Dear Mom by Jamie Irvine

It’s hard to believe that it was 21 years ago when I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. Like many families, you and Dad had to “split responsibilities” to take care of the family, so while he continued to work, you spent your time in hospital with me or at home with Ben.

To say my treatment was rough would be an understatement. As my cancer was caught late, doctors gave me a 55% chance of survival at best. Being the type of kid I was, I made you promise to tell me if I was going to die, and then the day came when you had to keep that promise. A new doctor misread my chart and told you I only had days to live. I found out years later that you spent an hour outside my room with the unit social worker trying to figure out how to break it to me.

Later, in treatment, I became allergic to random donor platelets and because you were the closest genetic match, you provided every single transfusion for the rest of my three-year hospital stay. It got to the point where your arms became so covered in bruises that the hospital had to monitor how much you had given. You also became my bone marrow donor, which I know was one of the most painful experiences of your life. It didn’t end there though.

Just before my second bone marrow transplant, I developed that sudden “bone pain” and the hospital gave me a morphine drip to help cope. Unfortunately, this drug didn’t make me happy or drowsy like with other patients. Instead, it completely changed my personality and made me very angry and hostile to everyone. I would scream and threaten anyone that came into my room. Worst of all, I would scream at you. I would tell you how “I wish I would die,” or worse, how “I wished it was you instead of me.” I don’t remember much of that time in treatment but I do remember that you would just take all the verbal abuse I dished out. Instead of lashing out or fighting back, you would tell me how you wished you could take on all of my pain. Years later, you told me that you asked the social worker why I would say such things. They told you that I knew (subconsciously or not) that you would not abandon me. It must be true because you are still here supporting me.

Throughout those dark times, you still cared for and spoiled me. When I was wasting away from lack of nutrition, bald from chemo and had a feeding tube dangling from my nose, you still took me out on day trips to my favourite comic or video game store. You must have given the evil eye to anyone who looked at me funny because no one ever said anything. I even remember when you spent a whole month tracking down that one rare video game that I just had to play.

To this day, I still don’t know how you found the strength and courage to manage. I don’t think a normal person could go through all that and still offer the loving support and care that you did. I don’t know if I will ever be able to have children (due to the treatment I went through) and at this time I’m still too scared to find out. But I know that even if I’m able to show them half of the love and strength that you continue to show me, I will make one hell of a parent.

I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
As long as I’m living
My Mommy you’ll be.

-Modified from Robert Munsch’s Love You Forever

Love Jamie

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