My mom was born in the Bronx, New York. She lived with her parents, Stella and Carlos Colon, both from Puerto Rico.
They moved often during her childhood, at the age of 7 she got a baby brother named Carlos.
She graduated from Holy Angels high school in Daly City, CA.
She met my father, Dennis Bottaro, Sr. and married in 1968. They later bought their family home in South San Francisco, CA. She had her only son, me, in December of 1975. She was diagnosed with rectal cancer that same year.
After many troubled years of marriage, she divorced in 1982 and moved to Florida in 1985, to be closer to her family.
When I left home after graduating high school, she moved in with her parents to take care of her ailing mother. When Nanny passed away, she went job hunting and landed her first job in many years with the Wal-Mart in Sumterville.
These are the days I like to remember most. She was SO proud to have that job. She was earning a paycheck that was worth so much more than the money it carried. She had a purpose in life again.
I remember her second to last Christmas in 2000, she was so proud to be able to give presents that she had bought with her own money. I remember my favorite thing that year, a pair of hedge trimmers that she bought me, which I use in my yard every time a tree needs trimming.
She became ill in the middle of 2000, and feared that it could be the rectal cancer that had gone into remission so many years before. I recall telling her to go to the doctor, but she did not listen. I think now that it was a combination of fear and lack of adequate medical insurance that kept her away from the doctors. Many a night was spent nagging her to go, and that I would take care of anything that she needed, just to go... but she never did.
When she finally had to call for help with the pain, she was told to by the LRMC ER Staff to take medicine for the pain, and follow up with her regular doctor. She did not do that, she never went to her "regular doctor" because she did not have one. (Remember the inadequate medical insurance?)
I look back on those days and question many things. Had I been more forceful with her seeking treatment, would things have turned out differently? Had she had medical insurance, would she have gone to the doctor when this was still treatable?
She at last went to the hospital and was given a good examination by the staff, and was referred to Shands for further treatment. I remember when I took her up there for her initial visit, she was in so much pain that she could hardly sit in the car. But we got there. The doctors examined her and laid out a treatment plan consisting of radiation and chemotherapy, on site at Shands.
Mom was reluctant to go, she did not want to stay up there alone during her treatment. I told her I would stay with her, and that I could put work on hold for however long I had to. She refused treatment at Shands and sought a referral to a local doctor.
She then became a patient of Dr. Shelain Mabante in Lady Lake. She received daily radiation treatment at the office there. At the end of the six week treatment, she was to go for bi-weekly follow ups. The tumors never really shrank all that much, and the doctor was obviously at a loss for what to do now. She allowed my mother to self-medicate using Roxanol and Oxycontin.
This led my mother down a dark road, she needed consistently higher doses of Roxanol to keep the pain even remotely bearable. This killed her appetite and made holding down food next to impossible.
She continued this way until the weekend of Thanksgiving in 2001, when I had no choice but to call 911 to bring her to the ER. She had not been able to keep down anything at all for more than a week, not even her pain medicine. She was in a living hell.
She went in to the hospital that day never to come out again. She went from the ER to the Cancer Center to the nursing home for "rehabilitation and treatment."
I know now that was a lie. She went in the nursing home to await the inevitable. But no one told her that.
I remember when they brought Hospice in under the guise of maintaining her costly medication when Medicare would not pay for the high doses of Oxycontin that she need for her pain.
I remember my anger at her doctors for never giving her the treatment that I thought could have saved her. Turns out they knew she was beyond the help that they could provide, so in turn they did nothing for her.
During her stay at the nursing home, she had her ups and downs. She spent her last Christmas there. I remember sitting with her planning out what to prepare for Christmas dinner. I brought her the dinner that we had planned. I was overjoyed to see her eat. She loved every bite, and was quite surprised at how well I had prepared her own recipe for Candied Yams.
In the beginning of February, she stopped eating. The staff prepared me for the worst, but I held on to my hopes. My proudest and most hopeful day was when she asked me to go to Domino's and bring her back her favorite pizza, Green Peppers and Onions. She ate very well that day.
It was shortly after that, she stopped eating all together accept for small spoons of ice cream. A couple of weeks later she stopped drinking.
The last time I saw her alive she could not move. Her every breath was a moan of pain. I kneeled next to her and told her that she could go, as I had so many times before. She could not speak, I do not really know if she could hear me or even see me. But I spoke as strongly as I could and told her that I loved her, and could not bear to see her suffering anymore. I had to leave her that night, if I had not, I would have taken her life.
The next morning at the office I got a call around 10:30 asking me to come to the Nursing Home. I flew like crazy to get there, calling my Uncle and Jenenne along the way. I could not find a parking place of all things, and circled the place finally parking in a truck loading zone on the other end of the building. I got there too late. My mother had passed away about 10:45.