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Rachel K.

I have been an only child and lived at home with my mother my whole life. We both knew she was getting ill for a few years. At first I thought it was just a lifetime of manual labor catching up to her.

One day at work she came to me, in tears, said her shoulder hurt so bad. I sent her home and finished up the things she had left to do. We both had worked with standardbred racehorses. I learned from her and I still continue to do so. After that day, she didn't come to the barn much, stayed at home and played on the computer mostly.

In November 2016, I had noticed she was becoming less and less active and even her lifelong habit of smoking was receding. I was at the barn during the day of November 21, (her actual birthday) and something just didn't feel right. I stopped what I was doing and went home. I found the strongest woman I've ever known, laying on her bedroom floor, calling out for me. I called her an ambulance and she was rushed to the hospital. She was then diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.

The mass on her lung was so large that it constricted her spine and took over two of her ribs, leaving her paralyzed. She stayed in the hospital and received some radiation treatments. She had always cooked my meals for me, like I was still a little kid. Even made my morning coffee. Her remaining days she spent writing out little notes for me and telling me the last few bits of knowledge she had for me. Not once did she lose who she was.

Sunday, December 11, I could tell she was deteriorating. The night before we sent nearly 100 horses out to race wearing white ribbons in her honor. She watched from her bed with my cousin, who she helped raise. She knew she was a legend in our world. The early hours of December 12, she called for me to come to her side. Ever since she knew she had limited time left, she kept asking me to pick a day for her to die. I would never give her a date. I crawled into her bed with her. She asks what's the date today. My response was, "Today is December 12, and I pick today.” She took a few more ragged breaths then. I said, "Go find Soky for me," (our horse we had who was put down a few years back that left us both heartbroken). I repeated that I loved her and those were the last words I ever spoke to my momma.

Now had I known the symptoms of lung cancer, I would have known a shoulder pain may have been something that I needed to look into. I hope my story brings another family some awareness.

First published: February 20, 2018

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