Marcia Helliwell’s Story

My Mom, Marcia Helliwell’s Story – by Kate Parker

My mom was a very strong woman. She was married twice, raised 6 kids. Life was not easy. During parts of that period she was a single mom, and always struggled to make ends meet. When she was 56, while her last two kids were in high school, she went back to college and earned an accounting degree.

Picture of Marcia Williams Helliwell and granddaughter

Both graduated on the same day - Marcia and her granddaughter Celest.

She worked until she retired at age 70, and finally got ahead some financially. She owned her own home, car, and paid her debts in full every month. She was proud of her accomplishments and what she had achieved for herself.

I recite these things as if my mom’s life could be summarized with so few words, I don’t want to reduce her existence to these bare facts. She loved, and was loved by many people, friends and family.

About 6 months after she retired, Mom started having pains in her right arm. She went to several doctors, one after another, and was incorrectly diagnosed with various conditions and was prescribed pain pills and physical therapy. None of which worked. One night when the pain was so bad, she was in such misery, her husband took her to the emergency room, and said he wasn’t leaving until they figured out what was wrong with her and alleviated the pain.

That was when Mom was diagnosed with bone cancer. She did the first round of chemo, and doctors began a second round and suggested that if they removed her arm, they might spare her life. So they began the process of pre-surgical tests. My mom began doing everything she could with her left arm, training herself while she still had both arms. It was from the testing process that it became known that the cancer had spread though out her body. Nothing was left to do but keep her as comfortable as possible.

They started out with pain pills and she could still participate in daily activities to some degree. That lasted for about a month. After that, they pretty much kept her medicated so that she slept most of the time, and would wake for short periods. Finally, even that wasn’t keeping the pain at bay. Every time she would wake up, she would cry and scream, “Just let me die!!!” Finally, they changed the medication to keep her sedated, in a medically-induced coma, and she died 3 days later.

From diagnosis until death was 4 months, but my mom never gave up, even if it meant losing an arm.

When I was a child, my mom told me that everyone who immigrated to America was strong, adventurous, and determined to get ahead in life. That was what we were made of, and it was up to us to carry on that legacy to our children. She epitomized a strong, independent woman to me, and never gave up until there was nothing else to give. I know she had made her peace and was ready to pass on, and she begged to just die peacefully. Mom would be fighting for Death with Dignity now if she were still alive. I am fighting for her, for me, and for my children; I support a Florida Death with Dignity Law.

Picture of Marcia Williams Helliwell and her daughters

Marcia Helliwell and her daughters