The Day Her Death Dawned On Me.

Susan Maynard Doan.

Susan Lynne Maynard Doan.

Susan “Mama Goose” Lynne Maynard Doan.

I miss you.

I still can’t believe you’re gone. It feels like a lie. Your death feels like a lie. It’s as if you faked it… like you “pulled an Elvis” or something. That’s a thing, right? Elvis is still alive.

So, why aren’t you?

I want to make t-shirts for people like me. We’ll wear them as a warning sign for the others. The ones who don’t know grief. They think they do, because of a dead grandpa or neighbor or classmate, but it’s not the grief we feel. If we wear special markers, like the shirts, then when onlookers see our tears in public, and our minds don’t seem to work the right way, so our conversations always sound foggy, plus we look so tired—we’re always so f’in tired even though we’re not getting out of bed some days—the others will just know. The tee says it all… we’re all just:


My family was told my mom was going to die on her birthday, August 11, 2014. The official phone call came and it confirmed the bad news we’d already heard from the family doctor who found the tumor, the tech who did her immediately-ordered CT scan, another diagnostic tech who did even more in-depth searches and scans, Google, plus also, whatever we could remember from Steve Jobs and Patrick Swayze having this cancer—it’s bad news.

I didn’t know, though, that my mom was going to die until seven months later.

I had squished my big butt next to her small one and we sat in the seat of her treatment chair while waiting in the chemo wing at the cancer center. We’d scheduled an emergency visit earlier that morning. My dad demanded a meeting with her oncologist to talk about how her current treatment plan—of nothingness—wasn’t working for her. She couldn’t eat solid foods anymore—none at all. She barely kept down the chicken broth, which became the go-to meal when everything but water now caused her severe, gut wrenching, take-an-extra-15mg-morphine-pill kind of pain. And, she couldn’t take the side effects chemo anymore. It was the second-line therapy of the only two therapy options for her cancer, and a recent scan revealed chemo was doing nothing but keeping her on the couch in pain. The toxin was too much and her body was too little. As we sat together, one of our favorite nurses hooked up my mom’s ‘power port’ to an IV carrying just fluids. No treatment today.

It was the only thing the oncologist would, or could, do for her today. He put in orders for the nurses to give my mom potassium for some nutrients and saline for hydration. The IV would help pass the time while we waited for her to be accepted into a clinical trial, which was her last chance at any treatment. The one she had her heart set on was based off bullshit immunotherapy cell stuff… Read: Scientists don’t know what the fuck to do about pancreatic cancer. As the fluids passed through her IV, we talked and giggled. I snapped selfies of us smooshing our faces so close together. Her smiling face was so thin on camera. For the past month she’d struggle to stay over 90lbs., and it was clear she wasn’t doing well.

Do you ever feel like someone’s watching you? Not to sound like a paranoid weirdo, but I think that’s common… sometimes you can feel someone’s glance on you. I could feel it that day, and out of the corner of my eye I could see our favorite nurse. She was standing next to another of our favorite nurses and talking in a low voice… both looking at us.

Then I heard her. “Poor baby.”

I could see them in my side glance: watching, shaking their heads and looking at me. Going to weekly chemo treatment was the new “normal” for my family, and we were no strangers to the nurses who worked there. They saw me with my mama often. My love was visible.

The nurse was looking at me and saying, poor baby, because my mom was going to die.

My mom was going to die, soon.

Published by

Steph Doan


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