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Expired Roses, originally uploaded by Pandora’s Box on flickr.

Not too long after my last post, Miss M and I went to visit my Mom. Lubbock was hot that weekend but not like it had been most of the summer. Mom’s roses were blooming like crazy after a break in the nearly year-long drought. Mom kept up with her flower beds and her roses throughout her cancer treatment often telling me about what was blooming when we talked on the phone. During our visit we went to the movies, shopped, visited friends and attended church. Mom even cooked what was for years our traditional Sunday lunch – roast with rice and gravy. I didn’t expect that it would be the last meal my Mom would ever prepare for me. It was the first time she’d cooked for me in a long time and it was good; it tasted like home.

A couple weeks later, Labor Day weekend in fact, it became obvious that Mom’s health was rapidly declining. Her body and mind began to succumb to the spread of the cancer. Weakened and in too much pain to bear, Mom landed in the palliative care unit of Covenant Medical Center. I cannot say enough good things about the palliative care unit and its staff, and yet the first week of Mom’s hospitalization was scary for Mom and for me and for the loving friends that helped maintain a vigil that was to last almost a month as we watched for what would happen next. Mom was confused and worried she wasn’t in the right place, and until her pain was fully controlled, this remained her state of mind. But finally her body got the needed relief and coupled with reassurances from doctors, nurses, friends and me, her mind cleared and she had some good days. While she was still able, Mom even asked for continued chemo treatments and each time she asked, one of us explained again that her body had become too weak for chemo even though her will was still strong enough.

On August 23, with Hospice of Lubbock engaged (angels every one of them) and twenty-four hour care in place, I moved Mom home. The transition was difficult and while Mom never accepted the fact, I knew I was moving her home to die. All month I had been flying back and forth between my home in Dallas and my Mom’s in Lubbock – juggling the roles of daughter, mother and employee. Leaving Mom at home rather than at the hospital was the most difficult leaving I did during this time. And as I expected, her condition rapidly declined over the week. I could hardly wait to make it back home on Friday night, this time finally bringing Miss M with me to see her Nana one last time. I knew Mom had become unresponsive on Thursday. I was sad and a little relieved to recognize the shallow, heaving breathing I remembered from when my Dad died. I knew she wouldn’t acknowledge me, and I knew that was okay.

I expected that Mom wouldn’t last the weekend if she even lasted the night. It gave me solace to take over the administration of the medicines keeping Mom comfortable. Doing this last service to the body that had given life to my own just felt right. Around 4:00 a.m. Saturday morning on October 1, 2011, Mom stopped breathing. She died quietly and without a hint of the fight she had shown so much of up until that point. The tiny shell that had been my vibrant mom became still in the dark of the morning; I woke the household and began making phone calls.

Mom

This is my Mom, Gwen.  I took several pictures of her, including this one, while I was home visiting her back in the spring.  Almost a year ago she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  Before pancreatic cancer made its way into the celebrity news, my Dad died of it – that was 2005.  The fear and despair Mom and I both felt when she was diagnosed with the same disease were like uninvited guests who show up while you’re still in your pajamas.  Not being one to wallow in self pity though, Mom quickly commented that she “had too much to do” to be sick.

Following a successful Whipple procedure to remove the cancer from Mom’s pancreas, a PET scan revealed a new tumor on her liver.  This was disappointing news as no such tumor had been present just a dozen weeks before.  To date she has been through two separate rounds of chemotherapy that have had minimal effect – perhaps just enough to keep the cancer from spreading beyond her liver; although, it continues to grow there.

Mom has continued to be very active with her family, friends and in her church.  And when asked after the most recent scan whether she wanted to continue treatment, her answer was a definitive, “Yes!”  We hope to learn later this week what the next step in treatment will be.  She’s made it clear she’s not interested in any trials that would take her away from home.  I fully support this position.  From what I’ve observed, Mom is happier at home living her life rather than living her cancer.

I won’t lie and try to tell you that my heart isn’t breaking.  That it doesn’t break just a little more with every strong yet graceful act of bravery I see her make.  Things like making plans to take our yearly trip together again next June.  I know that making plans keeps her going, the simple assumption that she, not the cancer, will decide what she gets to do.  I know from experience that it’s difficult to stand up for yourself with physicians, and I’ve seen her do it over and over – asking questions and making her own choices, advocating for what feels right for her.  It makes me proud to see her navigate all that she has to deal with and to see her continue to trust her own judgement.

Six years ago my Dad taught me how to die.  And now my Mom is teaching me how to live.  I’m grateful for the time we have together.  I’m grateful that after forty years she still is my Mom and still has things to teach me about life.  I’m grateful that I am so loved.

Egg Antiqued

Egg Antiqued, originally uploaded by Pandora’s Box on flickr.

I shot a bunch of views of this egg (and a brown one) in this egg cup a while back. Most were on film but I took some test shots with my D80. I had forgotten about this treatment until recently, and coming back to it I’m pretty pleased with the look.

Irises

Irises, originally uploaded by Pandora’s Box on flickr.

I spent the day in Lubbock with my mom last Thursday. While I was there, I took some pictures of her and of the flowers in her yard. These purple irises remind me of springtime growing up…Mom has always had irises it seems. I can remember a number of Easter pictures over the years of the two of us in front of a whole stand of them!

Pier/Peer

Pier/Peer, originally uploaded by Pandora’s Box on flickr.

I like the way the world looks through the WLF of my Hassy, the perspective is just different. On my recent trip to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge I experimented with shooting the Hassy handheld – I shot a whole roll was shot this way, and I’m pleased with the results. I did have nice sunshine for the 64 ISO film I shot. I also tried out my iPhone light meter app and so far I’ve been pleased with the results! This shot is from the same roll of tungsten film as the cherry blossoms and I’m very happy with the blue cast that tungsten lends when shooting outdoors.

Cherry Blossoms



Cherry Blossoms, originally uploaded by Pandora’s Box on flickr.

On my recent trip up the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge I shot some expired Tungsten slide film through my Hassy. I’m really happy with the results I got using Tungsten outdoors. More to come!

Bread Snapping Goose

Bread Snapping Goose, originally uploaded by Pandora’s Box on flickr.

A Canada Goose was not what I expected to see in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge (especially hanging around with prairie dogs like this one was), but since he posed so nicely, how could I refuse to take a pic!

Mom, this one’s for you!