This picture is of my grandmother with the dog she got when she had to retire early, so she wasn't alone all day every day, due to a cancer diagnosis. She was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer in November 2013, at only 60 years old. It's hard when you see your closest family member wither away like she was because of chemotherapy. This story isn't about the negatives that the family went through though. I want to share about all the positive things I remember from when she was here.
For starters, she was the strongest woman I ever had the pleasure of knowing, by far. When she was told 6-12 months with chemo (3-6 without it), she beat those odds by a lot, making it to four and a half years. On top of that, no matter how awful she felt physically, she attended everything for her family. She didn't feel good the day of this concert that I had but she made sure to show up, like she always had. She made sure that I didn't know so I wouldn't be upset. I didn't know how she felt until several days later.
She was the most family-oriented person I have ever known. The picture at the beginning was hard to find because she was always with family. Almost every single picture had somebody else, usually my aunt or her sisters. We all did our best to do the same for her. We went to the local pancreatic cancer awareness walk yearly until they stopped due to COVID. This year was the first year they did it again and most of the family went. I couldn't because I was recovering from a seizure that morning, which ended up making me cry. I wanted to do it for her. This picture happened to be the last pancreatic cancer walk she was with us for, in 2017.
She was non-judgemental to everyone. When she could see my mental health declining, we made a promise that we both stuck to as long as we could. It was when I was around 16 years old. She said, "If you promise not to hurt yourself, I promise not to stop chemo." That led to devastation when she broke the news in April 2018 that chemo was no longer helping her. Even with that being the case, she fought until June 12, 2018.
I don't have pictures from this part but I have some memories. Some are very vivid, which is uncommon for me. Every weekend after she received her diagnosis unless she felt terrible, I spent the whole weekend there. I was in high school, so it was Friday afternoon, before dinner, to Sunday night, after dinner. We did the same few things every weekend but since it was with her, it was always fun. We would play some card games, mainly Skip-Bo and War. We were both jokingly competitive with both. I have always been an early bird, as was she.
When I woke up first, I went into the living room of her trailer (so I wouldn't accidentally wake her up, we shared her bed) and I waited to hear movement in her room. As soon as I heard her, I would go into the kitchen and start her coffee and eggs. We would talk about anything and everything while I cooked breakfast.
We exchanged some songs that we fell in love with since we both cared more about lyrics than singers or genres of music. Her favorite song from the time it came out was Humble and Kind by Tim McGraw.
My mom had me listen to a song I hadn't heard, Most People Are Good, I knew immediately that I needed to make sure grandma heard it. I knew she would agree with the lyrics. After all, no matter how people acted, she always saw the best in them. As she heard each line, she kept saying stuff like, "Yes," and, "I agree with that."
One song she always liked because she loved the beach and nature was Toes by Zac Brown Band.
She loved nature so much that even with severe exhaustion from chemo, she went up Whiteface Mountain with my parents, siblings, and me.
Of course, we had to make sure there was a picture of just her up there, even though she prefers having family in the pictures.
After she passed and was cremated, everyone got some of her ashes.
That necklace is the only piece of jewelry I willingly wear. I wear it so she is close to my heart, the exact reason my parents decided on a necklace for me. The statement on it is definitely true: "I used to be her angel, now she's mine." (Only added here because the picture isn't great.)
This picture is to show her beauty while she was feeling okay during chemotherapy. She was always beautiful but it became more apparent as she progressed through chemo when it was real and when she was pretending for everyone else.