At approximately 2:30pm PST my mother passed away after a 23 year battle with brain cancer, she was 63. The actual cause of death was an “overdose” of radiation. Back in 1986 cancer was not well understood and treatments sometimes were trial and error. Her tumor was literally in the top of her head and about the size of a quarter. She was given chemotherapy and radiation treatments like most cancer patients of the time. Eventually the tumor while it did not shrink it did stop growing. For a couple of years after the treatment she did fine, she returned to work and was the mom we knew and loved.

Over time her capacity reduced to the point that even a simple filing job was difficult. Then driving was an issue, she had an incident where she spun the car around on the highway and hit the guardrail. Luckily there was very nice gentleman who stopped and made she was ok. After that incident mom (and I am sure dad and the doctor) decided that she would give up the freedom of driving. It pained her greatly losing a freedom that most of us take for granted. From there she began to loose her balance once in a while, this caused additional medical issues but nothing earth shattering. In about 2000 she was admitted to a “senior care center” at the ripe age of 57. I would try to visit yearly and each time you could see the change, some years more than others. The first year I visited she had been admitted just a few months earlier. While she laid in bed, dad and I put up an artificial tree, she was very happy that day and loved to talk about past Christmas’.

It was very interesting visiting her she could remember things that she had never told me before, things when I was just 2 years old. On the flip side she would ask every 20 minutes what were going to do that day. Then once in a while she would say that she was ready to go home. That was probably my second worse day, how do you tell someone that they are not going home. Will never lay next to the man that she loved for 35+ years. Looking back then, the tumor was an ally. Because of her missing short term memory you could change topics and she would not remember what she had asked. Other visits were just as hard, like the time and this happened often, you would walk into the room and you could see the look on her face as if she had never met you before. Sometimes when visiting she would call me by my brothers name, granted people do this with all of their faculties in tact. I was never hurt by that but she had never done that before. Another time I remember was after I was divorced and visiting her with my new girlfriend. She thought that she was a girl I dated in high school.

Well in her last years she lost physical abilities, standing, walking, the ability to help herself up in bed. Eventually it was reading, writing, attention span, speech and fine motor skills (feeding herself). In August 2008 she fell at the nursing home and had to be rushed to the ER. She had bruises and was sent home the next day. That day a nurse noticed that she seemed more confused than normal and though she should return to the hospital. Well they found a small hematoma in her head and were not sure if the effects were going to be permanent or if she would recover even a little bit. Well she recovered enough to return to the senior center but she eventually faded again. Her living will was such that no heroic measures be taken.

On December 21st 2008 I received this from my dad.
“I wanted to update both of you on mom’s current condition. She continues to lose her ability to swallow and is rapidly losing weight-about 30 pounds in the last couple of months. Sometimes when I visit she definitely seems to know me, smiling and making eye contact. Other times she does not make eye contact and appears out of it. The nurse at the nursing home said that her awareness of the nursing home personnel, people whom she sees everyday and who she recognizes, has dropped off markedly in the last couple of weeks. ”

On February I got the call and this is what my dad sent to the rest of the family and friends.

“Karen died today. Her brain stopped working. I was with her when she stopped breathing. It was quiet and painless.

She had fought her illness for years and years. This morning when I saw her
she was unresponsive. Her eyes had rolled back in her head. When I saw her I whispered in her ear that it was O.K. for her to go, that I would always love her. About 4 hours later she died.

The Neptune Society picked up her body. Her ashes will be sprinkled over the Pacific. We will have a memorial service in 2 or 3 days.

I feel confused, sad and numb. Been waiting, expecting it to happen for a
long, long time. Now that it has, don’t quite know how to react to it.
Basically, I think it was time. She had no quality of life remaining.

She was a wonderful mother and wife.”