Sania R

Sania R., OR

Lung cancer took my mother, Brenda Radcliffe, on September 14, 2020 before she was ready to go. A few reflections on her life and death:

She was a remarkable woman in many ways. Tough, resilient, kind, generous, brilliant. Battered by life but never gave up. A ballet and belly dancer, accordion player and swimmer in her younger years. A lover of books throughout her life - especially science fiction and fantasy.  A student of middle eastern history, politics and languages in her years at Radcliffe and Harvard. A teacher of history and government at Atlantic City High School for 28 years.

We were so fortunate to live across the street from each other for the last 17 years of her life. We shared so many experiences in that time, the ordinary and the extraordinary, and made memories our family will always treasure. She helped us as we raised our daughter and we helped her as age and health issues made life more challenging. She and Jess had a wonderful relationship. Nothing like having Nana next door your whole life.

Cancer is a bitch, but also a wake up call. We remain grateful to Mom’s medical team, especially her primary care physician Dr Biagioli and her radiation oncologist Dr Holland. She was fortunate to have such excellent and compassionate medical care. And kudos for Mom too. After her diagnosis in 2012, Mom quit smoking immediately and starting saying yes to pretty much everything.

Her first round of chemo and radiation treatment beat the cancer back for 7 years - enough time to celebrate major milestones like Jessie’s graduation from high school, see almost all of Jessie’s Portland Symphonic Girlchoir concerts, visit Britain and Europe twice, see more plays and dance concerts in Portland than I can count, fully enjoy annual trips to Ashland for theatre binges at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and read many, many more books.  Her second round of radiation treatment in 2019 bought her a year or so. More precious time with us, her dog, her books. More theatre and dance concerts. One more monthlong trip to Europe - this time with a wheelchair but jam packed with wonderful experiences and memories. 

Mom really wanted to live out her life in her own home, not at our house and definitely not in assisted living. Her extraordinary assistant Daniela helped make that possible. When COVID hit we were all so grateful that she was across the street and not sequestered in a senior living facility. When the cancer recurred in May, we were even more grateful that she was at home where we could spend time together and provide the increasing amount of care and support that was required. Treatment – not available this time.

Dying is hard. Hospice made it better. The time goes too quickly. The decline is hard to witness and harder to experience. Little things brought some measure of distraction and pleasure - unearthing her belly dancing outfit and diplomas, gifting her various treasures to us, looking at pictures, eating her very favorite foods that Leslie and I cooked for her, watching all the Star Wars movies with Jess, streaming Hamilton twice, having daily bowls of Phish Food ice cream, visiting the rose gardens at Portland’s Peninsula Park and Washington Park, talking about the past and the present.

These things fall away towards the end. Then it is all about managing pain, keeping panic at bay as breathing becomes more difficult, providing company and comfort and care until the last breath is drawn. We were all together at the end - Mom surrounded by Jessie, Leslie, Daniela and me. Her passing was peaceful. It is a profound thing to help the person who brought you into this world, leave it behind. It was quite a journey, and we miss her still.

Mom needed more treatment options, like so many others living with lung cancer today. That’s why I am proud to serve as a LUNG FORCE Hero in her honor this year.

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