Posted by: Michelle Stella Riordan | February 19, 2013

The Dark road Deathwatch…

The Dark Road Deathwatch…Lung Cancer

You learn a lot about people, loved ones and human nature during times of great duress. You truly get to see what people are made of. It’s a peek into their heart and soul.

I didn’t like what I saw on this journey. I’m not talking about my mom. Not at all. She was a pillar of strength and resilience. I’m talking about Family.

I’m talking about your other half…you know, the person you count on most.

I mean your kids.

And I mean myself.

     IMG_4101George Washington Bridge – park where I grew up in the Heights.     

It’s no secret that our family was divided. I made a choice to be by my mom’s side as best as I could. When it came down to it, she had some great friends and me. I’ve heard so many stories about families rallying together, unifying for a common good. I wished that for my mom.

I cried for my mom. I cried for her pain. I cried for her loneliness. I mostly cried in the car while driving between 3 states.


I thought of this time as The Dark Road Deathwatch.
It’s a long twisting journey that began in 2011.  There are smooth stretches and then there are pot holes the size of Mars. So many blind curves and ramps to nowhere. Sodium lampposts glowed in the distance and burned out as you get closer. Some flicker. Reflections. Huge pockets of darkness. White line fever. Permanent purgatory.

It never mattered how much of a toll it took on me. I wasn’t going through a fraction of the pain my mom was. It was an all-consuming voyage. It consumed time. It consumed money. It consumed relationships.


Hanging on the porch with her cookie and the dogs. 


Teaching grandma to play Angry Birds waiting to see a doctor


She loved the Atrium at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital.  It was the only positive thing about being there.

For months the good outweighed the bad. But,when the bad wins…there’s no relief. She fought it well in the beginning. Her mantra was, “I’m going to die walking the streets of New York in my heels!” she looked elegant right up until the last 2 months. Even the oncologist and his staff remarked on how great she looked…on the outside. But, the cancer progressed. It inched forward like PAC Man, slowly munching on her good cells. Marching along. Womp. Womp. Womp. As she succumbed to the effects of the chemo I could hear the sound of PAC Man melting.


Many hours spent on Access-A-Ride going to and from the hospital

Whomever thought of chemotherapy as a treatment should be shot. It should be tested on the person inventing it, the board that approves it and their family members. We learned all the ‘benes. We read the stats. We researched each treatment. We prayed for relief. The cancer marks came down. She plateaued.

We reminded her there was no expiration date on her ass. We even looked under her foot.
2012 a new year. A tough year. An uphill battle.
2nd round of chemo. No good
Cancer trial. No good
4th round. Lymph nodes growing
5th chemo. New lymph nodes protruding
6th chemo. Stop.   Stop the madness.
Change in mental status.
Was it a stroke or worse..?
 Worse case scenario…the cancer metastasized to her brain. All over. All over.

Her last hospital visit at Columbia.  She asked me to take this photo because she knew it was the last time she would be there.

Deathwatch ticking. The timer was set.


 Enjoying a Spring day at a charity event. 

In Loving Memory of Evelyn…

The journey of 1 -1/2 years has taught me more about life than the past 40 years. 

All images were captured via iPhone. 

Live.  Love.  Laugh.  Listen. 



  1. Wow! Thanks for sharing your story here. I think sharing your story will help so many others know they are not alone.

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