Today I was feeling off. It was a heavy day. My heart was palpitating to no end. It had been years since I felt this sort of pain in my chest. Why now? Was it another sign? I was 26 when I first ended up in ICU for angina. Doctors thought I was way too young to be having any sort of heart issues. I agreed. The next time it happened again was at age 36. I was released after having an angiogram and again the doctors did not find anything wrong with my heart and yet the pain was there. It was real and not imagined. Stress? Yes, stress-induced heart pain. My lifestyle was such that I was not happy. It hurt me to the core to be where I was. I also internalized everything and so it all ended up affecting my heart. The palpitations increased, the shortness of breath was there, the lightheadedness, and sometimes the numbness in the left arm where all symptoms of my heart issue. I made it through those instances just fine. And so here I am again just over ten years later and the pain is back. And it all started lightly a few days before September 13. A day that I will never forget for as long as I live and breathe on this earth. It has now been 9 years since Laura my wonderful and beautiful daughter passed away. And at times it feels like yesterday. This is my heartache. Missing my Laura.
If I think about it, the chest pain would have started when I watched a program on TV recently. Stand Up To Cancer. It aired on September 5th. A week before the anniversary. It tore me up to see the photos and videos of children that have passed away because of this dreaded disease. I could only take about 5 minutes of it and had to turn it off. If you are interested in seeing the depth and the reach of cancer and the suffering in our world today, go to www.standup2cancer.com better yet, get involved in some way.
Saturday, September 13, was a difficult day. The memories of the last minutes of my daughter’s life ran through my head. I could see myself there again. She was at home in her bed. The one she was familiar with growing up. She had been in a coma for two days now. The morphine was the only thing that helped with the pain she was going through. All we could do now was watch. Helpless … A brain stem glioma had taken control and was literally strangling her from the inside. This tumor affects the critical area of the brain controls, many of the vital functions of life such as heart rate and breathing, as well as nerves that control vision, hearing, speech, swallowing, and movement of both arms and legs.
We were told that all her vital organs would now begin to shut down one at a time. As they did her heart would beat faster to pump more blood to all the other organs to keep them alive for as long as possible. She didn’t want to go. Her heart was so strong. She was strong. I remember being in the kitchen. Most of us had all been up for almost two days straight without any sleep. I needed some water. As I leaned on the counter and looked up at the clock on the wall, I noticed what time it was. It was almost 1:14 PM on September 13, 1999. And then it hit me. Oh my God, she’s going to go!! I ran back to her side and held her hand and could literally see her heart racing, pounding in her chest to keep her alive. The nurse registered her heartbeat at almost 170 bpm. It was almost time. And then it happened. Her heart stopped and she exhaled her last breath of air. Laura Maria Guzzo had taken her last breath and ended her fight at the exact same time she came into this world, 1:16 PM
I remember when she was born as I held her for the first time in my arms, she was so small, defenseless. She was going to rely on us, on me to take care of her and guide her. I held her when she was born and carried her as proud as any father could be as I showed her off to the world and I carried her for the last time when she passed away and I brought her downstairs so she could be driven away to the funeral home.
That was the pain and that is the pain that I carry with me. Not the pain of her life and beautiful things she did experience in the short time she was here. But the pain of her suffering. The pain of all she did not get a chance to do and accomplish in this lifetime. The pain of missing her every time I do something fun or carefree. When I see beautiful things in this world I wish I could share them with her. When I see other children graduating, getting married and having children of their own, I feel the pain and miss her so very much.
There was so much that Laura did not have the chance to experience. So much she did not get a chance to see. So much she did not get a chance to teach others. I will carry this pain and remember my Laura and what she brought to me and to this world in the short time she did grace us with her presence.
She taught me my greatest lesson in this lifetime, unconditional love. Something that so many others, preach and teach and are not capable of accomplishing in a lifetime of 80 plus years, Laura did in her short 14 years. She was a blessing and an angel. She touched so many people’s lives and did so much to help others never looking for what was in it for her. It was truly unconditional love.
Laura will always be a part of my life. She is my daughter. Today she would have been 23 years old. She is every bit as part of my life and will be there forever.
Children all across this world are suffering needlessly because of cancer. Let’s band together and help them. Children do not deserve to suffer, ever. They deserve a better life than walking around in a hospital ward with an IV in their arms and using the IV pole as a crutch to stand because the barely have the strength to stand on their own two feet.
Children need us and we need them. Take a stand, do it for the Laura’s of this world and let’s all make a difference.