Friday, October 7, 2011

Interview of My Mama

I attempted to interview my mother about the breast cancer that had attacked her mother and 3 of her sisters. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Week. As it turned out I found things out about my parents marriage that I am not sure I wanted to know. Except for the fact that it is helping my mother to heal and forgive herself, I would have been wanting to leave in the middle of it. It took me years to forgive my father for what he did to me and my sister, I had no idea how cruel he really was to my mom.

My sister and I
It started for her right after they got married. Dad had said he wanted children, as soon as the ring was on he said he never wanted any kids, Mom was devastated. Actually with today's enlightenment the signs were there before the marriage, Mom picked out the dishes she wanted and dad and his mother picked out and gave her the one set she said she didn't  like at all. His folks gave them a parcel of land and they were building a home on it, dad's mother was to help in the design, mom wanted to do it but was dismissed as if she were an idiot. It was designed so that the kitchen cupboards were so high that mom couldn't reach them. Mom is 5ft, gramma was 5'11". These were all subtle signs of the control my grandparents had over my father and ultimately my mother as well. Dad was scared of his parents. His childhood was not pretty.

My sister came along, dad was furious, even more furious that it might be a boy. Said if it was, the babe and mom could just leave, things disintegrated quickly from there. Dad would go to his folks after work, mom never knowing when he would be home, him demanding that dinner be warm and served when he got there. She was not allowed to call her family or see them not even on holidays. His rationale was that her mother had more kids, his didn't. (That may have been so, but mom only had one mother.)

Soon I came along and my grandparents were absolutely livid, my folks hadn't asked permission to have a second child. (Maybe that is why I got the abuse.) My father started to see what was going on, our family left the east coast, only to be followed by my grandparents a couple years later. They settled in southern California as Gramma did not like Oregon. The pressure was eased a bit because of the distance, they came up and stayed a few times a year, also went camping in the same places we did, several times a year. I was so protective of myself, concerned with hiding my own abuse, that I never saw what was happening to mom.

The Vanderhoofs
She was controlled her entire life, dad sexually abused her as well, taking what he wanted whenever he wanted. She was not allowed to wear anything except lipstick and could not have her hair done. Everything in their life was decided by him. He was the cruelest man imaginable when it came to words. My mother and I bonded when I was a teenager some, I stopped her from driving off of a cliff, by hopping in the car and telling her I was going with her. I couldn't be left alone with dad.

Grandma Jones
The Sisters
Mom couldn't be with any of her sisters when they were ill or even her mother,  we lived on opposite coasts. My grandmother Jones died of  Alzheimer's in 1983 at 87 years old, she was also suffering from bone cancer at the time and had both breast removed as a result of breast cancer. My Aunt Edith died in 1989 of cancer  at 66 , she had a tumor on her brain and her kidney, she had suffered from breast cancer a few years earlier. Aunt Mary died of Alzheimer's in 1998 at 76, she also had suffered with breast cancer previously. Aunt Louise is still with us at 92, she had uterine cancer in 1989. Mom's father had died shortly before her marriage to my father.

I was young and very wrapped up in my own tragedies at this point, I had no idea of the silent suffering my mother was going through. Mom had learned to mask very well, she was so ridiculed for any show of emotions, that she was fearful of letting her grief show. My mother has spent a lifetime stuffing her emotions, it is heartbreaking to listen to her talk. When I think of all the crap and drama I put her through it makes me even more sad.

At 19 1/2 my older sister developed malignant black melanoma, was in the hospital for weeks, I couldn't see her because I was to young. She had a newborn baby at the time. I cared for her after her return home, her and the baby (who is now 41). Feeling the pain and grief I felt then I can't even fathom what my mom went through being so far away. My sister is still here but her life was changed forever and her innocence and youth were stolen. 6 mo. later she found out she was pregnant again and the cancer was starting to return, she had to have a medical abortion. They had not allowed her to have her tubes tied because she was so young with one child. She had an IUD, the baby started to develop around it. My sister has had to live with that abortion all her life, it was a direct result of doctors making poor choices for her. My mother was devastated at this, but again I had no idea of her turmoil.

When I was 25, after birthing 5 children and one miscarry  was diagnosed with, severe cervical  dysplasia , which is cancer. I elected to have my uterus removed and retain the Fallopian tubes. My mother volunteered to come to my home and care for me at this time my children were 10 and under. She stayed with me for 8 wks, to help care for my children. I had no idea AGAIN how scared she was. It has since been discovered that this type of cancer is often caused by early sexual activity, mom took the guilt on for this as well, she felt she had failed in protecting me from grampa. I have since helped her to release that, it was not her fault.

Mom and dad
Dad died 22 years ago mom has finally begun the process of healing from this life she led. I am grateful that I can be there to help her through it. I really only touched on his cruelty; mom would not approve of making the whole thing public, suffice it to say her abuse was severe.

All the Uncles, Aunts and my Folks
I believe this could be defined as a cancer cluster with so many family members being afflicted, mom actually left the area sooner than any family member when she joined the service. We will probably never know but I believe that there was something in their area that caused this.

One of the things I find so sad about this whole situation is that everyone thought mom was a grumpy old lady, she was very stern and didn't know how to verbalize her love, still doesn't really. Hugs were hard to come by, I realize now, after my own journey, that it was a protective mode, she was angry and fearful her entire married life, as well as very alone. I understand now.

LuLu Jones( my maternal grandmother) me and my sister.

Mom and I

My Mama, no sign of cancer; she is 86 years old, 87 in December.
                                         She had one spot of cancerous skin that was removed last year.



  1. yyour family has been through the wringer...your a survival you should be proud of...i sure am proud of you...As always,,,,,XOXOXOXOOXO

  2. I am very proud of my mother and her determination to take this journey. It is extremely difficult for her, but it will help her find some peace, before she to passes on to the other side;(as she puts it.)

    Thank you Bonnie, I love you. <3<3<3

  3. I had no idea that any of this ever occured. For the longest time all I was able to see my own suffering. This family has been through alot and I have been completely oblivious.

  4. Who are you anonymous? Karrie, Jessi, Ayla, Katrina,?

  5. Yes she was and is Rebecca.<3 You two have a lot in common.

  6. Oh god so much suffering for all of you Jan. I was in tears reading this but i am so glad your mom is healing like you are and that you are there for her. xoxo

  7. All the pain and suffering your family endured makes my heart grieve for you and your mom, Jan. That healing stands as a light at the end of a seemingly endless tunnel is miraculous.
    May God bless your beautiful mother and you, too!

  8. @ Rimly, Thank you, we are a strong batch of people, my daughter, my nieces, I am glad that it is over for my mother pretty much, the pain I mean, she has had enough. I am glad that she got to see me and have me sober.

    @ Martha, I don't know that we had so much more than anyone else, it was just all so secretive and hidden. Now that Mom is talking she is healing, we are helping each other on this part of the journey as it should be. Thank you

  9. So much suffering, and you have come out stronger so has your mother.Life is an unpredictable journey and the brave hearts reach their destination, despite coming across obstacles along the way.

  10. I love grandma and I remember always running to give her a hug when she came to visit. I could always see the love she held in her eyes. I always admired the strength I see in her. She is definitely an awesome woman. Our elders should be honored, Grandma definitely is!

  11. Jan. You are a lady who now having found my way to your blog, i have to say i have total admiration for you. Your journey, so sad to read, yet has given you such an inner strength, and clearly a desire to help others deal with their traumas and memories. Thank you for sharing this account.

  12. You have touched my heart deeply. This is an incredible story.

  13. Oh!you just made me cry! I know what does the great bonding with mom mean! i am surviving because of my mom and now my only goal of life is to keep her as happy as possible and be by her side through her struggle with BC.

  14. A great have me in tears. I do hope and pray for you and your Mom,and your entire family to have a long and healthy life ahead..

  15. @ Sulekka: You are exactly right, I believe we are of a strong stock as they say and as miserable as parts of the journey have bee we would not be who we are today if we had not taken it.

  16. @ Karrie: I love you niece, I can see in you what you feel for Grams. You are the firstborn grandchild and she loves you dearly as well.

    @ Larry: Thank you so much,we have worked hard to be where we are. The hope that I can help someone on their own journey is why I am here.

    @ Anna: We are simply a family on a journey as is everyone. Thank you.

    @ Portia, I wish you and your mom the best, thank you for reading.
    @ Alpana, thank you, we are in the middle of a journey getting stronger everyday.

  17. @ Anonymous: You have your own journeys that you are on, just know the strength that this family carries with them. You are growing and learning everyday, full of compassion and love, you will be fine.

  18. Wow! What a blessing you are to be there for her. As mom's and women I think we hold things in too much. We do want to protect our children from monsters, sometimes we ourselves become the victim. What a heart felt story.

  19. your family has been through so much but the smile your grandmother has shows love....
    You are a survivor... you look like your mom...

  20. Jan, bravo for sharing this with us and thinking that we are worthy to be part of your life. This story is story of survival by swimming against the odds. I admire you for having been through all this and staying strong to share the same with us.

    Lots of love across ether.

    Joy always,

  21. @ Sea: Mama deserves nothing less than the best I have to give her. Until recently she was not aware of how damaged she had been, she thought she was fine. I knew better, she has been watching Dr.Phil and Oprah and learned the language to express herself. That is where we begin. Thank you.

    @ Savira; thank you I call my mother beautiful all the time what a wonderful compliment you gave me. We have trudged through the mud, but we have not drowned. Thank you. <3

    @ Susan; Thank you for your words of support. Life was meant to be enjoyed, we have much joy in our lives too, it is what makes the journey worth doing. Love was meant to be shared.