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    • emilyl42

      My mom died of breast cancer when I was 16. She was a planner of all outcomes and wrote a “just in case” letter the day before her lumpectomy. The day after she died, while searching for her will, I stumbled upon the letter. I keep it locked up to read when I need to be lifted in spirits and remember that she’s still here. In the letter, she asked my brother and I to listen to “Never Alone” by Jim Brickman and Lady Antebellum in times of loneliness. I decided to get the song title tattooed on under my bra on my side (around the same spot she found her lump) to remind me that I’m “Never Alone” in life. I often forget that I have the tattoo because it’s so hidden but I catch a glimpse from time to time. I feel like it’s symbolic in the sense that I can’t always see my mom but I know she’s always present. To this day, I can’t listen to the song without crying.

    • emilyl42

      This year is my first time voting. This is also the first year that my 76 year old grandma voted in a primary. She described her reasoning as, “too many monkeys in the circus.” I voted for the first time this primary because so many current issues affect me as a woman and I need to exercise my right that so many women previously worked to provide me. I want to make sure that I contribute towards the future of other women and the direction of our country.

    • emilyl42

      My mother was diagnosed with stage 3 mestastic breast cancer on my 16th birthday. She fought hard and we thought after surgery and 5 months of chemotherapy and radiation she was in the clear. A few weeks later she began to feel sick — a new sick — and after many hospital visits the doctors were certain she had contracted a viral infection. Waiting on the exact results, my mother went into a seizure which caused her to be unresponsive for about 24 hours. It was after this ER visit and transfer to ICU at the nearest city hospital that the doctors learned that the cancer had not been all removed during surgery and had spread to her brain. The only option of treatment would prolong her life by a few months. She came home and slowly gained motor control and the ability to talk with us again for a week. She had another seizure after 6 days at home which she never returned from. She went unresponsive other than heavy breathing for about 24 hours.  Being a carer in this situation caused me to go from being the defendant child to the caring adult. She couldn’t eat, walk, bathe, or do daily activities alone. I remember a sense of relief when my step-dad told me she quit breathing. I missed her — and I still do today — but I knew that the hard part was over. I would rather be without her than be with her in so much pain and weakness. This experience lead me to grow in strength and personality as well as being prepared for more of life’s crazy obstacles.  A year and a half after my mother’s death, my step-father (a man who had been a loving, second dad to me since I was 3) was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. He had aches in his stomach for weeks and being the stubborn headed man he is, he waited until it was excruciating to be looked at. The doctors removed a third of his colon, he went through clinical trials to test new ideas and theories to remove the cancer, but after 3 years of fighting he passed when I was 21. It was hard seeing another parent die of cancer — especially in the same house my mom passed in — but in a strange way it was easier. My step-dad assured me that he was content and that he knew I — along with his two kids and my brother — would be fine. He felt that he had taught us everything he needed to and that it didn’t make sense to prolong his death when he was in so much pain. Again, helping him walk, eat, etc. brought many flashbacks to my mother but I realized that being there for him just as he had been for my mom was the best thing I could do for him.  Flash forward three months — and again — my grandfather was dying of cancer. This time he was staying permanently in a community living center at our local Veteran’s Hospital. My grandpa had done so much with his life. A Korean War veteran, father of six (three of which died before him), husband of 57 years, and one of the happiest people I’ve ever met, I couldn’t ask for a better man to represent what to seek in a future husband. I spent hours visiting him, talking to him, listening to the crazy things the brain cancer made him say, and wheeling him back and forth for dinner. I didn’t cry when he died. I couldn’t make myself. I know that when he died he truly lived his life exactly as he wanted and I couldn’t be happier for him.  My family often says that I’ve gone through too much and I’ve had to be a care giver to too many loved ones dying, and as much as it stinks sometimes, caring for them helped me see that death is normal. It may not come at a “normal” time, but it’s something that we should talk about. Losing the three of them has taught me to fully devote everything into my relationships, to do what I love, and to share my experiences. If I hadn’t had to care for my loved ones I feel that I wouldn’t be seeking a career in devoting my life to help families and patients cope with illness. I hope to be a professional “caregiver” and ease individuals into death and how to keep going.

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