A Caregiver's Tale
Over 15 years ago, I found WOCA completely out of necessity. My very BEST friend, my
soul mate, the most extraordinary woman I will ever know was diagnosed with Stage 3C Ovarian Cancer. That dear woman was my mother, Virginia “Ginny” Proft. What we knew about ovarian cancer was next to nothing. We really had no idea what to do. We did not know anyone personally who had ovarian cancer and felt so very lost at the time. After 2 years of being sick and diagnosed with numerous bladder infections and irritable bowel and UTI’s, basically everything but ovarian cancer, we finally had our answer but now what?
Let me tell you a little about my mom. She was the most gentle, kind and loving woman who was always fine, no matter how sick she really was. That means she never complained or really talked about what was wrong with her but was always more concerned about the other person. Feeling completely lost with this diagnosis, I needed to find some people who could TALK about ovarian cancer and better yet who had some experience and knowledge to share with me. I thought that would be the start to figuring out how to help my most favorite person. Our mutual love and respect for one another was immeasurable. I loved her more than words could ever say. To this day, I speak about or talk to her every day and she has been gone almost 10 years. I have remained a steadfast volunteer for WOCA since those humble beginnings. This work provides a connection and serves as a way for me to honor that sweetheart.
At the time my daughter, Kathryn who was 7, my mom and I started by going to the WOCA annual fundraiser. We pushed her in a wheelchair through what seemed like the mountains of Wauwatosa!! I just wanted her to know that there were others who cared about this. She never wanted to draw attention to herself by wearing teal or ribbons…she did not even want people to know she had cancer.
My mother was on her own after caring for my dear dad through his own, awful colon cancer journey. Five years after his death, she was diagnosed with her own cancer. Living alone, I became her caregiver. I must say I use that term very loosely as I did not live with her. She was fiercely independent and never wanted to “bother anyone.” After her initial surgery which consisted of a complete hysterectomy, debulking, removal of her omentum, 3 large tumors and “hundreds” of others and several blood transfusions, she continued to live alone. We talked 3 or more times a day. I took her to all doctor visits and chemotherapy appointments. She wanted to do as much for herself as possible. And I wanted to honor that request. She even arranged a van to transport her to daily radiation treatments for 6 weeks “because you have too much to do, honey. I will be fine.” My favorite times were going over and just laying around with her talking about everything. I dreaded the day my mother would die from the time I was a little girl. And we would have those deep conversations and I would do a lot of crying. And it was good…she wanted to prepare me for life without her and promised me she would always be in my heart so I could feel her presence.
My dear mom kept her promise as she always would and remains a vital part of my everyday life. Although physically not present, I see her in the beauty that surrounds me and think of her when doing all the things we enjoyed together. Her now adult grandchildren which were so deeply loved by her and dad provide such joy knowing how very proud they are, I can just feel it! I will profoundly miss my dear mom until the day I see her again…she was my rock, my constant. But I am doing what she prepared me to do and that is go on and live a good life with her in my heart because that is what will make her proud and that is what is important to me!
I want to share the card we prepared for moms funeral. She gave me a tiny piece of paper about 5 years before she died and said: this is what I want my funeral card to say. And, please include a picture of me on my wedding day. Here is a glimpse of the profound beauty that was my mom:
Blessed as a child with a loving family
Married to a special man of God
Respected by our children
Loved by our grandchildren
It is said
When you pray you will have faith
With faith you will know love
Love will bring you peace
With peace you will know God
I have known all of these
To all the wonderful caregivers, however that looks in your situation, I say thank you. It’s one of the most difficult jobs you will ever have. Please have no regrets…you do what you think is the very best at the time. You love your person fiercely and that is the greatest gift one can give.