English, Foreign Languages and English as a Second Language

Student Showcase

Safely Home

Maria Sosa

I once had a perfect life. It consisted of parents who loved each other and children who got along. My home was filled with happiness, prosperity, and love. All of this was shattered on August 17, 1997. That was the day I learned the most despised word of my vocabulary: cholangiocarcinoma. It is better known as bile duct cancer, and my mother was diagnosed with it. I can still remember that day when she came home from the doctor; she cried out loud and yelled, "Why me? I don't want to die." We all hugged her and gave her support. My family had always been united and strong, but we weren't prepared for all the pain, suffering, and sadness that would come in the months that followed.

Chemotherapy was my mom's only hope for survival. She was optimistic and strong. She wished more than anything to one day be able to call herself a "Cancer Survivor." Sadly, though, the chemo had no effect on her at all. In her doctor's own words, we were to "take her home and make her as comfortable as possible. There is no more that you can do." Hearing that was bad enough, but making my mom understand that she had only weeks to live was the hardest thing I had ever gone through. The weeks that followed will forever be in my memory.

We sought a second opinion from another doctor. He, like the others, said that she didn't have much time. There was something about this doctor that was different, though, because he said that he would do all he could to stop the spread and severity of her illness. That same day, she was admitted into the hospital. Again, making her understand that she had to stay there was difficult.

My mom's fragile body was sustaining as much as it could. We all knew that it wouldn't be long before her liver would stop functioning and we would lose her. So many moments I sat by her bedside crying in disbelief and wishing that there was something that I could do. This had all happened so quickly. In a matter of weeks, her pain had intensified, and she would lie in bed crying.

On her second day in the hospital, she was given a different type of chemo. We hoped that this would help her regain some of her liver functions. In a matter of days, we received the test results which showed that the chemo had done some good, but it also showed just as much damage. Her white blood cell count was extremely low, and she grew increasingly weak. The levels of toxins in her blood were dangerously high and this caused her to be extremely confused. At my mother's request, all attempts to cure her were stopped. Every day the doctors would come by and say that it was only a matter of days or hours before she would die. One day, she asked me if she was really going to die, and I replied, "Yes, the cancer has spread too fast, and we are losing the battle."

"I'm ready," she said. "I'm not afraid of death anymore. I want you to know that no matter what happens, I will always be with you." Within a matter of days, she slipped into a coma. At this point, we realized that we could no longer persist for her body to heal itself. We decided that the best thing to do was to take her to Hospice. All that would be done there would be to administer pain medication.

On the night that she was transferred, my mom awoke from her coma. That will forever linger in my mind. What if we had continued her treatment? Could that have made a difference? I'll never know, and I will always feel a sense of guilt for giving up on her, even though she later returned to her coma.

On her first day at Hospice, my mom began to have seizures. I saw the first one, and I decided that I had reached my limit; I couldn't stand to see any more of her agony. I entered her room and I said, "I love you, Mom. Take good care of yourself, bye."

"I love you too, angel," she said. "Thanks for everything."

I exited the room and was determined to never return. I went back home and thought things over. I knew that if it had been me, she would never have left my side. I just couldn't stay away.

One final week passed, and on Monday, October 20, I sat by her bedside. I told my mom that I loved her and that I would understand if she left me. Later on that day, I went home for the night. I gave her a kiss goodnight and told her that I would see her in the morning.

That night while I was sleeping, I heard the phone ringing. At first, I thought it was part of my dream, but the sound continued. I awoke. Chilling fear came over me as I hoped this wasn't the call that I had been dreading. The ringing stopped, and I heard my father's footsteps as he walked towards my room to deliver the news. He gently knocked on the door and came in. Without saying a word, I knew what he had come to tell me.

"It happened?" I asked.

"Yes," he replied softly with tears running down his face. I realized that my world as I knew it was over. My mother's struggle with cancer had ended at exactly 3:15am on Tuesday, October 21, 1997.

I don't remember getting dressed or how I got to the hospital. But once we arrived, we were received by a Hospice nurse who said, "Mr. Sosa, I'm very sorry for your loss." I entered the room and saw my mom's lifeless body as it lay upon the hospital bed. She didn't look much different than when I had seen her earlier that night. I don't know why, but for some reason, I had to see for myself that she was really gone. I stared at her, and I couldn't hear her breathe. All of the sounds that had become familiar were now silent. I was consumed with sadness as I realized once and for all that she was in heaven with all of her angels. Although for a long time, I hadn't heard my mom's voice or laughter, it had been comforting to hear her breathe and to feel the warmth of her hand. Now, all of this was over.

Going home was the hardest, for I saw all of the pretty things that she admired. She always tried to make our home a warm and pleasant place. All of the things she loved are now a sad reminder, every day, that she is gone. I remember how she loved her garden and bird feeders, her classical music, and fancy dresses that made her stand out.

I dream that someday I will once again see her beautiful face and pleasant smile. I know that she will guide me through life and be by my side. You never realize how important someone close to you is until they're not next to you anymore. My heart is filled with sorrow and remorse. It is as though I have fallen apart, and I'm slowly trying to pull myself back together. I know that my mom is safely home with the angels. After all, death is only our birth into eternal life.

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