March 17, 2017 – one of the many dates engraved in my mind. The day my Mom, my best friend has diagnosed with Stage 4 Ovarian Cancer, and the day God gave me the strength to do things for my Mom, I never imagined I would have to do.
At fifteen years old, I started working in doctor’s offices, from filing, reception, phlebotomy, vital signs; my careers have always been in the medical field, and now my mother had become a “patient.” I say this because, in my many years in patient care, I developed bonds with patients and truly felt compassion for what they were going through. Maybe God was training me for what he knew I would have to take on in my thirties.
Although I no longer work directly with patients, my career is in the clinical research trial industry, and I hope that I live to see a cure for cancer. Every time I see the words cancer and specifically ovarian cancer, a thousand thoughts go through my mind.
One of those thoughts is cancer caregiver; I quickly started my “notebooks” I recorded everything, from doctor’s visits, chemo treatments, medication, and symptom diaries. I joined Facebook groups, learned about the NOCC, and started fundraising and joining the annual walks. Everything ovarian cancer, I read about.
I needed to save my Mom; I needed to question and record everything continually. I was her advocate, and I needed to make sure she had the best; I needed to be in control, and unfortunately, I wasn’t, so I did everything I could to feel like I had control of this disease.
On June 15, 2019, my beautiful, humble, dignified mother went to heaven. She didn’t lose her battle with ovarian cancer, and I didn’t lose control; I have to often remind myself of this – but the truth is we both won at life. My mother made me a better person. She made me appreciate the little things in life that we often take for granted. She rarely complained, she kept her faith, and she endured for her family. I look at life differently because of her.
She left a legacy that we will honor because if you met Armida, even just once, she impacted your life. I know she didn’t want to be a burden, and she never was. I told her it was an honor to take care of her, and as a caregiver, your goal is to heal your loved one. I had many frustrating days, juggling everything in life and working full time. I wish I could take back those days, but a reminder to all of you who feel the same, we are human, and the emotional aspect of caring for someone with ovarian cancer is not easy, don’t look back on those days – remember the good ones. Like the time we had a pizza party at 10 PM because my Mom saw pizza on TV and had a craving, and I ordered two pies – even if she only took a few bites and we laughed in our sweats, as we lay on the couch. Those were the happy moments, where despite her illness, we lived in the moment. Whatever I could do to make her happy, I did. No matter how big or small, I wanted to make the best of her days. I even contacted a dog rescue and surprised her with her favorite rescue dog Daliso from New York Bully Crew, who now lives with me.
I know many of you feel and do the same. My heart goes out to you; you are winning; you are not losing control. You have been given a priceless “task,” so whether you are a current or past caregiver, smile and breathe because you are the difference in your loved one’s life.
Margaritte De Falco
Margaritte De Falco – proud and blessed daughter of the most faithful, generous, admirable woman, Armida De Falco
Team Lady Armida’s Legacy lives on at the NOCC in Long Island, New York.