Today I don’t have any pictures of what I have been cooking, no success stories from running, no funny quotes or anecdotes to share. Today you get me, just some thoughts and feeling that I want to share with you.
I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to be able to write about the most life changing event that has ever happened to me. Four and a half years ago I lost the most amazing person that I have ever known. She was my rock, my teacher, my shoulder to cry on and at times my friend. There are so many wonderful words to describe her but my favorite one is “mama”. My mama passed away after having a massive heart attack in June 2008, I was 24 years old and it was the most devastating thing that could have ever happened to me.
She had been misdiagnosed with Pneumonia shortly after I was born. Because of the treatment that she received for her condition, which was actually hyperthyroidism her heart had been deteriorated to 15%. So there she was, a healthy 28 year old woman (the same age I am now) with two young children at home and a brutally damaged heart. Eventually her condition progressed to congestive heart failure.
Fast forward… Feb 2001, I’m sixteen. My mom and I were living in Edmonton to be closer to her cardiologist. They had entertained the idea of implanting a pacemaker to help my mom and increase the strength of her heart but because of so much deterioration deemed it nearly impossible. They said that her heart wouldn’t be able to sustain itself while she was under general anesthetic and that there was a huge risk that she wouldn’t make it.
May 2001…They decide that they are going to proceed with the surgery using local anesthetic with a bit of general so that she would be sedated but still awake for most of the procedure. I had sat down with numerous doctors and gone through the risks and knew that there was a chance that I could lose her. We celebrated Mothers day and my seventeenth birthday before she went in for surgery. I remember telling her how much I loved her and that I knew she would be OK. I could tell she was scared but was trying not to show me. She was always so strong even when she didn’t have to be.
I remember waiting for what seemed like days until her doctor finally came out into the waiting room and told me that she had made it through the procedure but was very tired and would need a lot of recovery time, meaning we weren’t out of the woods yet…
Six months later, November 2001. For those of you who have never seen what a pacemaker looks like after it’s implanted, it looks like a large lump in the middle of someone’s chest. Eventually this lump is supposed to heal and be virtually impossible to notice. Well after 6 months I could still see my mom’s protruding lump and I just knew that something wasn’t quite right. She said that she could feel something in her chest and that she felt better but didn’t quite have the energy and stamina that she had hoped she would have.
What had happened was one of the leads of the pacemaker had become detached and was dangling inside her chest.
Round two…they decided that the best option would be to try to insert another pacemaker. So if you thought that the first one didn’t scare me enough you can bet that knowing this would be her second heart surgery in six months did. This time there was no celebration, no fancy dinner. I told her I loved her as they wheeled her into the operating room and I waited. I was all by myself and very scared that that may have been the last time I would ever see my mama. But, thankfully it wasn’t. She had survived the second procedure but was extremely weak and would need a lot of recovery time.
Seven years later, she passed away very suddenly from a massive heart attack and pulmonary edema, which is a condition that is caused by congestive heart failure and fluid that builds up on the lungs. I was told that this would have happened so quickly that there wouldn’t have been a lot of time to react and also that the person generally doesn’t suffer; a grim reassurance in the grand scheme of things.
I wanted to share this story with you because for a long time I was very angry about why this had happened to me. Grief was something that I just didn’t know how to deal with and I was very shut off from the world. I didn’t want to talk about it. I thought I had been done a very unfair justice and was completely selfish. All I could think about was how do I carry on? How do I live the rest of my life WITHOUT her?? How???
It has been difficult. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about her, miss her and wish that she was here. This took me a long time to come to terms with. It took me a lot of time to get where I am today and to realize that I will be ok. Everyone’s journey of grief is different. It’s not something that can be dealt with in one day, one month or even one year. It takes time. As hard as that is to deal with in the beginning, it does get a little easier.
In light of a recent passing of a friend it made me think about what I went through with my mom and encouraged me to finally share my story with you all.
If you have lost someone close to you recently and are having a tough time, I encourage you to let yourself cry, yell, scream, feel angry, be sad, feel alone, talk to your loved ones, write down your emotions, and seek help if you need it. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Believe me when I say that it does get easier but there are always hard days and moments of sadness. That is just your way of showing that you still care about that person and that you will never forget them.
If I can just leave you with one more piece of advice: Don’t sweat the small stuff, always tell your loved ones you love them and live like you were dying.
In loving memory of Louise Mabel Westerlund, my sweet angel and mama. Not a day goes by without you…