In August 2017, my mom was diagnosed with uterine cancer. Although, judiciously, she went to her medical appointments, a bad diagnosis from the Liga de Lucha Contra el Cáncer in Barranquilla indicated that everything was fine, but it wasn’t.
One morning, while she was decorating a box of diapers that she was going to give to a friend, she was sitting down and when she got up she had a heavy hemorrhage. We rushed immediately to the emergency room. After a long wait, a biopsy confirmed the diagnosis.
From that day on, her battle against cancer began, a strong and painful battle that only those who have lived it up close know what I am talking about.
After a hysterectomy, 25 radiotherapies and 6 brachytherapy treatments, we celebrated that we had a healthy mother again.
We did not let our guard down. My sister, a dentist, today after so much research, questions and consultations, can give a lecture on cancer. She was always attentive to every study, exam or discomfort that my mother could feel.
But the happiness was short-lived. On December 30, 2019, the cancer came back stronger. It took us by surprise, left us devastated, without knowing what was wrong and with many questions but no answers: why again? what had we done wrong? “Presents diagnosis of endometrial cancer with metastasis to liver, right pulmonary nodule, osteoblastic lesion in left posterior sixth costal arch”, was the terrifying news.
Yes, frightening, painful or fateful as the word cancer sounds. However, today I can call it “blessed cancer”, because despite all prognosis: three months to live. Incredibly, she surpassed all expectations and lived another year.
At that time, medically there was not much to do, but we insisted. She was ordered 6 chemotherapies. Far from worrying about the discomforts, what worried her the most was losing her hair, diva never ‘indiva’. She also lost her eyelashes, her eyebrows, but never her integrity.
And that was when we did everything divine and human so that the most important woman in my life, the leader of my family, the best grandmother, the best sister, aunt, niece and friend, would enjoy her last days.
She had many virtues, but she was human. She was stubborn, controlling, bossy, but she has been the best influence in my life and the best mirror in which I will ever reflect. I learned from her that living in the past makes you sick. That you have to live in the present intensely and that you have to work hard if you want to get where you want to go, but you also have to live for yourself.
In mid-November 2020, the discomfort started and we understood that it was the beginning of the end. When someone you love has a terminal illness, you feel committed to give dignity to their death.
Still, she continued, fighting the battle as only a powerful, brave and warrior women like her could do so. She always knew she had cancer, but we preferred to keep quiet about how serious it was. She was clinging to life, because of the immense love she felt for her family.
In Colombia, health is not a right, it is just another issue that is only given importance to when it generates some kind of benefit. It is not a secret that diseases such as cancer, among others, generate high costs, but bill well. But in my mother’s case, when there is nothing to do, the only thing left to do is to wait at home.
Do you know what that means? You have to wait at home until you die. Although on two occasions we felt that she was leaving, we went to the emergency room of the Bonnadona Clinic, the only oncology clinic in Barranquilla with a good human and medical team, but in which there are many indolent people.
The circumstances of the pandemic, of course, made the capacity of the patients complex, but my mother never got a bed, she only managed to get to the emergency room and to have a small surgery, by putting a catheter that allowed her to drain the liquid that accumulated in her abdomen and that did not allow her to eat, sleep, breathe, urinate, live.
However, only in adversity you do know what you are made of, and I want to clarify that my sister and I do not have many economic resources, but we managed to give her the dignity that my mother deserved.
We hired a nurse and the Dr. Jacobo Palma Brugés, a general practitioner and my cousin, committed to watch over her 24/7, and a small family team full of love and commitment. Today, I am only grateful for them.
I think about the people and their families who have no resources, and I wonder: how do they do it? As long as there is no serious legislation on euthanasia, or the health system makes clear agreements to give a dignified death to a terminally ill person, the pachydermic, indolent and deficient attention in Colombia will continue.
We started a procedure with the EPS Salud Total so that they would support us with a doctor’s service at home and the answer arrived late, bogged down in the paperwork. My mother anticipated it.
She suffered a lot. You cannot imagine how much it hurts. The only consolation I have left is that she is now in the wonderful place she is in.
Cancer is the true pandemic. It arrives without warning and devastates health, life, family, economy and peace of mind.
Only a strong and warrior soul, as my mom was, resists until the end along with us. Thank you mommy. You are eternal.