Hippie, minivan

10483746_10152558956831000_4996057054755877665_nThat is what I called her. “Ma belle Grand-maman”. And that is what she was.

5 years ago, my grandmother was diagnosed we stomach cancer. Being 85 years old, doctors didn’t want to treat her with chemo, saying that she was to old, and instead they took the cancer out bu taking out 75% of her stomach. The same type of surgery that is done for weight loss so though it stopped the cancer, she struggled to stay close to 100lbs.

Over the next five years, there were high and lows with her health. Especially after the death of my uncle, who lived with her and was a permanent presence in the house. It broke her heart when he died and it took a toll on her health also.

Last year, She was supposed to be come to our home for the holidays. She had a stomach ache and couldn’t come. Over the next few months she suffered in silence, not wanting to get help or make people worry. But then one day, a friend saw through it and brought her to the hospital. She stayed for over a month and they relieved her pain by draining her abdomen of fluids and she went home with no official diagnosis. A few weeks later though she was back in.

I was at the We Shine conference when I got the word from my mom that her Cancer had returned. It was not just in her stomach anymore but was everywhere. It was at that point blocking her intestines so that there was no movement and they told her that she didn’t have long in that condition. They started her on Chemo as a last resort, not that they thought it would save her life, but it might extend her time but they didn’t hold out much hope. At the end of June they gave her less than two weeks to live. Then she had a bowel movement. We basically cheered when it happened. The end was not in sight yet anymore. The Chemo reduced the tumor in her intestine enough that it was no longer blocked and no longer caused a problem. Of course the cancer was everywhere but she still had a bit more time.

10470999_10152558956756000_6004842133887391087_nThese are from around that time…

She was regaining a bit of strength and was starting to walk again.

Colin helped her down the hall… Though she never let it show when all the kids were around, we knew that he was her favourite.

They had a very special bond.

I made her a penguin to keep her company.Isn’t she cute?!

The four generations of women in our family.

Isn’t she beautiful! I love her smile.

One of my most cherished pictures.

Soon after these pictures were taken, she was strong enough to leave the hospital.

She made the choice that she wanted to die at home. My mom would stay with her 24/7 and take over her care with the support of an amazing palliative care team that would come once a day.

Soon after she was at home I had a craft fair and my mom was supposed to babysit but didn’t want to leave my grandmother. So we all headed there for the weekend and the kids were able to hang out with her for the entire weekend and it strengthened their bond greatly. Xavier has always been a bit reserved but he loved sitting at the table across from her and they had some special moments. He really warmed up to her.

Over the weeks she became weaker but settled into a beautiful routine with my mom. My mom would wake her up in the morning with a smile and love, she would make her breakfast and they would do their morning puzzles in the newspaper. My grandmother would then nap and then my mom would again wake her up with a smile to have lunch and after another nap she would be awake until evening. She would sit on the porch in her backyard until supper and then after supper she would do her crosswords and go to bed late as usual.

My mom called my grandmother her “Queen” and she was the “Queen’s Jester”. My mom did everything in the house to my grandmother’s standards, which is not an easy feat. She choose what she wanted to eat for supper every night and my mom treated every day as if it were her last. Giving her everything she wanted. They talked and shared fears and dreams and were best friends. Their relationship was beautiful and my mom had all of her trust. At the end of July, there were still more good days than not though her energy was declining.

10514548_10152558956641000_6848642498355942129_nThis is on the 27th of July. We were celebrating her little sister’s birthday and both her brother and sister came over with my moms cousins. Her sister has Alzheimer’s and this is last time she saw her.

The Queen and her Jester

Over the next few weeks her naps became longer and she slept more and became weaker. Needing a bit of help to walk and keep her stability. They had a few scares with convulsions one day and a small stroke before than when they realized that she was in withdrawal from on of the meds she had been on.

Until her last weeks she was still having rounds of chemo and had better days with the chemo then between rounds.

At the end of August I went to spend the weekend with my mom and grandmother to give my mom a bit of respite. My grandmother could no longer walk without someone next to her to help her and needed help getting to the bathroom. She had injections for pain and we could see that end was getting near. The goal was to keep her comfortable.

That weekend was stressful emotionally. My mom is not an only child. She was one of five. One of my uncles, who lived with my grandmother, died two years ago from complications of diabetes. That left three others. The youngest, lived the closest and has a child that is just a few weeks older than Xavier. He would stop by once in a while but was always busy though near the end he would come more often. My aunt and other uncle are older than my mom. They both have some sort of problem with my mom and honestly just have a problem. My aunt refused to come over because my mom was there and my uncle would stop by if he was around but was mean and spiteful and would get made because my mom would answer the phone and my grandmother was sleeping. It was like they couldn’t realize that she was sick and her body needed to rest. He would scream at my mom and he would call and scream at my grandmother telling her that she better have her affairs in order because he would not give a dime. It made her so sad and hurt to see her family like that and she was often in tears because of the way they treated her. My mom was her rock and brought back her smile each time. The only family that really came on a regular basis was my aunt’s son. My older cousin Yanick (I am the second oldest)

That weekend, my cousin (my aunt’s middle child) was supposed to come over and instead, she sent a nasty message to my mom, because her mom wanted to come but would not come if my mom was there, even if my mom went outside or stayed in another room. She was acting so petty and childish, I just couldn’t believe it. The thing is, my grandmother was too weak to be left alone without someone to take care of her. She needed someone to help her go to the bathroom, she needed injections at the slightest bit of pain to keep it under control. She needed someone to read her facial expressions and know when she needed help. She was a very proud woman but she was now completely dependant and she would become frightened and anxious if she didn’t have someone she trusted with her because she could no longer do anything for herself.

10357509_10152558956551000_2998409193620082894_n 10583993_10152627005826000_1617919321830541245_n 20140727_131633 20140713_185301
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