Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Amanda Lamb: Clues

Posted June 24, 2012

As I was cleaning up my younger daughter's room the other day, I found a piece of yellow paper folded carefully. It was sitting on her desk beneath a combination lock.

As I opened it, I recognized the handwriting immediately. My mother had written it. Not only did she write it, but she wrote it less than three weeks before she was diagnosed with a malignant inoperable brain tumor called glioblastoma.

I quickly got my reading glasses and took it to my desk so that I could study it under better light. She had written out directions for my daughter about the combination for the lock. On each line she had carefully described in great detail which way my daughter needed to turn the dial and to what number. I studied it closely, looking at her familiar handwriting for any clue as to what was going on inside her brain at the time. I looked at like letters, to see if the "t" looked the same on each line. But nothing, I mean nothing, gave me pause.

Over the past two months since my mother's diagnosis, her friends have shared their reflective concerns. She just looked tired to me. She just didn't seem right. She was late, that wasn't like her. She seemed confused.

These same friends had urged her to see a doctor. And the irony of the situation is that she did see doctors all the time. She was a stickler about getting regular check-ups and staying on top of any medical issues. She had voiced some complaints about forgetfullness and confusion here and there to her doctors, but she and they thought it was just age.

Unfortunately, I didn't see her enough in these intervening months to notice anything amiss myself. In many ways, I think deep in her heart she knew instinctively that something was very wrong, something that couldn't be easily fixed, and she was right.

When a loved one becomes terminally ill, we all play Monday morning quarterback and try to figure out when things went so terribly wrong and why. But in all honesty, none of this is going to improve the situation. Do I wish my mom had been diagnosed earlier? You bet. Would it have made a difference in the ultimate outcome of her condition? Probably not.

So, while I know I will continue to look for clues, they won't ever give me what I really want, which is for this whole nightmare to go away.

I folded up the paper and tried to return it to my daughter's desk.

"Mommy, what are you doing with Maddie's secret instructions?" she said, scolding me and grabbing the paper from my hand.

"Nothing, sweetie," I replied, handing it back to her sheepishly.

"Well, erase it from your mind. It's my secret combination, and I don't want anybody but me and her knowing it," she said.

Your secret is safe with me.

Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including three on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays. Follow Amanda's mom's story on her CaringBridge site.


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  • mudmom2 Jun 26, 2012

    I feel for you mother in law underwent the same thing a year ago, also very up on her health since she was a nurse she knew. We ask the same questions all the time and your right.....God has his ways....just make everyday like it is the last and you will never regret her last week it was her 80th birthday on Sunday so we(grand kids and friends) all had a party for her.....surrounded by all we told jokes and laughed about things she and we had done, she would doze off and we kept going. I had tied helium balloons and streamers chriscross over her bed and that night My sister in law and I heard her calling out...."BETH

  • kevinmedlin4 Jun 25, 2012

    love reading your storys your mother is so lucky to have you in her live my prayers are with you and your family

  • pisgah2005 Jun 25, 2012

    Amanda, It is so difficult to watch a family member go through physical, mental and emotional changes associated with illness. I watched my Dad, a robust 200-pound, 6 ft 4" bear of a man shrink down to skin and bones due to complications when a gallstone blocked his pancreas. He fought his battle in the hospital for 6 months before dying just about a year ago. Did we have any clues that this would happen to him? Maybe...extreme weight loss, changes in insulin levels...But as you said, seeing these clues doesn't change anything. I still miss him so much. Thank you for sharing your painful journey with your readers. I wish your family strength and peace as you deal with this in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

  • snowl Jun 25, 2012

    You also had no clue that your Mom would get sick with that stomach virus on board the cruise ship last spring. I remember reading about that, and now that I know she is terminally ill, it seems so unfair that she does not have better memories of that vacation with you all. Take care.

  • SouthernChick Jun 25, 2012

    My grandmother recently passed away and my mom is still looking for those clues; looking for where the onset may have been and how long she struggled with her memory before it became apparent to us. I think grandma hid it as long as she could from us, thinking we would fuss over her. It broke my heart watching my mother care for grandma toward the end; however in those long and painful days, she taught me how to be a better daughter through her actions.

  • lec02572 Jun 25, 2012

    Totally agree with "pdeloathch" not knowing earlier does make us feel guilty. Its natural, its our mother, father, friend, or other family member. As if by knowing earlier we could have done something different. Part of the guilt for myself is knowing now that I should have traveled to see my mother more, as she lived out of state. I guess that sounded like a good excues and only after it was too late did I realize how dumb that was. Thank you so much for sharing. Those of us who have traveled this road and those who are yet to travel it will benefit from your writing. Love and prayers to your family.

  • pdeloatch Jun 25, 2012

    We do look for clues to see if we could have identified our parent's illness sooner. I look back at incidences with my mom, and can remember situations where we all knew something just wasn't right. But I also don't think that, in my mom's case, knowing that she had Alzheimer's early would have done any good. She would have still been determined not to see a doctor. We would have worried sooner and more, yet would have been helpless to do anything until she was no longer able to take care of herself--which is what ended up happening. Sometimes early knowledge doesn't help. But not knowing earlier also makes you feel guilty.