Disease and bi-coastal separation created an eternal bond between mother and daughter...
NOVEMBER 21, TWICE
My mother’s father was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in Sacramento, CA, November 21, 2011 and died the following July 2. In August, my mom moved to California to provide her mother with companionship and moral support.
My mom called me while I was abroad in October 2012, with fear in her voice, saying she was having horrible back pain. She ended up in the hospital Thanksgiving Eve – November 21, 2012 – and was diagnosed with stage 4 metastasized breast cancer, affecting her breasts, lymph nodes, liver, lungs, and bones. My best friend Penney and I got on the next flight into SFO, Thanksgiving Day.
I walked into a hospital environment, with drugs, pills, processed foods and doctors who just look at you, as they have thousands of others -- the look that tells you someone is dying. I was there around the clock for five days, with a shifting cast of a social worker, priest, oncologist, doctors, the chief of surgery, head nurses, nutritionist, and physical therapists surrounding my mother, my family and me. There was so much information to take in at once, I often found myself overwhelmed. I got Penney a journal so she could keep track of the medical input that was thrown in our faces. They gave my mom five days to live.
Chef Blondee (nee Terri Dumford) was a celebrity chef and television personality, with an early career in modeling. She published Blondee Glamour in the Kitchen, noted for “one-of-a-kind recipes and her unique ability to fuse cooking with glamour & humor.”
One night, while lying in bed in CA, with no sleep, not having eaten for days, I said to Penney, ‘I need to start to learn how I can help my mom with natural treatments. I can’t let her die!’
While in the hallway, sitting on the nasty carpet, eyes swollen from crying for days outside my mother’s hospital room, I had overheard my mom’s best friend speak of a friend who was studying alternative medicine options for her. I contacted him and started my research.
My Dad had been telling me I needed to live my life, and it was time for me to go home, back East. On the final day of that visit, I walked into this stark white hospital room, my mom lying there drugged up on morphine. One image from her room is etched in my mind forever: to her left was a handwritten sign, ‘DO NOT WALK THIS PERSON: someone who can’t get out of bed, can’t walk, can’t move.’
I looked at her and said, ‘You have two choices. Your family will be bringing you alternative medicine, veggie juices and pro-biotic drinks. You must drink and take them all and I will see you in three weeks. OR, this is goodbye forever…’
She started crying and said, ‘I will always love you with all my heart and I will see you in three weeks. JUST GO.’
While I was gone, alternative supplements, fresh organic juices made from greens and pro-biotic drinks were brought to her daily with my guidance.
One night -- she told me months later -- while drugged up in the hospital, my mom said she saw God and my dead grandfather (her father). They spoke to her about why she is on earth. God said, ‘You have touched so many people in the entertainment industry, I need you to touch people on how to beat cancer naturally.’ My grandfather said, ‘You promised to help stay by your mother’s side and you can’t leave her yet. You have a beautiful daughter on the East coast who needs you. Get out of bed tomorrow and FIGHT FOR THIS.’
During her life, Chef Blondee made frequent appearances on television, cable and radio, and enjoyed extensive national press coverage, with featured stories in many major metropolitan markets.
That next day in the hospital, she walked a few steps with many people around her providing support. There was daily physical therapy. She started to get stronger and walked the whole oncology floor. Finally she was too strong to stay in the hospital and had to be moved someplace else. I fought for her to move into rehab in the hospital, close to my grandma, but there were no beds. Finally a bed was found in a nursing home in early December, far from my grandma. My dad and family visited her daily.
HOME ON NEW YEAR'S EVE
My Mom tried really hard in the nursing home. She did everything she was supposed to do to get her strength back. She wanted to get out of there as fast as she could. She was released New Year’s Eve day, 2012 to her mother, and returned to my uncle’s house.
I continued my research for her. I found a special juice blend I wanted her to start right away. It came from a source that claimed it was 10,000 times stronger then chemotherapy.
In a blender, put:
* 4 organic whole lemons
* 4 T raw organic honey
* 8 T organic first-pressed olive oil
Blended together and stored in a glass jar, each day take 2 T after waking and later 2 T before bed.
My mother also started on a juice blend of cinnamon bark oil, Resveratrol, turmeric, and one scoop of chorella powder in the mid afternoon. She had 2T organic coconut oil, organic flax oil and lots of juiced ginger and garlic. She drank glass after glass of Asian green organic tea daily. Meanwhile, she continued with the mix of supplements and juices she had begun in the hospital.
In addition, raw onion slices were placed in a bowl on her dresser each evening and left overnight, to take the toxins out of the room… And this was still not the sum total of the things my mother was putting in her body to nourish her way back to health.
She taught herself to meditate, practicing every day to reinforce her strong mindset. In February 2013 my mom was regaining her strength.
I traveled to India in April, and visited a tea and spice plantation, where I met with an herbalist. We discussed health and wellness, and recommendations to cure disease, such as high daily doses of turmeric. I came back to the states and started my mom on turmeric, via oils, powder and juices.
She saw her oncologist every eight-to-ten weeks and received regular Zometa infusions to help rebuild her spine. She had blood work done each time. Her count in the hospital had been high. Every time she had blood work done it had dropped. The doctors couldn’t explain it, however I could: it traced from the change in her diet, all the supplements and regimes she went on. She was a miracle in my eyes. When she went into the doctors in June her blood count had dropped dramatically, to the level of a healthy person. Her scans showed scar tissue, but no active cancer. My Mom was cancer-free June 2013.
MOTHER AND DAUGHTER GETTING NAILS DONE
I visited her in February 2014, then again two months later to help her celebrate her 60th birthday April 10. I planned one of the best birthdays a mother could ask for. My whole family knew what was taking place, however my mom had no idea. I got on a plane to CA to knock on my mother’s bedroom door for what she said was the biggest surprise she had experienced in years. Tears of happiness streamed down our faces. I spent the next five days celebrating HER LIFE: getting our nails done, dinners, lunches with her girlfriends, a surprise day in Napa filled with gifts, wine and love. My father took part in all the get-togethers, and I remember thinking I couldn’t recall when I had last seen my mom and dad that much, together and happy. I had a 25-plus-guest surprise dinner at the place my mothers’ parents had their 60th wedding anniversary in January 2012. It brought forth so many memories to see the same people in the same room, without my grandfather this time. You could see the happiness on everyone’s faces. I believe those five days were the best days of my mother’s life.
Chef Blondee, a bi-coastal person, was born and raised in northern California, spent much of her adult life on the East Coast, in New York and Connecticut, and her final three+ years on earth back in her beloved northern California.
In September 2014 I traveled to CA to spend more quality time with my mom and family. I never thought this would be the last time I would see my mother healthy. We made green smoothies, went for organic coffee, did endless mother-and-daughter things. Not once did she complain of pain or discomfort.
On December 6th, back home, while out to dinner celebrating the 33rd birthday of a dear friend who had just been diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer, I received a call from my uncle that my mother had fallen and been rushed to the hospital. My spirits plummeted. I didn’t know how I would go back and sit with ten of my friends who were like family to me. From the bathroom, I called my dad and fell apart. I came back to the table, took one look at Penney and the tears flew. I couldn’t stop crying. I needed to stay strong for my other friend and not ruin her night. I tried hard. Everyone looked at me with the same fear I had seen in the doctors’ eyes in 2012.
The next few days were a blur, as I contacted my family for hourly updates whether I should go out. My mom was in the ICU unit with a brain hematoma from the fall and needed to have brain surgery to remove the blood.
FOUR INTERLOCKED HANDS
On December 9, I arrived in California while my mom was undergoing brain surgery. I had asked the doctors to wait for me and they couldn’t. I wanted to see my mom before she went in. Instead, she was recovering in the ICU when I arrived, and that is where I took the photo my friends know so well of my mom’s and my interlocked hands.
However, due to the upsetting news that the cancer had returned and spread throughout her body yet again, my family and I started to discuss the idea of moving her into home hospice care. I had to make a call to someone special before the decision was final, and I knew I needed my best friend to calm me down. I’ll never forget Penney asking me if I was sure there was nothing else to be done. Reluctantly, I said yes.
My mother moved into hospice care December 14, 2014.
I believe that when you are waiting to die, certain things are supposed to happen first. With my mother, that meant she,
· was able to spend time with her best friends
· had an overnight stay in the hospital with my Dad for the first time in many years and they were able to rekindle their affection
· had many moments with her mother, sister, brothers and friends
· had lived through one more Christmas and one more New Year’s
· spent almost a month of quality time with me
· found out I don’t carry the breast cancer gene
· was able to say goodbye to me and knew that I was home safely in Connecticut, even though she couldn’t talk to me
When you are dying, ideally, you do not leave this earth until “your” chosen things happen for you.
My Mom stopped talking on January 2, 2015. My final goodbye to her was that morning. That night, I called her just to talk to her, even though I knew I wouldn’t get a response. I told her I was proud of her. She was an inspiration to so many people and I would carry on her legacy. I said it was okay for her to go.
I landed in New York January 3. On my ride home I called my mom one last time and told her, “It is so beautiful, here in CT with freshly fallen snow. I love you with all my heart and I AM HOME!”
My aunt called soon after to say that she had passed. I received pictures of how peaceful she looked. I resolved on the spot to always spend my January 3 in transition, in honor of Chef Blondee, MY MOM.
Through the early months of 2015, I realized I was no longer caring for my mom and I could start to care for Briana. I tend to take care of others before myself… because I love to do it. I could begin the process of focusing on my wishes and dreams, following my graduation from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in June.
Meanwhile, I had gone to California again in May, a Mother’s Day trip, and during a long conversation with my dad, he and I talked about me starting a company and my company’s name. I started to get more serious about the idea. My dad told me one’s life is based on one’s decisions, so Life’s Decisions became the name. I knew B.L.W. had to be in the name as well to honor my mom, because she wanted my name or my initials in there. I was getting myself ready to launch a business, with no assurance, however, that the business would actually start in 2015.
I created Life’s Decisions BLW to realize my goal of teaching at least one person one new thing daily about,
· keeping your body fit
· being vigilant about your overall life and
· taking care with what you eat and drink
… and therefore -- Body.Lifestyle.Wellness.
I surprised myself, announcing Life’s Decisions BLW on Facebook in July 2015.