to say hi. They would sit for hours, in her bedroom, in the kitchen, or playing outside with the dog. My mom’s amazing brothers & dad came every single day to visit, give us a chance to nap, and help in any way they could. I’ve never been brought to tears by food, but when the “Bookheimer men” showed up with lasagna and a 6-pack, I couldn’t even find the words to say thank-you. After 7 days at home, mom was “on hospice”, but still clearly in charge. She couldn’t find all the words, but found a way to tell us she wanted to go downstairs. She wasn’t strong enough to do the stairs on her own, so Kevin, Chris, & Dad carried her down, cheerleader style. She relaxed in the kitchen with us while we ate dinner and then napped in the living room while we watched tv before bed. We made one more trip back upstairs before bed & could tell she was exhausted, but happy. All it took was a trip downstairs and an evening with her family for her to truly relax. The next day, Wednesday, September 19th, just 13 months after being diagnosed with cancer, we lost my mom’s battle with Lung Cancer.
My mom was a fighter through and through – I am blessed with her ability to find the positive in any situation, organize my way through anything life may throw at me, and am a solution seeker. These skills and my love for my mom, have brought me to where I am today. I was so unsure of many things when we lost her, but one thing I am confident about is my ability to help others. I began my journey with the American Lung Association in October of 2012 – just a few weeks after my mom’s passing. I needed to do SOMETHING – and the Fight for Air Climb gave me something to put my energy into, something to fundraise for, and an event to attend with my family, friends & supporters. I’ve participated in other “non-profit” events, but the combination of the ALA’s specific goal and cause, combined with their obvious love and dedication to this cause is what continues to bring me back time and time again. In the 20 months I’ve participated in the American Lung Assn events, Team Little Debbie has participated in 3 Fight for Air Climbs in Eastern PA and raised more than $10,000 in the fight against lung disease. My goal continues to be twofold – first to keep the memory of my mom and her legacy alive every day. Second, to do all I can to help find a cure for these diseases – so no son or daughter should face this kind of hurt again.