Mom's battle with cancer was a very confusing time for the whole family. While Mom still battled with her breast cancer pain she would try to make an effort to sometimes go out. Mom would try to manage a few outside trips to attend a cancer meeting or make it to church service at First Baptist Church of As Gonno. [featured-image size="featured" single_newwindow="false" alt="My mom, Anicia Tomokane, and Pelaiah at the Banzai Cliff in Saipan."]I took this picture of Mom and Pelaiah (7) during a sweet moment when we were visiting tourist Banzai Cliff on Saipan in 2012.[/featured-image]
Some days she was very weak and experienced severe pain while other days she had relatively little pain and was strong. There were even times when I called and talked to her when she sounded like she did before she had cancer.
Though she tried to make it to the hospital for her chemo treatments and also visit restaurants, Mom could barely put down her right arm. She walked with it raised. She slept with it raised. Mom put a pillow between her arm and her body to reduce the pain and discomfort of having to hold it away.
If you missed my first post Our Great God Who Provides Over $20,000 Out of Nowhere (Part 1), you may read it here.
When she ate some good food with fermented vegetables on the side, Mom would tell me how much better it made her feel. Sometimes she would speak with such vigor and strength, but most of the time her voice sounded very weak and different.
I felt so hopeful when her normal voice would come back. We were having one of our mother-daughter conversations when I told her, "Mom, you sound great!"
Then it was hard for me to say the words but I did. Ever so slowly with a heart of gratefulness I said, "You don't sound like you're dying anymore."
She was so happy to hear that.
In the beginning of August 2013, I had given birth to my sixth sweet baby, Shiloh. It was the first time that Mom was not able to be with me during or soon after the birth of one of my children --- one of her many grandchildren whom she loved. Because she was battling cancer, she didn't have the strength to make the trip. We all understood that.
Mom kept saying that perhaps she and Dad could visit us in the summer of 2014 when she was done with her treatments and felt better. We were all really looking forward to that --- especially her...especially me.
The news the doctor gave Mom that her cancer was incurable gave us a mixture of confused emotions last December. It was the beginning of the holiday season. Zenn, my brother, had just flown to the Philippines from New Jersey to spend Thanksgiving with Mom and Kai. Dad was preparing to fly to the Philippines to spend two weeks of his school's December break to be with Mom and Kai too. That was Mom's request. He was happy to do it even if he needed a new passport.
The Delta Manila team lovingly blessed Mom during her preparation to fly back to Saipan after receiving such difficult news. Together with my brother Beau who worked for Delta in Saipan, the Manila team surprised Mom with bouquets of flowers, sweet cards, and food for the Christmas season. They also arranged for comfortable flying arrangements back home to Saipan.
Mom made it back safely to Saipan. I asked her if she needed anything, if there was anything she thought she could use or would help her. Tim and I tried to send helpful items whenever we could afford it. Sometimes she gave us various requests which ranged from food items, supplements, or a specific type of pillow to help her get rest. Other times she didn’t have a need.
Mom's Cancer Wish
When I called her in December, Mom said she did have a request. Even though she couldn’t see me on the phone I jumped with excitement when Mom told me she knew what we could get for her. I thought it would help her to have something to look forward to — something that would encourage her to have happy feelings. “Sure Mom! What is it?”
Mom knew that we were going to be staying with the Duggar family in Arkansas after we spent Christmas with our parents and relatives in Georgia. Jim Bob had called Tim a few months before that and asked us to come back and stay with them again sometime. That break was the best time to go because of Tim’s busy work schedule.
Mom said, “Can you get a family picture with the Duggars?”
I was not very enthusiastic about this idea because I was embarrassed. I didn’t want the Duggars to see us as being some crazed fans. We had been developing our friendship with them. We exchanged letters, emails, and text messages. We valued our friendship and didn’t want our relationship to be shallow. And it was difficult because I had never really said no to my Mom. She loved calling me her “obedient child.”
“Oh uh Mom,” I stuttered. “Can I think about this?”
“Yes, please? For me? That’s my cancer wish,” she said. I could hear her smile. She was so cheerful, and that made it even more painful. I didn’t know if I could pull it off without it being an awkward request. And then she added, “And when you get the picture, send it to the reporter at Marianas Variety.”
“Oh Mom! Really? Oh wow.”
Mom knew that her request made me feel uncomfortable. Since I was a young girl I shied away from media attention. We were on the newspapers and television a lot but that wasn’t my choice. Our family was just busy being productive and active members of our community.
There were a few opportunities though when Mom loved to send our pictures in to the local paper as part of her excitement as a parent. When I was on the honor roll, Mom sent it to the local newspapers.
When I was a midshipman, and I was asked to ride in a paid-for vehicle to wave at people during the July 4th parade in my uniform, I was not wanting the attention. I told my mom I wanted to turn it down — I didn’t see it as such a big deal. But I ended up agreeing to be in the parade because Mom convinced me that I gave others hope on the island. Mom believed that their seeing me would give them hope that they too could dream big things.
When we stayed with the sweet Duggar family for a week at their new guesthouse, the Lord gave me strength to not be ashamed to ask for a picture with them. We were getting ready to ring…I mean, pray in the New Year together and were sitting on the couch talking to Jim Bob. Tim and I, along with a few friends, were talking about a lot of different things. Then the topic of Mom came up. I mentioned Mom’s cancer wish and he said, “Sure! No problem! We try to get pictures with our guests all the time!”
This story will be continued....
[reminder]Do you have any family members who have struggled with cancer? What helpful advice would you give to someone who desires to help their loved ones with their battle with cancer?[/reminder]