My mother, Josephina Navarro, was 54 years old when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in October of 2008. My mom had a complete hysterectomy in Oct. 2007 and had gone in for a routine followup in 2008, when she was given the bad news. Unfortunately, her CAT scan revealed that it was stage IV. The tumor was so huge that it caused a partial collapse of her left lung, it had metastasized to her colon, bladder, vaginal wall, stomach, pancreas and spleen.
My mom started chemotherapy the day before Thanksgiving. The doctors wanted to shrink the tumors before going in to surgically remove them. In February 2009 my mom underwent a procedure to remove the tumor, part of her stomach, a portion of her pancreas, and as much of the cancer from the colon and bladder without having to divert those two functions. They also removed her spleen completely. My mom’s surgery was successful. My mom was given the all clear and was declared in remission. She was able to enjoy 7 1/2 months being cancer free.
However, that all changed when in October 2009 the doctor’s found that the tumors were growing again. My mom underwent 40 sessions of radiation treatment to shrink the tumors. Unfortunately, the radiation did not work and my mom had to resume chemotherapy. Her doctor advised her that she would probably be on chemotherapy the rest of her life because of the aggressiveness of her cancer. My mom continued treatment and once again in March of 2010 was declared in remission. My mom was so excited.
My mom and dad decided to move, so in April of 2010 my parents moved in with my youngest brother. They were excited to be around family. My mom had a followup visit in May 2010. Her cancer had returned and she would need to start chemotherapy again. Even during this trying time my mom remained positive. My daughters were able to spend that summer with her. One of the best memories we have is her on a jet ski, laughing like a young child, loving every minute of being carefree.
In August of 2010, my mom was rushed to the ER complaining of severe abdominal pain. My mom was suffering from a bowel obstruction, along with a fistula. The surgeon there advised my mom that the best thing to do was a colostomy.
When she got got to the hospital, she found that the radiation that they had given her previously ruined her colon. My mom underwent colostomy surgery the next day. The doctors also had to remove her port which had become infected. The doctor advised my dad that we needed to prepare ourselves because my mom did not have much time left. My dad never relayed that to us. He kept it to himself. My mom was in the hospital for 1 week and then returned home to Laredo. This time she would continue chemotherapy in Houston. My mom continued this until March of 2011, when her doctor advised her that her CA125 was normal so she was declared in remission yet again.
My mom went home ecstatic. My mom soon realized her body was changing and she didn’t feel like herself. She was lethargic, and would get dizzy very easy. She kept telling us something was not right. In April of 2011, my mom was immediately admitted to the hospital with kidney failure, severe anemia and dehydration along with recurrence of the cancer. My mom was really bad off we thought we were going to lose her. She was released in one week and had a 2 week followup. When she returned for her followup she had to be hospitalized again for dehydration and anemia. They had to place stints in her ureters to open them up because they were being constricted by the tumors. That went well and my mom returned home 3 weeks later. Prior to her release the doctor advised me that she didn’t have much time left. That she needed to enjoy the time away from the hospital because she would be spending a lot of time in the hospital in the coming months. I was devastated. I prayed that the doctor was wrong.
My mom was in and out of the hospital in the coming months. Finally in the month of September my mom went the entire month without being hospitalized. I was so happy, thinking the chemo was working. However, in October 2008 my mom had a routine CAT scan done. The cat scan revealed that my mom had a severe infection in her abdominal area. My mom was getting fluid accumulating in her abdomen but the doctor thought it was a side effect of the chemo. Unfortunately, the liquid was urine that was leaking through a small hole in her bladder, which was damaged from radiation burn. My mom was hospitalized for 6 weeks. During this time they were able to get the infection cleared up but they advised my mom she would have to have a urinary diversion done to relieve her symptoms. My mom was adamant, that she did not want any more bags. When we advised her doctor, her doctor said that is her right. She advised us at that point we would have to transition to hospice. I learned from my father-in-law that hospice does not provide any preventative treatments nor any life saving measures. When we told that to my mom she said no, i can’t do that. Choosing hospice is like i’m giving up and I’m not ready to give up.
My mom had her nephrostomy tubes placed and was released the Saturday before Thanksgiving. We were so happy to have her home. However we soon realized how different things were. My mom was weak from being bed-bound for 6 weeks and could barely walk. My mom went to stay in Brenham with my sister. My mom seemed to flourish. On Christmas Eve, my mom’s surprise to me was walking without the aid of her walker. Brought tears to my eyes. My mom fought and fought.
The new year brought change. Not for the good. We could see the changes in my mom, she was tired and frail. Her beautiful smile was gone. She was nauseous, dizzy, tired and in pain most of the time. She would often tell us this is no longer quality of life, but she would keep fighting saying she was scared to die. February 2, 2012 my mom had a CAT scan done. The scan revealed progression in the tumors. Her doctor told us we had 3 options 1) new chemo, 2) transition to hospice or 3) palliative care, and gave us a week to decide. After speaking with all of us my mom said she was not ready to give up, there was so much she still had to live for. She said she had fought this long and she would fight until the very end. On February 9 we went to give the doctor our decision only to find out that the decision had been stripped from us. My mom’s billirubin levels were elevated. The doctor advised us that my mom had tumors on her liver, and that one was blocking the bile ducts. She wanted to run more blood work to make sure it wasn’t a fluke test. The next day the doctor called me to advise that my mom’s levels were still elevated. My heart sank, but the doctor gave me hope. While most chemo’s are filtered through the liver there was an oral chemo medication was filtered through the kidneys. My mom started her new oral chemo Feb. 10 and returned in one week. She was in extreme pain and throwing up blood. The doctor said that there was nothing else to be done we have to focus on making her as comfortable as possible. My mom came home with me that Thursday, and Friday my brothers and I drove her to my sister’s home. My siblings provided around-the-clock care. Hospice came out on Sunday and brought additional medication along with oxygen to make her comfortable. Even as sick as she was my mom still worried about us. If she heard us cry she would lift her frail, finger shaking where she could barely hold it up and say “no tears.”
My mom lost her battle with cancer after 3 years and 4 months of being a brave warrior. We miss her very much. We Love You MOM.