February 27th was just another day on the calendar for 38 years of my life. It came and went without arousing any emotion or deserving any reverence. But, in 2016, February 27th became the worst day of my life. On that day, at 8:40 pm, I was holding my mother’s hand as she took her final breath on this earth. She was just 68 years old.
My mother, Nancy Hargett Troutman, was a special lady. If you had the great fortune of knowing her, you understand exactly what I mean. She was hilariously funny—she could make even the most solemn individual double over with laughter; she was unbelievably kind— to this day complete strangers tell me tales of my mother’s generosity and good nature; she was wonderfully loving—she understood the true meaning of unconditional love and my brothers and I were blessed to be on the receiving end of it. She valued family over everything. She made spending time together an adventure! She was always so much fun and full of life. When I think of her, the first thing that comes to my mind is the sound of her laughter—it was contagious and made you forget that sadness even existed!
In March of 2011 our world was rocked to its core when Mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. It was the amazing staff at Carolinas HealthCare System NorthEast who took the reins and helped guide us through this new, terrifying journey. I’m not sure what our family would have done without Dr. Brigitte Miller, Mom’s gynecological oncologist. When Mom was diagnosed, we were scared, confused, and (quite honestly) unaware of what her diagnosis really meant. Dr. Miller answered all of our questions (and there were hundreds of them) with patience, kindness, and humility. My mother literally trusted her with her life and grew to care a great deal about her. She always felt like Dr. Miller had her best interest at heart. Mom usually left her appointments smiling, not because of her prognosis, but because of the friendship that had grown between them. Dr. Miller helped her fight for her life for nearly five years. She also reminded us ALL how important it was to LIVE. She guided us past the fear to a place where we could enjoy every single moment we had with each other!
With Dr. Miller’s blessing, Mom and I traveled together endlessly. During those trips we laughed, we cried, and we talked until the sun came up. Sometimes, unfortunately, it takes a tragedy to remind us of what’s important. Because of Dr. Miller, we were able to make most of the last five years of Mom’s life. She kept Mom vibrant, energetic, and positive for the majority of her battle.
When all treatment options had been exhausted, Mom requested to be at home with her family in her final weeks. I took a leave of absence from work and moved in with her to be her caretaker. There is no way to prepare for caring for a loved one approaching the end of life. I was filled with grief, fear, confusion, uncertainty, and heartbreak. Hospice of Cabarrus County came in and helped us attend to our mother’s every need. The staff answered all of our questions, took all of our calls, ordered all of the supplies and equipment we needed, and taught us the skills required to make Mom as comfortable as possible. Each member of the staff treated her as if she were their own mother. They eased her pain and they helped her find peace.
One of Mom’s Chemotherapy nurses was also a shining example of the kind of unique care she received at NorthEast. This special nurse, Miranda Owens, took the time to get to know my mom and connect with her magnificent, effervescent spirit. When she found out that treatments were no longer working, Miranda showed us what it means to be a truly amazing human being. On her DAY OFF, she came to the house to say goodbye to Mom in her final days. She sat with her, held her hand, shed tears, and allowed love to pour from her heart. We learned that caring for my mom wasn’t just a job for Miranda, it was a privilege. I will never be able to express how much that meant to all of us.
Mom was surrounded by love and filled with beautiful memories when her heart beat for the last time on February 27th, 2016. It was the day I felt that all of the love was taken from this world. It was the day I lost my best friend. Now, February 27th fills my heart with sadness and loss. But, I also rejoice because I am so grateful that I was able to spend 39 years on this planet with Nancy Troutman as my mother.