The Hand That Feeds

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She slowly picks up a butter knife with her shaky left hand. She attempts to slice off a piece of butter for some toast to eat with her pills. Her unstable hand causes the butter to fall off the knife and onto the kitchen table. She becomes frustrated, but it quickly changes to persistence.

A once simple task that required little thought turned into something that seems impossible. That same left hand that fed me every day as a child is now causing my mom, Margaret Homiak, some problems.

A week ago my mom underwent brain surgery to remove what was thought to be a grape-sized cancerous tumor. She was diagnosed with lung cancer over two years ago, which came as a huge shock because my mother never smoked.

The doctors thought brain surgery was the best option for my mother because the tumor was growing and she had been on steroids to stop the growth for over four months. The growth of the tumor was causing tremors in her left hand.

My mother has had her ups and downs before and after the surgery. Most of the downs were related to the side effects of the steroids she was on. They have aided in small arguments, irritation, and weight gain. My mother is very happy to finally be able to get off of the steroids, which is why the surgery was so important.

As I look around my house I notice a few interesting observations. After going through one of the most intense surgeries, my mom was still managing to keep the house clean and I could smell the delicious aroma of food cooking on the stove four days after her surgery. That is a miracle in and of itself.

I also noticed all of the cards and beautiful flowers covering the tables, but it wasn’t the cards or flowers that were most important to my mom. It was the intangible support of prayer.

My mother’s faith is what she believes helped her make it through these past two years and the brain surgery. I can recall my mom’s last words before entering the operating room for surgery, “People must be praying because I feel at such peace.” Peace: a feeling I’m sure very few experience before having someone perform surgery on their brain.

My mom’s surgery lasted two hours. Those two hours felt like the longest two hours in my life. Part of it was hard because it was just another painful event that I had to watch her go through. I watched my mom experience more continuous pain than anyone should ever have to go through.

I often asked, “Why does my mom have to go through this?” I came to the conclusion that I don’t think this event happened for my mom, yes she’s stronger because of what she’s been through. I think it was meant more for our family. We were able to watch her go through all of her struggles and handle it with such strength and grace. At my mother’s last examination the doctor said, “I am amazed by her attitude and upbeat personality.” Yet another example of how well my mom has handled this whole experience.

When my mother’s surgery was finished my family met in a “consoling room,” where we were told the doctor would be there shortly to speak with us. I looked to my left where I noticed a Kleenex book of tissues, and immediately my heart sank. Questions started flooding my mind, is she okay? Did something go terribly wrong in surgery? Will she be the same as she was before the surgery? Were they able to remove the tumor?

My questions were quickly answered when the doctor entered the room with a tired smile. He told us that the surgery went great and they were pretty sure the tumor was the result of radiation damage and not cancerous. He did tell us that after surgery my mom’s left hand was paralyzed but she was able to move it when he last saw her. If that was the only negative, we were very happy with the results. When I entered her hospital room a few hours after surgery, she looked a little beat up, but still managed to have a smile on her face.

She is now off for six weeks where she can relax and enjoy the holiday season. She has to go to occupational therapy in order to regain strength in her hand. Also, she’s been doing little things at home in order to aid in her rehabilitation. She plans on making many Christmas cookies and getting all of the decorating done early for the Christmas season. She is also making plans for the future. She is planning a trip for my family to visit Florida early next year.

This event also brought my family much closer together. In this trying time for my mom I also realized that the problems I stress over are small. I mean, here’s this women who is uneasy about receiving chemo again after she’s gone through brain surgery and I’m dreading one little exam.

My mother’s shaking hand as she attempts to butter her bread is not something that depresses or discourages her, but rather a wonderful reminder of what she has made it through.  I am proud of my mom and in a way grateful that I could so closely witness such grace and strength.

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