I lost my mother to myeloma cancer in 2018 after I had decided to assist her for almost a year taking care of her after her diagnosis and attending chemotherapy appointments with her.
After I graduated in 2014, I struggled to find employment. My mother was diagnosed with myeloma later in 2014 with the Dr giving her two years to live. She was set to start with her chemotherapy the following year. I then made a conscious decision to take a gap year as I had applied for enrolment for my honors degree for commencement in 2015. It was a very easy decision for me to take as there was no one but my parents at home and with my sisters residing in different Provinces due to work. I was home that year to look after my mother and when I say I have seen it all with cancer, I am not lying.
I was 23 years when I was looking after my mother. I will not go into detail of how sick she was or how the arrangement was but I quickly had to learn all the healthcare basics, an example would be how to use the blood pressure wrist monitor and when the blood pressure was too high or too low, my mom was also diabetic so I also had to learn how to do the test using the machine and to identify when the results were alarming or not. She had chronic medication that she was taking and she advised me on how the dosage works and when to give it to her. The chemo medication was a different case as she had to take 80 pills in four days for two weeks so in total she took 160 pills in those two weeks. After the last day of the cycle she would go to the GVI center for consultations with her oncologist where they put her in a drip, an injection and gave her more pills for the next cycle. My mom’s body could not keep up with the treatment that she was on. I remember how one night after dinner with my parents, we were watching TV and having a conversation, my dad and I noticed how my mother was not making sense with her replies and at first we thought she was trying to prank us because she liked playing around at times but we noticed that she was getting worse to a point where she was stuttering and not finishing her sentences. I gave her medication and put her to bed and also called it a day.
I recall my dad calling me on my cellphone to quickly come to their room as my mother was having epilepsy seizures, I will never forget the state she was in that night, I thought we were going to lose her. I called the ambulance and they arrived and managed to stabilize her, she was taken to the hospital and I went on the ambulance with her with my dad driving behind us. When we got to the hospital they put her in ICU and informed us on how she had a minor stroke. I had never witnessed anyone in ICU prior to that and I was freaked out by the machines all over her body and the ventilator machine that was used to assist her with breathing. I had to be strong for my father and my father had to be strong for my sisters and me. Nothing broke me than seeing my mother being unresponsive for days. My dad and I would go to the hospital and in my head I’d be thinking ‘what if we get there and she is no more’ my daily prayer was for her to be taken out of ICU and be placed in the wards. After a few days she was taken out of ICU and placed in the wards because she was getting better. Her Dr informed us that it is unfortunate how she cannot be taken off her cancer medication, she needs to be on the same medication but he will try to find something that can be of assistance. We had to think of how we could make things easier for my mom to take those 20 pills every day without her getting so much strain from swallowing all 20, plus the other medication she was taking for her chronic diseases. The next best idea was for us to use the blender, every day we would grind twenty pills to be powder and we would give them to her to take. This became better for her and life went on as normal with her visiting her oncologist every two weeks.
Over the months we could see progress with my mom’s health, there were trips to the hospitals casualty every now and again but it was nothing as alarming as the first attack. One day around June/July we were having a conversation when she told me that she thinks I should start looking for a job because she feels stronger now and she is getting better so she can manage with most things, we can just get her someone to help around the house. At first I did not agree with her suggestion because I wanted to be with her until I was certain that she was fine, my sisters were also very supportive and would make trips back home regularly. They also thought that mom was getting better so I started with the job hunting and around August/September I got a job. That is when I left home for Pretoria.
Fast forward to 2017 and my mom was still doing well. At this point I’m already thinking of how Dr’s like to play “God” as my mother is still alive after she reached the two year mark. I fell pregnant late 2016 and was due to give birth in September 2017. I had to go home for maternity leave from month end July. I was delighted because that meant I had the entire year to spend with my parents. I gave birth in August with my mom there to assist me with the baby as I was a first time mom. She still had her days where she would vomit and have a runny stomach with visits to the casualty but still, it was nothing like the first attack. It was a great 5 months with my parents, however, in December she started getting sick, I could see that the way she was is more or less similar to what she had gone through the first time. It’s always been a family ritual to go to church on Christmas Day then come back for the festivities. My mother was a staunch member of the church so she never missed the Christmas service but that year she missed it. She could not even eat the food that had been prepared for Christmas lunch and could only stomach plain yoghurts and fruits. At the beginning of 2018, I had to go back to work, finding a helper for my son and leaving him at home.
I could not cope with my son in the Eastern Cape with me being in Gauteng and decided to get him a helper where I am located and fetch him from home. I went to fetch him from home towards the end of February. When I got home my dad shared my mother’s progress with me and I could see that she had lost weight but kept hoping that she would be fine and bounce back. That weekend I went home was the last time I saw my mother alive. My sisters and I had planned to go home for Easter weekend, however, on that particular weekend we were supposed to be spending time as a family, we were laying her to rest. After I left home for the last time before her parting, she was in and out of hospital and her condition was not getting better. I remember it was on a Sunday, the 25th March 2018, after 7pm, we were watching TV with my sister and my son when my sister decided to call my dad who was in hospital to visit my mom at the time. My sister asked to speak to my mom, when she spoke to her, she was struggling to have a conversation with her because she would get tired of speaking. My dad had to cut the conversation short telling my sister to be strong. I think at that point my dad knew that anything could happen. My sister told me about the phone call and also informed our sisters on the WhatsApp group. I went outside and stood at the balcony, said a short prayer that if it’s time for her to go then God can take her but all I ask for is strength to be able to carry on without her. I sent her a sms, which I think she did not even get to read reminding her that we were coming home the following week so she must be strong until we are back. I went back to the house and my sister and I prayed and went to sleep.
It was around 1-2 am on Monday when my sister came to my room to wake me up and tell me the news of our mother’s passing. My heart stopped, everything literally went still for a few seconds, I knew what I had feared the most had happened and the only thing I could say was OK. She went back to her room and I remember not thinking straight but heartbroken. I had so many inner conversations with myself, I don’t even remember my trail of thought but my mind was running a marathon of its own. I don’t know when it dawned on me that she’s gone but when it eventually did, I started crying and could not stop to date. I always thought people were exaggerating when they spoke of losing their mothers until it happened to me. My life literally took a turn on the 26 March 2018. My son was 7 months that time and I still felt like I needed my mother’s support and guidance as a first time mother, my son still needed her warmth, wisdom, love and I still needed her for myself. I knew she was in a lot of pain whilst still alive but trying to use that justification to make myself feel better did not do me any justice. My mother’s funeral was scheduled for the 7th April, my birthday is on the 6th of April and I spent my birthday busy with preparations for her funeral. I make a big deal of my birthday, I celebrate it like it is the final one, however, the last time I celebrated my birthday was in 2017. For the past two years I’ve spent it balling my eyes out for almost half of the day until someone saves me from myself.
2018 was the biggest blur of my life, I literally do not know what happened that year. The only thing that kept me going was my son and knowing that I do not want him to go through what I was currently going through...the pain of losing a mother. I had to show up for him and make sure that he is happy. I cry a lot, I cry until I cannot breathe, I cry myself to sleep. I know she is not here, she’s never coming back and I need to let go but how do I let go of someone I drew strength from, my confidant, my prayer warrior and biggest cheerleader. My mom believed in me more than I believed in myself, how do I let go of that?? How do I continue with life when my biggest support system and the person I strived to make proud the most is no longer here? I look at my son at times and worry on his behalf that he missed out in knowing my mom and gaining knowledge and wisdom from her because in my eyes she was perfection personified, a graceful, God-fearing and humble lady. Some days are better than others as I can think of her and smile, on some days I think of her and try to distract my thoughts and focus on something else but most days I think of her and feel my chest closing up and holding back the river of tears that I want to cry because I just want to hear her voice.
It does not get any better, I personally don’t feel any better 2 years later. Every time I think of her it’s like the first day I got the news of her passing. I have taught myself to live with the pain of losing her and carry the pain with me because it is part of me now. Maybe one day I will have a different feeling or I’ll be able to talk about her without breaking down. I want to trust the process of healing but I am not even sure how the healing is supposed to feel. With the covid-19 pandemic and the country being on lockdown, I have had to deal with the loss of my mom and could not avoid that reality anymore because I was stuck in one place with nothing but the reality of my life. It has been a tough couple of months that I believe had to happen because I was overwhelmed without even being aware of that and I needed the time to catch my breath and get myself together.
I miss my mama, I miss her laughter, her jokes, how she loved all of us and supported us but mostly I miss her smile. My life has never been the same but I’m learning to live without her. I hope her soul is Resting in Peace as she is dearly missed by us all. I would never wish this kind of pain upon anyone as it is a hard pill to swallow.
REST MY ANGEL, UGQATSO ULU FEZILE (THE RACE IS OVER) UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN. I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU.