12/17/1946 — 11/12/2013
Myrna Sprowl, wife-mother-grandmother-friend, died as she lived, gracefully, courageously, and with the peace knowing she was in God’s hands.
My mother was diagnosed with Stage II melanoma in September 2012 and passed away November 12, 2013, of Stage IV melanoma with bone and lung metastases.
She went to the doctor to have a spot, little bigger than a freckle, on her left cheek looked at because it began bleeding and not healing. After positive biopsy results for melanoma, some say her “real journey began.” She would undergo four surgeries with two skin grafts to remove the tumor from her face, a total neck dissection when a positive PET scan revealed melanoma cells in her lymph nodes, and 3 months of radiation on her neck and face.
As a result of these surgeries and radiation, her smile was just a little bit smaller, and her left shoulder just wouldn’t move the same because of nerve damage occurring during the neck dissection. However, her smile never seemed brighter and her head never held higher because her spirit was never tarnished. She faced every hurdle with a resiliency like I’d never seen. My siblings and I would often ask ourselves how she did it. How did she stay so positive? All we could come up with was: She’s just mom. That is what she does. Every step of the way she was upbeat and sure that no matter what happened with her melanoma, it was all a part of God’s plan. She had such a sweet peace within herself that projected to those around her. You just couldn’t help but feel the same.
Five months would go by before again some would say the “real journey began.” She noticed some redness and swelling around the tumor site and had a punch biopsy. The results were positive for melanoma. By this point we all knew the routine, a PET and CT scan with an MRI of the entire body. The results: metastases in the lungs and bones. My resolve was shaken. And it was there, in the doctor’s office, with my mom, dad, and brother where I was actually scared the melanoma might win. Again, my mother was not giving up. She would fight because, as she said, “what else is there to do?” She didn’t have it in her to accept the fate doctors had given her because she believed God was leading her to fight for her own life, and fight she did.
She began a five-drug bio-chemotherapy treatment at M.D. Anderson in Houston, TX, a month later. This is when she taught my family and me what strength in God truly looked like. I was with her in Houston as the first treatment began, and I will never forget holding her hand, asking if she was scared of what was to come. She looked at me and said, “If I were scared I wouldn’t be here right now. I have nothing to fear because the plan is already written for me. I am just focusing on what lies ahead.”
She made it through two rounds of treatment when a PET scan revealed that the treatments weren’t working and the lung metastases had only grown and bone metastases had only spread further. She still did not give up and went to another doctor back home in Oklahoma who finally said it’s time to stop. He gave her the news that the melanoma was just too aggressive and starting another chemo-therapy treatment would only prolong the inevitable, so he recommended hospice. She turned to my brother and me and simply said, “I’m sorry.”
She would only live 12 days under hospice care before she passed away. Her words “I’m sorry” stayed with me the entire time and something I would often talk with her about because how could she be sorry! She taught us more in those last 14 months than we ever thought possible. Her strength in God was so amazing that she never worried about herself, only the family she was leaving behind. The love of her family was so great that she fought so hard to stay with us.
People said to me throughout Mom’s cancer that her “real journey begins” the minute a diagnosis was given or when she started her treatment programs. But my opinion is her real journey began when she passed away. She is now on a journey with God and her pain relieved. She had a beautiful singing voice and loved singing in her church choir. She was unable to perform the last few months because of the radiation treatments on her neck, and I feel comforted knowing she is standing tall and singing loud in that angel chorus on high. The family and friends she left behind are now left with the most beautiful guardian angel to guide us the rest of our days. This is her real journey, not the ugliness of cancer but the beauty of knowing we will see each other again one day because it has already been written.
Shelly Watson, daughter