Dying With Mom Part I

I knew this time would come. I’m still not ready for it. I can’t fathom the thought of losing my Mom. But, this hell she is enduring can’t end soon enough.

Mom and me.

For seven years, my Mom, Leslie Lehrman, has battled lung cancer. She is losing her battle as I type this. Nope, she never smoked. This is why Mom and I made a pact to tell her story through a social media campaign from beginning to end…and beyond.

To create awareness and CHANGE.

You don’t have to smoke to get lung cancer. It’s an equal opp disease. ANYONE can get lung cancer. Many don’t realize this, even though this horrific disease is the number one cancer killer of both men and women.

This might make you stop and think: 80% of new lung cancer cases are diagnosed in people who have never smoked or former smokers. No one deserves this disease.  My Mom is ANYONE. As difficult as it is to chronicle her final moments, we both believe it is imperative.

Attention to this disease is long overdue. Lung cancer can no longer be ignored.

The outdated stigma can no longer prevent it from receiving the least research dollars of any cancer.  The 5-year survival rate can no longer remain virtually unchanged for 40+ years.  Not only does it defy logic on all fronts, it’s wrong.

Below is a compilation of my recent Facebook posts that chronicle the devastation of this disease in (close to) real-time, my Mom’s rapid decline, the heart-ache and denial of losing her and literally staring cancer in the face.

November 6, 2012

Mom. Kim. Me.

We made it to Phoenix!!! My Aunt Kim (Mom’s sister) and I (oh and SMAC! monkeys Phoenix & NoMo) got here about 4:30 pm. Mom is happy we are here and we are chatting and watching election results.

She looks great. She is having a CT scan on Friday to see if the cancer has metastasized to her brain, causing her mental confusion and speech issues. Will post more pics soon. Thank you all for your love and support. It followed us all the way here and remains!

November 7, 2012

Telling Mom it’s OK to let go.

Mom asked, ” Is the reason you are all here because death is soon?” Aunt Kim and I hadn’t had the opportunity to have some time alone yet with Mom until the morning. I told her that yes, the dying process has begun. That she no longer has to fight.

She isn’t scared. We had a quiet, emotional and amazingly meaningful moment. I will forever cherish this time with my Mom.

November 7, 2012

I am not proud of my actions in this video. I’m sure the intensity of it all upset Mom, which is the last thing on the planet I want. I want to make sure her wishes are realized. Everyone does…but not everyone is ready to accept what all is taking place.

Completely understandable. Why share this? Because it’s real.

November 8, 2012

Staring cancer in the face.

Cancer. About to rupture. Makes me absolutely sick. When you can see it on the surface like this, you don’t even want to imagine what it’s doing on this inside of Mom’s body.

November 9, 2012

Toe time.

Mom got a mani-pedi from Aunt Kim and I yesterday. Her nails look unbelievable!!! At this point, we are not really able to understand much of anything Mom says. So hard to see this decline happen so rapidly and in real time.

But, such an honor and blessing to be here. Some absolutely precious moments. Today, many are in town for Bob’s birthday. I feel so badly for Bob on so many levels I can’t even describe. The good thing, all good family and friends on Bob’s side of the family are here and can spend some good time with him…and short visits with Mom.

One thing Mom makes abundantly clear…she wants us right there with her. I need to tell her I will be right back if I need to grab something from a different room.

I won’t be anywhere else but here, sweet Mom.

November 9, 2012

Just. Thanks.

November 10, 2012

Mom and Bob.

Doesn’t get any sweeter than this, does it? Yesterday was an incredible day. At times, more than heart-breaking, others peaceful and uplifting. Mom had a lot of visitors, as today is Bob’s birthday and many family members were in town. Her speech was actually better.

I’m guessing she was working extra hard to try to communicate in front of others. After the company left, she slept and we had an amazing conversation when she woke up. I will forever cherish that moment.

On a funny note, Mom said a few times that her tummy was hurting. We asked if she wanted TUMS or something for it. I got the TUMS and said, “Mom do you want some TUMS?”

She said, “Oh, do you have a problem?” Aunt Kim and I both said to her (in a funny, joking manner), “No YOU do.” She just rolled her eyes and started to laugh, fully aware that she forgot. We all laughed so hard. Not sure what today will bring, but we take it day by day, hour by hour. I continue to tell her all the love you send her way. THANK YOU so much.

November 11, 2012

Mom’s birthday message to Bob.

Yesterday, Mom wanted to check out “FB.” She also wanted to post a happy birthday message to hubby, Bob. So, she did. While it broke my heart to see the message was scrambled, I also found it quite lovely – straight from the heart – and in her words as she can say them at this time.

Lots of visitors yesterday. As always, Mom was beyond stoic as they were here, but was wiped out, as you can imagine, when they left. At night, she gets reflective, sad and frustrated. She wonders why and what is happening to her. Someone mentioned Tobe (my brother, her son) coming on Monday. Mom said, “I hope I can wait for him.”

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Mom with SMAC! monkeys NoMo & Phoenix.

Before signing off with this post, I have to share with you Mom’s dream. My Mom is the inspiration behind the creation of SMAC! Sock Monkeys Against Cancer - a gang of philanthropic monkeys that provides tangible support to those battling all types of cancer – reminding them that no one fights it alone.

I have been working for the last year 1/2 to create the prototypes, figure out manufacturing and all kinds of crazy things to finally launch a crowdfunding campaign to bring the SMAC! monkeys to life for ALL of those with/impacted by cancer.

As my launch date neared, I got news of my Mom’s rapidly declining health. I debated whether to continue the campaign. It didn’t take me long to come a conclusion: Launch the campaign and make it a reality while she is still with us. She wants others with cancer to find comfort in these little monkeys like she has.  She wants “her boys” to be part of her funeral services. They will be.

When I tell Mom the latest fundraising numbers, she smiles. We are nearing our goal.While Mom sleeps, I hop on the computer and work on the campaign. It is the highest of highs to see such a good thing happening – my Mom’s legacy becoming a reality. However, as I type and look to my right, where my Mom is literally dying, it is the lowest of possible lows.

So, I try to focus on making a difference. Cancer is evil. Sock monkeys aren’t. Feel the same? Pledge here.

Dying With Mom Part II to come soon.

  • Susanmcbrine

    So touching and brave of you to share these moments with your mom with all of us! I too watched my adult disabled daughter die . I think the experience will always be with me but your mom and my child show us hoe to fqce death with peace abd courage! Bless you both

  • Tawna

    It breaks my heart to read the updates about your mom.  My mom too was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in 2006 and passed away in 2007.  Like your mom she never smoked, and continued throughout the process to try and understand how this could happen to her.  She was very strong, courageous and positive throughout the process.  I miss her every hour of every day. 

  • Lynne Eldridge

    I can’t begin to thank you enough for sharing with all of us – it can’t be easy – and the inspiration you are.  My prayers will continue for both of you, that you will both feel surrounded in a huge blanket of love and warmth and peace.

  • http://www.facebook.com/anniejmacdonald Annie MacDonald

    No matter what Jen I am with you & Leslie as I feel you both with me. I am sad that Leslie is going through so much pain & confusion. This is a difficult journey for Leslie & for all of you. I know how much we all love your mum & how much she has loved us too!!  Yet this is nothing compared to the love amongst all of you, her children, grandchildren,sisters, coussins etc.  I lost my mum when i was 40, after 3 cancers we finally lost the fight. But my mum is still here with me every single day!!! I feel her love,warmth & tenderness always.  Honestly Jen I was so glad when she passed as I knew she would no longer have to live in pain, & I would not want her to be alive & in so much pain.  I know Jen that it is all in God’s good time but I am praying for your mum to have peace and to no longer suffer. I love you all sweetie.
     Love Annie

  • Fthrlady

    This is truly hard to read. I remember a vibrant woman who stood before me, when I had the luck to visit her while in AZ. She simlpy radiated charm and love as we greeted each other at the door.
    We chatted like we had known each other for a long time, and found we really did have lots in common.
    She and I traded stories about family and such.
    It was a great visit, and one I will always cherish.
    Les will always be in my heart and I
    only hope, that she will soon be free of this sufference and find the peace and comfort she so much deserves.
    I will always love you Les and remember you as the sweet lady you are.

  • A Stranger

    I don’t know you or your mother, but my heart goes out to you.  I lost my mother to cancer in 2005 after a six year illness. While the years after her diagnosis were valued, the downside is that we got into a cycle of knowing there was something new to try when the last thing stopped helping.  That makes it harder to recognize when it was time to stop looking for the next step.  I am thankful that my family was always on the same page as each other and Mom so I never had to fight the battle you did on the video.  When you changed from “her body is in the dying process” to “she is dying,” I was so proud of you (strange thing to say, I know).  Those are the words that need to be said sometimes to get to an accepting and peaceful end of life. I wish you and your family the best.

  • Julie

    Praying for peace for you and your dear Mother Leslie. I just pledged $50.00 to your awesome campaign in honor of your efforts, your journey, your love for your mother, and in honor of my own dear Mother who I lost to small cell lung cancer 11 months ago.  My heart breaks for you.  

  • http://twitter.com/samfiorella Sam Fiorella

    I’m amazed at the courage you have. God bless you both. 

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  • carnivalous

    This makes me sad, yet amazed at how brave you are facing what’s to come with your mom. I am going through the same thing, eerily. I’d flown across the Pacific to spend time with my mom dying from lung cancer. We were told she wouldn’t make it to the new year. I know it may come any day now and I am going through a lot of different emotions   daily. It’s very taxing. I don’t think one could ever be prepared to say goodbye. My mom right now is very energetic and spirited despite being hooked to O2 concentrators 24/7. I’ve seen her ups and downs but I could not imagine how she will be when the time is near. I could only hope that when the time comes, it will be peaceful and free from pain.

    Thanks for sharing your and your mom’s journey. May you both be blessed.

  • Pingback: My Final Goodbye to Mom: “Heavenly Hair. A Voice. A Difference.” | WTF? For Lung Cancer

  • Miacaraitalia

    I actually stumbled over your site today…. researching some cancer info for a lady that touched my heart over the holidays.  I am not sure why as I knew she had been battling cancer for several years.  However, when I “saw” her…. an old sadness returned.  Since losing my Dad to lung cancer almost three years ago, I have not been the same person, never will be.  The fight, much like the journey of you and your mother, depleted my very heart and soul.  However, the loneliness since he passed makes me wish I had cherished the moments more, done something more.  Regarding smoking, my Dad did, at one time.  He was a real fighter having battled GIST cancer which required horrible operations and pain… (Vietnam… agent orange).  But Lung Cancer… it is the mother of cancers.  I mean it, we went all over the place only to see sad faces, hopelessness.  Even at the beacon of hope MD Anderson, they just sent us home. 

    Having digressed, I just wanted to post and tell you…. crying in the shower really helps.  Time makes things more bearable, but to date, the memories, the missing him, the journey, are as fresh as yesterday.  God Bless you and may you find some form of peace knowing you were a true and faithful daughter. 

    • Miacaraitalia

      One more thing…. I do not think being a smoker makes one deserving of any less compassion than anyone else.  Cancer is cancer….it plays no favorites.  At MD Anderson I saw people outside with IVs and smoking which tells me those smokes must be incredibly addictive, enough to die for….. but death by cancer well… I don’t care if a person shot up heroine, ate terrible foods, had the cell phone near the ear too much, all of which likely could cause cancer.  Actually this list of causitives makes us all contributors to our own demise should we get cancer.  It is rampid.  Sorry for rambling.  Before Dad, I was very critical of smokers, etc., now, I just see them as someone with an addiction that could lead to their very death.  Very very sad.  No, I have never smoked. 

  • jimmy

    came across your site today. just wanted to say i really feel for you having lost my own non mum to lung cancer in 2006 after only 6 months, she had also never smoked, reading this has brought it all back.  keep strong  and good luck with your campaign, i will support it.  

  • Lorrie

    Funny story of how I “stumbled” across your website. Ok, here we go…..All of these quirky, frustrating electronic issues were happening to me (and with me), one right after another. (netflix, wiifi, cable tv, phone, internet) So, I was starting to feel a bit frustrated & wondering WTF? Wow, all of these challenges, one right after another. /what does it ALL mean? So, I decided to write myself a little journey entry to vent this frustration and “low & behold” once I got all set up & was getting right down to choosing the”gosh darn” font for my heartfelt journal entry, then the Microsoft Word program (which was the one tool that did not need an internet connection) ended up not allowing me to type or do anything????…..So there was the google bar that popped up and was screaming at me to pen, “WTF r u trying to tell me, Mom?” And low and behold, http://www.wtflungcancer.com website came up. I immediately asked myself , “Do you think this is just a coincidence, Lorrie?” Here is a little “something” for ya – compliments of your Mother

    My Mom TOO died of lung cancer (just shy of 2 years ago) this July? I am thinking that my Mom was doing what she had to do to get my attention.. And when the electronic issues didn’t quite do the trick…..BOOM ~ your website pops up with its profoundness.

    So reading and watching your website has been a real gift. Thank You, from the bottom of my heart, for both, You & Your Mother, in being a conduit for my Mom (in getting my attention) and to confirm her continued presence in my life. It certainly has been and continues to be an amazing journey.

    Thank you Jennifer for your courage. You have given me a gift tonight.

    With Love ~
    Lorrie

  • Meski

    My heart is broken, because my Mom has passed by Kidney cancer i was worried about this history…I Love My Mom for ever she is special………

  • Ray

    Watching the video and reading your posts brought so many memories back to me on so many levels. My Mom died at my home from lung cancer in Oct. 2008. It was the worst time in my life, yet I would never trade the time I had with my Mom as her death approached. I felt so helpless during the last weeks, their was nothing I could do except be with her and tell her I loved her. Thanks for sharing your story.