Jaime Sarchet opens up about her mother's colon cancer diagnosis, and her experience undergoing surgery in the hospital.
Tell us about you and your mom.
I’m in entertainment PR right now and building an acting career as well.
In May 2013 - three months after I moved to California to be closer to family - my mother was diagnosed with colon cancer. The move was incredibly hard on me because I had uprooted from Denver, where I’d been for about 20 years...but when this happened, I felt like it was meant to be. I didn’t have to quit a job or break a lease or anything so that I could be with my mom, because I was there already. So that was a relief!
My mom’s name is Sherry. She’s a glass artist. She’s the warmest, friendliest, most loving person you could ever meet. She makes friends with strangers nearly everywhere she goes. She sends people letters just to make them feel loved. If she sees a little old lady sitting alone, she’ll go over and sit with her and hold her hand. She pretty much adopted several of my high school friends with tough home lives / foster parents. She’s like a guardian angel.
What kind of illness did your mom have?
Colon cancer. When they detected the cancer, they found a polyp and told us that she was a miracle case because they caught it so early. All they’d have to do is remove it and she’d be cancer-free, and she wouldn’t have to have chemo. In July, she had the surgery to remove it. They were so confident that they sent her home that day. By 6am, she called me and told me she had to go to the emergency room. Her belly was so bloated she looked 7 months pregnant. She had gone septic because they punctured her intestine during surgery and didn’t know it. They kept saying that she was normal, that it was just gas and it would pass, even though her belly was so round I thought she was literally going to pop. Within 30 minutes of us being in the ER, the nurse told us she’d have to go into emergency surgery. She was in intensive care being monitored from Saturday morning until Tuesday afternoon. Finally, Tuesday afternoon, they said if they didn’t operate, she could die.
After the surgery, they put her in a medically induced coma in ICU for 3 weeks. I sat in the hospital for days with her - even though she didn’t know I was there - and sobbed for hours. I thought she was going to die. I told myself that if she did, I would have nothing to live for. I’m not a religious person but I prayed. I didn’t know what else to do.
How did you feel when she was in the hospital?
When they tried to wake her up and turn off the sedation, she had fluid in her lungs. Days later, she had pneumonia, but when they finally drained her lungs, she was able to breathe on her own without trouble. She was loopy coming to and didn’t recognize me. The hospital staff said, “She’ll be fine, this is normal.” Well, it wasn’t normal to me. Eventually, she came to and started to recognize me after a few days. I saw her in the hospital every day, but I feel tremendous guilt that I couldn’t cope seeing her like that. I’ve had people tell me that it’s normal for people to feel that way, but I didn't care if it’s “normal;" I wanted to be as strong and supportive of her as she always was for me. I didn't want to feel like a coward or that I was being selfish.
I’m angry that my mom had to go through that. She’s the most loving, caring, selfless person in the world and she is the last person that deserved any of that. She says when she was out, she felt like God gave her a choice to let go or to fight for her life and she chose to fight. I, on the other hand, struggled tremendously thinking, “What kind of God would put a woman like her through that torture? How could anyone believe in God after something like this?”
What color, symbol, and/or quote reminds you of your mom?
My mom loves yellow. Every single house she has lived in she has painted yellow inside and out :). She loves flowers, but in particular, morning glories and violets make me think of her. As do humming birds and anything angel-related.
Do you recall the moment that you found out that parent was ill? What was that experience like for you? When my mom first told me she was diagnosed with cancer, I was in disbelief. It just didn’t click. Part of that might have been because she didn’t seem that worried about it; they told her it would be easy to take care of. When it sunk in a few days later, I was in shock and I was scared. It was hard for me to wait for two months for the surgery because I was afraid it would spread. I was in a constant state of fear and panic.
What has been the most challenging aspect of seeing your parent combat their illness? I guess the most challenging part seeing her go through that, even though I’ve kind of already addressed it, is feeling helpless and weak. She’s always taken care of me but I didn't feel like I was was able to properly take care of her or support her in the right way etc. I thank God every day she’s cancer free now.
What is one piece of advice your loved one gave you that will always stay with you? My mom always says: “Life is short, so trust your gut and don’t waste your time being unhappy."
If there is one piece of advice you could give young women with an ill parent, what would that be? I truly do believe in showing people and telling people you love them all the time because you never know what could happen. Life IS short. A person can never hear, “I love you” too many times so say it, show it, feel it, as often as you can because in my experience, a lifetime is never long enough to truly express to a loved one just how much they mean to you. I never want to have regrets that I didn’t show someone how much they meant to me.
And if someone has an ill parent currently, I would say that little happy things go a long way...making them feel like there’s still normality in their life is really important because cancer turns their world upside down. I think sitting and dwelling in the dark like someone is on their deathbed isn’t proactive in helping them get better...staying positive and upbeat and squeezing every good moment out of every day and finding reasons to laugh are vital. Making the most of every moment together, living every day to the fullest. I really think that makes people stronger.
To connect with Jaime, you can follow her on Instagram @thereelblonde or checkout her website at http://www.thereelblonde.com.