The truth is you don’t. This morning I found out my mom had passed away from acute cardiac and respiratory failure brought on by advanced anaplastic carcinoma of the thyroid gland, the least common tumours (only 1% of all thyroid cancer cases) and the most deadly. I hadn’t heard of this before. but I’ll definitely not forget it.

My mom, for months, had had a rather large goiter on the side of her neck. It was big. It was noticeable. I’m trying to understand how and why it went undiagnosed. Earlier this year my dad was in the ICU and there were specialists and surgeons around all the time. Not one suggested my mom should maybe have it looked it.

Symptoms include:
  • Coughing
  • Coughing up blood
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Hoarseness or changing voice
  • Loud breathing
  • Lower neck lump, which often grows quickly

I don’t think she was coughing up blood at all, but in the last few weeks she had difficulty swallowing, so much so that she hardly ate, but she never said that. She simply said she wasn’t hungry, or that she had just eaten. The first time I saw her in hospital she had lost close to 30 kilograms.

I never ever saw the surgeons or doctors. I would either visit my mom in the morning, before they had done their rounds or at night, when they finished up for the day, so I was getting some second hand information from my dad and brothers and still feisty mom.

In my mind (and I’m not sure if everybody else was thinking the same) she was going to have the goiter removed and she would be home in a day or two. The day of her surgery I stayed with my dad and older brother most of the day at the hospital, hoping to be with her when she was rolled into theatre and wanting to be there when she came out, but by 3pm she still hadn’t gone in and I needed to get home to do ‘momdane’ things. I got a whatsapp from my younger brother at 7:24pm saying he’s leaving the hospital, mom’s still sleeping. Nurses are happy with her, That was Tuesday, 19th July.

The next morning I  got a message, from my brother. It read: Spoke to the hospital this AM. Mom was responding well when she woke up and is doing good. She was moved to the general ward and I kept getting updates from various family members.

I’d like to blame everyone else in this story, from the doctors to my siblings to my dad. Every time I said I would come through to visit they would say ‘oh it’s such a schlep to drive all the way from Fourways’ or ‘rather visit her on the weekend she’s home.’

On Monday, the 25th, I was tired because I had had a big event on the 23rd, so chose to rest. On Tuesday the 26th I had a different excuse for not going. On Wednesday something else came up too. And besides, I was going to to go visit my mom on Saturday.

On Thursday the 28th July, I saw missed calls from both my brothers, from my sister in law and from Mark, all a few minutes apart, and I knew. I just knew. My mom had left me. Us.

I don’t have any answers – I don’t know that if when the surgeons cut her open to remove the goiter they saw the devastation and chose to not say anything to anyone, including my mom, and put her in a general ward to just keep her as comfortable as possible. I don’t know if they thought her time was so limited that it wouldn’t have made any sense to tell any of us the actual truth. I don’t know if they told my brothers and they chose not to tell me. I don’t know.

And today, when I found out what she had, and what ultimately killed her, I was so pissed off. I wanted to blame everyone – for not telling me my mom’s time was limited. I wanted to smash someone’s face in for not giving it to me straight so that I could have spent every second of every day with her, before she left.

But the truth is there is NO ONE to blame BUT myself. I assumed I had time. I assumed my mom would always be here. I made the wrong choices over and over again. And you know what’s slowly killing me, is how many people have told me how much my mom loved me; how she was always bragging about what I was up to; how she always spoke about the amazing woman and mom I had become. She constantly showed people photos from my Facebook pages, as though I was a million miles away. And there I was, a half hour drive from her, and I just never made the time, for the only person who loved me wholly, completely, flaws and all.

The time I thought I always had, has run out. And there’s no go getting it back…



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