It was a beautiful morning in March, while my mom and I were sitting on the porch, when she got a phone call. The rest of her day consisted of doctors appointments before her, my sister, and I met up for lunch. While I was sitting there eating tacos, she shared the news.
Open. Heart. Surgery.
My mom began to tell me that after a few tests, her doctors confirmed that she had a myxoma on her heart. For those of you who don’t know, a myxoma is the most common, noncancerous tumor of the heart. They are very hard to diagnose, because the symptoms are non specific. The issue with them however is the tissue with which they are made of. The tissue over time becomes so brittle, that every time the heart pumps, you are risking the chance of it breaking off and causing blood clots, strokes, heart attacks, etc.
The only way for them to remove the myxoma was open heart surgery. Those three words were terrifying to hear. Yes, I knew that the chances for her to be fine were very good. I knew they did open heart surgery all the time, and I knew that it was in attempt to prevent something worse from happening, but it didn’t make the reality of the situation any easier. It just sounded so intrusive. Wasn’t there any other way they could remove this tiny lump? They remove appendixes through the belly button, why did they have to cut her chest open?
2 weeks later, my mom was in the operating room, chest open, and surgeons working. The night before her surgery I was a mess. All I could think about were the what ifs. All I wanted to do was be there with her. My brother in law was getting married that same weekend though so we needed to be in Georgia. Realistically, that was the best thing we could have been doing. It was so good to have something to pour myself in to and take my mind off of what was happening, but I would be lying if I said it didn’t tear me apart not being able to be there, even if there truly wasn’t anything I could do at that point.
She was a champ. Let me just say this. She handled her pain afterwards with just Tylenol. Yes, you read that correctly. She had her chest cut open, breastbone sawed through, and a tumor cut off her heart, and she took a Tylenol and called it a day.
Because of the timing of everything, my mom and dad both had to miss Faye’s baptism and first birthday. I thought that it was going to be fine. I thought that it wouldn’t make a difference to me, but man was I wrong. We were able to FaceTime them into the baptism, but I actually ended up cancelling Faye’s party at the last minute because it just hurt too much to go through with it without them. It just didn’t feel right.
3 weeks after her surgery, I went down to Florida to help out. I was expecting to cook, clean, grocery shop, read, and watch movies with my mom while she was resting in bed. I couldn’t have been more off. Not only was mom up and moving, but she was cleaning, cooking some, and asking me to go on walks with her every day. She was determined. She wasn’t going to let this keep her down any longer than it had to. Everyday when we would go on walks, she would push herself further than she did the day before. Even when the pain was excruciating.
I think one of the hardest things about that week was the fact that mom wasn’t able to pick up Faye. Because of the fragility of her breastbone, picking up anything more than 10 pounds could have completely shifted her bones. It could have thrown off the whole healing process. Faye was sweet and would sit next to her on the couch and snuggle, but mom wasn’t able to carry her around, bathe her, or even hug her really. It just made me realize, once again, how thankful I am for my mom, and the fact that they did catch this myxoma early and were able to remove it without complications before something else happened.
Fast forward 4 1/2 months and here we are today. This past week I went away on a girls trip with some of my sisters, and I left Faye with my parents for 5 days. 4 1/2 months ago my mom couldn’t even hold Faye. She couldn’t really give her a bottle, couldn’t bathe her, and definitely couldn’t pick her up. Now, she kept her for me for almost a week and gave me a much needed respite. A much needed time away for Faye and I both. I am so thankful for the time that she was able to have with just Faye. The memories that were made, and the bonds that were formed. There is something so sweet about time with just the baby, away from the parents, and I’m just so glad that it was possible. Truly, they said her heart was like a ticking time bomb before they operated, and now she is as good as new.
My mom is one of the strongest women I know. The grace and determination that she faces situations with is truly indescribable. She pushed herself, never complained, and fought. She fought so hard, and we are the ones to benefit from it. She still has a faint scar on her chest, and secretly, I love it. It reminds me to never take her for granted. To take advantage of the time we’ve been given together as a family, and to embrace the good and the hard together. In my opinion they fixed one of the most beautiful hearts out there, and that is something I will never be able to thank them enough for.