By Kivi Hermans
Life can change in an instant. Many people may believe that this sentiment is simply a way to encourage people to show a greater appreciation for their lives, but for some, including myself, it is an idea that has proven itself to be true.
At 19, most of us are going to college and enjoying the beach. But when something tragic happens to you, you are faced with thoughts about how precious your future really is. This past January, my world came crashing down. My grandfather passed away at the end of the month and almost immediately after that I found out that the love of my life, my mom, had Stage 1 lung cancer.
She came to Florida two weeks before her surgery to tell me in person, and I am so glad that I had the opportunity to see her as the mom I knew before the devastating effects of what was to come.
The surgery to remove the cancerous portion of my mom’s lung went very well and things were starting to look up from there. Two weeks after the surgery, blood clots formed in her arm and she had a minor stroke. Once the blood clots were removed, there was still a fairly large clot in her heart. The doctors scheduled an open-heart surgery and the morning of, the blood clot that formed in her heart had traveled to her brain and caused a massive stroke.
Hearing the news of my mother’s stroke made time stand still. I was in complete shock hearing that my mother, who has never smoked, ran everyday, ate healthy and drank a gallon of water a day was suddenly fighting for her life.
I made the decision to leave school early to be with her because the nurses at the hospital told me that she might not make it through the week. I flew home to California on a flight that felt like it took days. Sitting in the car driving to the hospital, I contemplated what to do or say to my mom when I saw her. Would she recognize me? Did she look different? I decided I was going to go in and sit with her and talk about stories of our past. Walking into that hospital room was a wave of emotions. She looked so gorgeous lying in the bed, and when she heard my voice, she smiled.
That first week was so tough, seeing my mom on IVs and being monitored 24/7. On top of it all, I had doctors that were not very positive about her prognosis, telling me that she would be paralyzed and have the mind frame of a child. Little did they know, my mother was a fighter.
I remember we had brought her MP3 player into the room, and all it had on it was Argentine Tango music, which is a passion we share together. As soon as she heard the music, her left hand went up and she was jamming and snapping her fingers. She also did not eat for a week, which led to a near-death experience for both her and I, with the doctors telling me that I would have to let her go if she did not eat.
The day she ate was like The Second Coming. The doctor shoved the applesauce into her mouth and she came alive. The greatest thing I heard that week was, “What would your mom like to eat?” The first thing that came out of my mouth was, “A big juicy steak!”
The days seemed to get easier after that. She was moved a few times to different floors, which was a good sign because every time that she moved, it meant she was improving.
After getting out of the hospital, she went to several rehab and nursing homes. I was with her every step of the way, silently and sometimes loudly cheering her on.
She started walking in the middle of the summer with help from amazing physical therapists and she started talking. A lot. Now it is hard to get her to be quiet, which is a huge step from not knowing whether or not she would still be around.
I have never wanted to tell my story to gain sympathy for my situation and what I am “going through.” In my case, I find it very selfish to portray a “poor me” attitude because my mother improves everyday and that is what I want people to know. I also tell my story to help teach people.
In my particular situation, my mother is single and I have no siblings. Besides making sure that she was going to stick around for another five generations, the hardest part in all of this is the insurance and the lawyers and the bills.
One thing that I am so thankful for is the closeness that my mom and I have. I know so much about her financial and personal life that when it came to certain things like bank accounts and social security, I knew all of that information.
I spoke with a lot of people this summer who were my mother’s age that did not even know if their children knew their birthday. It is really important to know where your parent’s important papers are, because no one can determine the future and what it holds. Having to go to court to become a guardian to my mother was rough, feeling that nobody understood our closeness and that I was not trying to take anything from her.
So after the summer, I came back to school, because I know that my mother would find a way to kill me if I did not come back. We talk on the phone everyday, and it is definitely the highlight of my day. She is probably the most adorable woman ever and I love her so much. My mom and I sing to each other over the phone, which is funny because when I was younger, I never let her sing in front of me.
What is great about this whole situation is that she has the exact same personality that she carried with her before she had the stroke. She curses when she gets upset and frustrated, and people look at her, but I just laugh and tell them that it means she is getting better.
When my mom used to send me letters, she used to write “My little girl,” and sometimes when I would walk down the hall to see her, she would say, “oh, it’s my little girl.” I felt like a mom that was so proud of her daughter. My mom is the greatest and I thank God that she and I are able to share this precious time together.