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The Hats Tribute is a collection of personal stories by those affected by a brain tumour

McDowell, Angela

McDowell, Angela

McDowell, Angela

In June of 2011 we lost an incredibly unique and precious person. Angela was so important to many people and brought a smile and caring touch to everyone she met, she was a bright light with a big heart. Angela was a wonderful Mom, cherished Grandma, loved sister, best friend and devoted daughter.

Angela is sorely missed each and every day, not a day goes by that I don't think of her, on some days not an hour will go by. We try to remember the happy, vibrant, healthy woman that she was, Angela strove to be positive and found happiness in the small things in life.

My Mom was diagnosed with a brain lesion on April 20th, 2011 - it was 1.5 inches in diameter and located in her left temporal lobe.

Angela McDowell before brain tumour diagnosisAfter that day, life was turned upside down. Angela underwent her first surgery in early May 2011, the news was devastating and I will never forget the moment the surgeon came into the waiting room with his red outdoor coat on and crushed the breath from me with the blase words: 'the surgery went well, but it (the tumor) looked malignant'. He then strode off like he had just said 'hi' to me in the hall. The lesion was not as we had hoped: an abscess or benign tumor instead it was a highly anaplastic oligodendroglioma.

Three weeks later Mom started radiation and chemotherapy. On June 11, 2011 she had her second surgery as the tumor had increased in size and a new one had grown. Unfortunately just 9 weeks after her first concrete symptoms surfaced on April 20th, my Mom and best friend passed away on June 29th, 2011 at just 57 years of age. Mom was the bravest person I have ever known, not once did she even ask 'how long'. She was convinced she would beat it and 'how long' was not an option. She smiled even when she couldn't walk or talk, and her dark brown eyes were the most beautiful eyes I had ever seen. I will always remember those eyes, and wish they could have talked to us.

Brain cancer is such a little understood cancer, it is insidious and the symptoms are very vague. We figure my Mom's tumor was slowly growing over a period of about 3 years or so, at which point it decided to turn cancerous we will never know. But this determination of how long she may have had the tumor is only in retrospect, as various insignificant symptoms suddenly become vaguely obvious only once the diagnosis was made.

My Mom had become increasingly anxious over the past year, slightly forgetful, mixing up words a bit (but she always did this, it was an endearing trait), she mentioned flashing lights at the corner of her vision (had it checked by the optometrist which turned up nothing). Two months before diagnosis she had what we thought was the flu - normal nausea etc, when the flu went away she complained of a strange feeling that would shoot through her body from head to toe, again she went to the doctor who thought it was due to the flu virus - we later found out these were seizures.

Angela on her daughter's wedding day Five days before diagnosis I had lunch with her and her mood seemed a bit off - she was less upbeat then usual. I talked to her that night and she seemed back to her old self. Two days later she was talking with me about a severe headache she had all weekend, I mentioned she should see the doctor which she did. Mom had been seeing her doctor throughout the whole ordeal but even he failed to make the connection between the vague and spaced out symptoms and just gave her Tylenol 3 for the headache and medication for the anxiety. The day my Mom was diagnosed she was completely mixing up words, using words which weren't actual words and unable to repeat back a number sequence ie/ phone number.

Mom spent her 57th birthday in the hospital after her second surgery which only bought us a couple of weeks. Due to her inability to walk my Mom began developing clots in her leg and eventually a pulmonary embolism. We transferred her to Hospice a couple of days after her birthday when we realized that there wasn't much left to do but keep her comfortable, those extra couple of weeks gave us enough time to get her out of the hospital and time to say good-bye and tell her we loved her. My Mom wore this hat on the day that she rode from the hospital to Hospice.

angela, lost her life to a brain tumourWe stayed with her as much as we could with my Aunt and I having sleep overs at the Hospice. My children visited frequently and my 5 year old son also stayed overnight a couple of times, he had a very special love for his Grandma and still misses and talks about his "Grandma Angela".

Hospice was very sad but also a blessing, the caring staff made her last days as comfortable as possible and I truly hope Mom was at peace.

It was a beautiful warm clear summer morning the day I kissed her forehead and said good bye forever.



 

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