Mama Rosa

Mama Rosa

Receiving the news that a loved one has a brain tumour is devastating. My family was the recipient of such news.

I come from a traditional family; both of my parents were born and raised in Sicily. I am the youngest of four siblings - one sister and two brothers.

My father has been ill for the last five years and without a doubt, it has taken a toll on the family, especially my mother. In essence, my mother Rosa is the toughest person in our family. My mother enjoys taking care of the family by cooking, cleaning, baking, and caring for our emotional needs. When we found out that an MRI spotted a Menigioma tumour on the right side of my mother's brain, we were devastated.

At the age of 58 and in fairly good health, many of her friends in the community look to her as an older sister or a mother. These friendships were quite evident when we made the news public that my mother was to go in for major surgery to remove an orange size tumour. Even now, I remember the number of phone calls and visits by family and friends made while we waited out the month till the date of surgery.

While the situation at home became quieter, with each passing day, mother would still cook her best Sicilian dishes and cater to our every need. We knew she too was worried about the surgery.

The news of the brain tumour had us all wanting answers and doing research on the type of brain tumour involved and the pros and cons to the surgery involved.

For what seemed the longest months of my life (March-April 2005), I contacted the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada for resources and in search of support and comfort. They were very helpful in all aspects of my quest for answers. I soon realized that many families are affected by brain tumours and suffer the same fears.

I visited the website on a daily basis to read the stories and was relieved to hear many personal success stories. We were connected with people who had gone through the same surgery and had visited the same doctor who was scheduled to perform my mother's surgery.

I personally spent time talking with two people, Chris and Lina, in order to try and seek answers to my questions. Chris and Lina turned out to be an excellent resource for support, and I will always be indebted to them for their spiritual strength.

On the morning of her surgery, just as if it were any other day, she was up cleaning and making breakfast, trying to remain calm in the presence of my father’s illness and all his siblings. She had also prepared food in the freezer, just in case.

I can still hear my mom’s last words echoing down the hall, before being wheeled into the operating room, "Charlie make sure your father has something to eat!"

The hours in the waiting room seemed an eternity. My girlfriend was able to "just be there", if I needed her. If ever I needed her, now would be the time. With her help I removed myself from the chair I was so comfortably moulded in. Together we visited the Hospital Chapel to say our prayers.

After my mom’s five-hour surgery, we were told that the surgery was a success and we could visit her in the recovery room. I was nervous and anxious to see my mother. The scars on my mother’s head were large and heavy but her gentle smile surpassed the severity of the incisions. Realizing it was me holding her hand, she asked if my father had had something to eat. I giggled and said, "yes ma, non ti preoccupare", which means, "don’t worry".

During her first month at home, she had home care support and physiotherapy. She was on her way to a full recovery. We were relieved to see that my mother had suffered no memory loss. It was wonderful to hear her laughing once again. The continued support from family and friends and Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada was very comforting.

Today, I continue to visit the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada website and read the BrainStorm newsletter to update myself on the medical advances and success stories. It is exciting to see the advancements in research and generous donations to these much-needed services.

In my eyes, my mom is still a champion, who overcame the scariest situation our family has ever faced. It is nice to have her back cooking her famous lasagna and baking Sicilian taralli.

Life is precious. Living requires having faith, hope, and love. I urge those affected by a brain tumour to contact the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada and remain hopeful that together, we can imagine a cure.

This story was written by Charlie Agro from Hamilton, Ontario. Readers are urged to seek medical advice on matters of concern and not to rely solely on the text of this publication.

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