Story Written By Carissa Falco
As a child, I always thought my mother was going to live forever. She was Wonder Woman in my eyes and had the power to fight off evil and protect my siblings and I from harm’s way. But as I became older, it was apparent that eventually her powers would wear off and somehow down the road they would be given to me.
On March 2, 2009, I found out that my mother Nancy Patricia Falco had Pancreatic Cancer. It was the most difficult day of my entire life. I felt as if the evil monsters from my childhood had come back to cause me a great deal of pain in my chest. The pain felt worse because my mom didn’t have the magical powers to heal me anymore.
Nancy Falco was not only an amazing mother, but she was a devoted wife, a sister, a daughter, and a friend. Her spirit was filled with so much love and she always had a smile on her face even during the most difficult times in her life. She was very strict with my sister Joline and I. By the time my brother J.R. came into the world in January of 1987 she was a little more laid back. She did make sure we stayed active with after school commitments and made it a point to be polite and respectful to others. As kids we were only allowed to have soda and candy on special occasions. She was stern about everyone in the family eating at the dinner table. Our meals were always colorful with lots of vegetables, meat and potatoes. Of course since my parents were Italian we had Sunday dinners filled with pasta, meatballs, and bread. My mom had a weakness for pasta and bread though. I thought it was funny how she would skip out on the vegetables and load up on the pasta and bread. Joline and I would give her a hard time because she would slab so much butter on her bread. She had more butter than the bread. Then there were the late night snacks. Some people have an alcohol or cigarette addiction, but my mom, she had a love and addiction for Little Debbie. Sometimes I thought they were best friends, because a day wouldn’t go by without my mom bonding with Little Debbie in front of the television.
After Joline and I moved out, we started to learn that there were alternative ways to eating healthier. We even went as far as walking 2 miles every day. We tried to get my mom to walk too, but since she was a child she suffered with asthma. My mom didn’t give up though, because she would walk until she was out of breath.
In 2003, Joline moved away to Atlanta and it was really difficult for my mom and I. My sister and I really motivated each other with exercise and of course daily life occurrences. The 3 of us really formed an incredible mother daughter bond. J.R. was my mom’s little baby boy. She had such a soft spot for him and he would make her laugh all of the time with his hilarious descriptive stories about him and his friend’s adventures.
My mom spoiled all of us including my father. She treated him like King Henry. My dad has a love for fruits and vegetables, so she made sure to make him special salads and vegetables with his dinner. She bought him his favorite fishing shirts for work, prunes and apricots to snack on and even though my dad shaves his head bald, she still bought him shampoo to make him feel special. Nancy was passionate with everything in her life. She took her career very seriously and devoted her energy and time into every project. Yet, she still had the time to take of everyone but herself.
Years ago I noticed a difference in my mom’s attitude and overall appearance. It almost seemed as if the magic didn’t exist within her anymore. My mom was absolutely beautiful as if age never caught up to her. At that point, she looked tired and run down. She and I made it a point to do dinner and ceramics every Thursday night. During the Thanksgiving holiday of 2008, I noticed that my mom looked jaundice. She got really sick with a sinus infection and laryngitis. I was really sad because it seemed as if my mom was slowly withering away with no logical explanation. My mom’s favorite holiday was Christmas and every year she would go insane decorating, baking, and cooking. That year, she didn’t seem to have the Christmas cheer. She was exhausted and her mind seemed distant and distressed.
One day, I was coloring her hair and she asked me what having Ovarian Cysts felt like. Since I suffered from cysts in the past, I explained. She then explained to me that she kept having really bad pains in her abdomen. I told her that she needed to get to the doctor right away. A few weeks later, she called me and told me that she tested negative. My mom couldn’t understand what was causing her so much pain. Since my mom was so strong and positive, she thought it would just pass. She was convinced that it was her diet plan since we had her eating more fiber. She was suffering with constipation, so she just blamed the pain on gas.
Then one night I stayed at my parent’s house. I woke up to my dad freaking out saying that I needed to take my mom to the emergency room. Of course, my mom kept saying she was fine even though the pain was causing her to be awake all night. My mom was amazingly strong willed yet she was extremely stubborn. She refused that I take her to the hospital and made me go back home. By the time I got home, she called me and told me that my dad took her anyway.
For weeks, they ran tests until the doctor finally found a tumor on her pancreas. They told her most likely it could be taken out, but they needed to find out if it was cancer or not. My mom was so laid back when she called me that day to give me the news. She had this attitude that everything was going to be all right. She convinced herself that it wasn’t cancer and that they would just do the surgery to remove it.
Then on March 2 2009, my parents found out that it was cancer and most likely it was inoperable. My parents went as far as having a consultation with a doctor in Orlando to see if he would remove it. But it was too far along and he didn’t want to take the chance of making it worse.
Like most people with cancer, my mom chose to have the radiation and chemotherapy. Joline, J.R. and I could no longer sit around with this news. We researched everything the Doctors said, researched holistic alternative, and we listened to other people’s stories. Within our research, we found out that Pancreatic Cancer had one of the highest fatality rates of all cancers. We were terrified when we found out that the survival diagnosis is around 3 to 6 months. At that moment, we knew that my mom didn’t have much longer to live.
On my mom’s last treatment day, she progressively became worse as the cancer quickly spread to her lungs. She was in the hospital for a week before she was admitted to Hospice. I couldn’t believe how quickly the cancer was spreading. I was 3 months pregnant at that time and my mom and I were joking at the hospital at how I didn’t even look pregnant. Then 2 days later when I saw her at Hospice, she wasn’t even responding to my questions. It killed me inside and I felt as if I entered my worst nightmare.
I now realized that my Wonder Woman was going to leave me and enter a whole new world. I made a promise to her that I was going to be strong for my family, my soul mate, and myself and most important my miracle baby. On her last day, she was still smiling and she still looked absolutely radiant. It was hard to believe she was even sick. She quietly and peacefully passed away on May 25, 2009.
I am so lucky to say that Nancy Falco was my mother and my best friend. She has affected so many lives and those people who remember her, know her as a woman of compassion and dedication.