End Game

January 19, 2005

In early December 2004 my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. She had been suffering a shortness of breathe for a few weeks, and after a series of tests to eliminate other causes a chest x-ray revealed the tumor. Further images located it up against and around her pulmonary artery, making surgical removal impossible. Early indications also point towards involvement of the lymph system under both arms, meaning it has already spread further than surgery could ever hope to eradicate. The team of doctors all agree that containment and control are the only medical options open to her.

My mother is going to die from lung cancer.

We don't know the time frame for anything other than the initial round of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Mom isn't asking; her approach is to take this day by day. I can't say that I blame her, and I fully support her right to die in a manner that suits her.

On Christmas Day, Michele and I traveled to central Illinois to spend part of the day with my family. Mom hadn't started the chemotherapy yet, and was still having a great deal of difficulty breathing. Christmas has always been a rather tortured holiday for my family since my sister's death on December 25th, 31 years ago. Having the spectre of cancer looming over us once again, and seeing my mom in such distress, was awful.

My family isn't over communicative about most things, and an elephant as large a lung cancer parked in the living room, goes remarkable unnoticed. In order to keep my sanity as I process the death of my mother I have decided to write about it here on my website. I find solace at times in the mechanics of putting my thoughts and emotions down on paper (as it were) for posterity.

I have started calling her more often, and I am planning on opening a dialog via email. I am doing this for purely selfish reasons; I need to be at peace with my relationship with my mom before she dies. Amy died so abruptly, and without any fore knowledge on my part, that it took me decades to come to terms with her passing. I have known and understood ever since Amy's death that all the people I knew were going to die eventually. Knowing that, and being prepared for it, it turns out, are two different realities altogether.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.