Sisters, Blair Kaplan Venables and Alana Kaplan, talk about the series of events that led up to the loss of their mother. This is part one of two. Part two will be Episode 8.

You can read stories of resilience and share your story at: www.iamresilient.info

Trigger Warning: The Resilience Project provides an open space for people to share their personal experiences. Some content in this podcast may include topics that you may find difficult. The listener’s discretion is advised. 

About the Guest:

Alana Kaplan is a compassionate mental health professional based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She’s a child and family therapist at a Winnipeg-based community agency, and a yoga teacher. Fueled by advocacy, Alana is known for standing up and speaking out for others. Passionate about de-stigmatizing and normalizing mental health, Alana brings her experience to The Resilience Project team, navigating the role one’s mental health plays into telling their story.

Engaging in self-care and growth is what keeps her going and her love for reading, travel, and personal relationships helps foster that. When she’s not working, Alana can often be found on walks, at the yoga studio, or playing with any animal that she comes across.

About the Host: 

Blair Kaplan Venables is an expert in social media marketing and the president of Blair Kaplan Communications, a British Columbia-based PR agency. She brings fifteen years of experience to her clients which include global wellness, entertainment, and lifestyle brands. As a pioneer in the industry, she has helped her customers grow their followers into the tens of thousands in just one month, win integrative marketing awards, launch their businesses, and more. Yahoo! listed Blair as a top ten social media expert to watch in 2021. She has spoken on national stages and her expertise has been featured in media outlets including Forbes, CBC Radio, Entrepreneur and Thrive Global. Blair is also the #1 bestselling author of Pulsing Through My Veins: Raw and Real Stories from an Entrepreneur and co-host of the Dissecting Success podcast. When she’s not working on the board for her local chamber of commerce, you can find Blair growing the “The Resilience Project,” an online community where users share their stories of overcoming life’s most difficult moments.

Learn more about Blair: https://www.blairkaplan.ca/

Submit your story: https://www.iamresilient.info 

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Transcript
Blair Kaplan Venables:

trigger warning, the Resilience Project provides an open space for people to share their personal experiences. Some content in this podcast may include topics that you may find difficult, the listeners discretion is advised.

Blair Kaplan Venables:

Hello friends, welcome to radical resilience, a weekly show where I Blair Kaplan Venables have inspirational conversations with people who have survived life's most challenging times. We all have the ability to be resilient and bounce forward from a difficult experience. And these conversations prove just that, get ready to dive into these life changing moments while strengthening your resilience muscle and getting raw and real.

Blair Kaplan Venables:

Welcome back to another episode of radical resilience. I'm Blair Kaplan Venables, and I'm here with a very, very special human. Not only is she a social worker, not only is she witty as heck, she's Mr. Alanna, you may recognize her from the second episode of radical resilience where her and I had a conversation at the beginning of the pandemic. And wow, my, how have times changed, especially for my sister and I, not only is she my younger sister, but she is the project manager for the global Resilience Project. She has been a really important member of the team because she's the only member of the team besides me. And she's helped me grow. And we wanted to have a conversation just you know, recorded because we have these conversations pretty much almost every day. But it's really interesting, because it was about this time last year that we learned her mother had cancer. And it was only a few weeks later that she passed away. So we just want to talk about what our last year has been like, because it's been fucking terrible. And you know what, like, we're reaching that age where we have friends losing parents, and out of my close group of friends I might have I'm only a few of my friends have lost parents like I at the time of recording this. I'm 36 years old. And there was a lot of lessons learned and a lot of big changes made. And so here we are having a real conversation. Hi, Alana. Hi, Blair. Lana, I know like we've introduced you before in the other podcast, but you want to just give a little high level like, who are you?

Alana Kaplan:

Yeah, well, first and foremost, I am Blair's younger sister. As as known to most I am trained as a social worker. And I work in children's mental health in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I also have my yoga teacher training, which I don't really teach classes as much, but I use it definitely, in my work with clients. And the reason I highlight that is because not only is it a tool for my clients, but I use it as a tool for myself. And so I always have to remember that I am qualified to use yoga in these different ways, especially over the past year when, as my sister said, it's been a shit show.

Blair Kaplan Venables::Alana Kaplan:Blair was living in Vanvouver:Blair Kaplan Venables:

Sorry. Okay, anyways, I'm bad at numbers, um, scrap that. We're just gonna move forward. Okay, so I was actually talking to someone the other day about our experience. And growing up, our experience was different, like you're like three and a half years younger for grades apart. So we were always farther far enough away in Elementary in high school that we weren't really the same circles, or like the same stages of life and we didn't really get close till I moved away and you turned 18 Like till you became like a Canadian adults and Manitoba. But our parents divorced when I was seven, and you were three. And I'm the older sister and so I assumed a lot of responsibility and I quickly became extremely independent. And the difference between me and Alanna one of the biggest differences I'm an extroverted extrovert, atleta is introverted. But when you get to know her, she is extroverted. So you have she's slow to warm. Takes a while, like, you know, to get to get in and then when you're in, you're in and she'll FaceTime you every day. Well, no, she won't But she will text you Why will you text your friends?

Alana Kaplan:

So Blair that's like save for you know, I do text a lot you won't get facetimes for me I need to be prepared for facetimes with everyone except my sister if you FaceTime me and you're not my sister or like one or two other people I'm just looking at it not knowing what to do.

Blair Kaplan Venables:

Alana will answer in the bath, but I will not. Anyways, so growing up, I like marched to the beat of my own drum. I still do very independent and I was close with my mom, but in a different way. I felt like she was more like a sister. And yes, she was my mom and like, you know, me through life and like was my mother but I like to see us as like she sometimes talk to me as if I was an adult. So we didn't have a typical mother daughter relationship. And because I just wanted to do my own thing, where Alana and my mom were very, very close, like, very close, would you say it's safe to say like codependent you were codependent on her.

Alana Kaplan:

Oh, 100%. Yeah, was a dependence. And actually, now that I bringing it back to the FaceTime, she's someone who I would just like FaceTime all the time, especially the first year of the pandemic. But yeah, we definitely had a codependent relationship, basically, before anytime I purchased anything, or signed up for anything, I would let her know. And similarly, she will she wouldn't do necessarily the same thing as me. But yeah, she would, like, tell me what she was be doing. She'd be like, should I go? Should I not?

Blair Kaplan Venables:e people thought she was like:Alana Kaplan:

from November from like the beginning.

Blair Kaplan Venables:

The beginning Yeah, sure.

Alana Kaplan::Blair Kaplan Venables:

the text message in December? No, it was beginning

Alana Kaplan:

of January.

Blair Kaplan Venables:

Okay. Sorry, I shouldn't even try Lana.

Alana Kaplan:

is beginning of January, I think it was I want to say like January 9, or 10th or something, or 11th. We wake up to a text. And it says, LOL just got home from the ER. Is that the one you're talking about? Yeah. And, and so at this point, Blair is starting to get clued in of what's happening. Because I had told my mom, I'm like, don't be a hero, which is something Blair has recently told me. Don't be a hero. If you are in pain, go to the hospital. Like they can give you medication, they can test like move faster. And so we woke up to that text. And she actually had a doctor's appointment the next day, but so basically at the hospital that time, they basically were like, oh, maybe you have fatty liver disease and give her the blood results. So she goes to the doctor the next day. Then the appointment for the ultrasound was on a Friday. It was January 22. She gets the results for that on the Monday. We as a family are notorious for googling. So it came back that there were these masses or she did she say like I think it was like paddock lesions or something. So that whole week. Blair, me and my mom are all separately googling what's happening. She goes in for a CT scan. On the next Friday, January 29. Oh, this is a side note. Blair come back to after I'm done the timeline. We should talk about my experience. Okay. And my experience, yes. Okay. It's a little cliffhanger that you can just listen to me speak for the next little bit and then we'll come back to it. So she goes in January 29. A friend was supposed to take her for the CT scan. And as she's ready waiting to get picked up, she here's a car crash. Here's ambulances. She's texting me as it's going on me like going, oh, there's a car accident. And then she texted me in two minutes later. Oh, my God. It was Debbie Debbie's her friend from dental hygiene school who was going to take her. So she's free. My mom's freaking out because her ride to her CT scan just got into an accident. And she heard. And then so neighbor Tucker. So immediately she told her doctor, his office, I think, before she went in for her CT scan, don't give me my results until I come in for an appointment because previously, she was getting her results. She was leaving work because she was still fully working during this full time. And then. So she gets the results February 2, which was a Tuesday morning. That it was cancer. It was in her liver, it her stomach in her stomach lining. It was all over the place. But they didn't know where the origins are. So at that point, she decided, well, the doctor decided that she couldn't work. But he was like you're you're a fighter, you can fight this. And my mom truly thought that and we all truly thought that because she's gone through so much in our life and has fought so much. So as that week's get going on her pain is getting worse. It's almost like at this point, she's allowing herself to feel the pain that she's been kind of suppressing for the past couple of months. And then at the same time, she has a connection because it's still COVID And so things are moving slower. So she used a connection to get into different doctor's appointments and blood, get blood work it out that she was supposed to get all these tests because at this point no one knew when where or when the cancer had started. February

Blair Kaplan Venables:

very important is that they can't treat cancer unless they know what it is. And in order to know exactly what the cancer is they have to do a biopsy.

Alana Kaplan:

Yes, exactly. And so they were trying to, they were, basically the plan was to poke and prod and do all these different tests and biopsies. February 9 was the day she was supposed to have these appointments, one with a surgeon, she wakes up, she can't breathe. She calls her neighbor over who was supposed to take her to the appointment, and an ambulance is called and she's taken to the hospital. So this is now February 9. She is admitted with lung clots, and is in the hospital until February 14. At this point, they are doing more tests, more biopsies. colonoscopies like really just trying to figure out what where did this start? She gets discharged on February 14. At this point, Blair and I are both in Winnipeg. And we had one of our favorite restaurants for dinner. And we knew something was off because our mom wasn't really eating it. So the restaurant is highballs this great Chinese food restaurant, she loves the wonton soup. But she wasn't really eating it. And as the week went on, things were stable ish at the beginning to the point where I was like, I'm gonna fly back to Toronto. I was still living in Toronto.

Blair Kaplan Venables:

I just want to put in here. So Alanna facetimes me all the time. But and I did here and there and the last couple facetimes to her. She looks gray. And I was like, Mom, you don't look good. You don't like you don't look healthy. And when they let mom out of the hospital on Valentine's Day, they shouldn't have let her out. She did not look good. There was a tumor pressing on like her vocal cords. It says she sounded like this. And she was still in tons of pain. We don't know why they let her out. But they definitely should not because she looked very unwell. And so also between Alanna deciding to go back and her getting out, there was a couple times where she said I'm in a lot of pain. I think I need to go back to the hospital. And then we'd be like, Okay, let's go and then she's like, No, I don't want to. So we made it. So Atlanta decided to go back and I work for myself. So I decided to I'm just gonna stay here indefinitely and like to like, tell we know what's going on.

Alana Kaplan:

Mm hmm. So I fly back on the Wednesday, the 17th. And the next day, Blair, I FaceTime blared glare shows me that mom's just kind of like lying on the couch not doing anything. I think a friend. This is the day that are one of my mom's all best friends came by to drop off soup and Blair invited her in to take a look. And then the next day, which was the Friday, my mom had a follow up doctor's appointment. And so Blair, she tells BLAIR That morning, I want to be admitted to the hospital. So they post she,

Blair Kaplan Venables:

she actually had one more instance, when you left, where she's like, I need to go to the ER and I rearranged my day and I was like, Let's pack a bag. And she's like, You know what, I don't want to go. I don't want to go. And that's when we made the doctor's appointment. And I was like, if you feel like you need to go to the ER one more time. I'm just we're taking you. Yeah, she knew something wasn't right.

Alana Kaplan:

She knew and there was like, almost it was like this push and pull of like, do I give in to this pain? Or do I just fight and hold on? And so sure enough Friday, Blair takes her to her appointment, they decided she needs to be in the hospital, but it can't be the hospital that was near the appointment and had to be another one that was across the city.

Blair Kaplan Venables:

And the only reason Sir, I'm an internet because I was there. So I had the option of driving mum. So we're switching hospitals because the other hospital the smallest wait time and like I think there was just like it was a better better hospital for her to be at for her what was happening and the doctors like you can drive her or she can go in the ambulance. And at this point, the pain meds were not working for mom and she's like I need I need the fentanyl and our mom won't even won't even smoke weed like she like would have one Smirnoff Ice and like she was pestering her belly button, like very low tolerance didn't do drugs. Like she was in so much pain that like the everything that like she had prescribed to her, even though she was increasing the dosage wasn't working. So she went by ambulance, from one hospital to the other. And I looked at her and she looks at me and she goes, I really hope I get out and I died. I died. I said, I hope you do too. And I knew I just knew looking at her that she probably wouldn't.

Alana Kaplan:

And so that day I booked a flight back to come in on a Sunday night. And I was going to bring my cat because I decided I'd come indefinitely. I was like, I'm just going to be there like Blair was needing some support at this point because of these false alarms of my mom being like, I want to go live hospital. No, I don't. And so then Saturday happened and I wasn't there. So maybe this day we're

Blair Kaplan Venables:

okay. Well, though so the Friday she went in, and then they caught the doctor called me. So this is what happened. Cuz you got in Friday late. So the battery Saturday like, okay, whatever day it was the day No. Um, oh, yes, you're right. Okay. So Friday afternoon, when mom was in the ER, the doctor called and basically let me know that her whole body was covered in her internal organs were all covered in tumors. Her liver was one big tumor. And that all they can do is make her comfortable. And that that's probably why the payments been working. And they've identified that is pancreatic cancer. But they couldn't officially diagnose her unless you had a biopsy. I like my head exploded. I was like, Wait, so she has like she's dying in your jaw. You're just going to make her comfortable? They're like, yes. Like, why did that and that escalated very quickly, I lost my shit. And so I decided to go for I asked the doctor, how long do you think she has? And they said, probably two weeks. And so Alana was coming in the next day. So I thought I'm going to go, I'm going to go hang out with mom. And mom's like, don't come come off. Alanna, you're going to need each other. I'm like, I'm coming. I'm coming. So I went and hung out with mom. And she did the whole typical, like very organized, Sharon. And, you know, maybe later on in the series of podcasts. I'll read you the eulogy. But our mother was like the most organized person. And maybe that will be actually part two. Because I think this podcast, this story is going to be broken into at least a couple parts. So I get to the hospital, mom's in the ER, and she looks at me and like, I brought her ice cream and she had a couple bites and we just like hung out. And like every so often, she would like look, she was in so much pain and she was on pain meds and she looked at me she's like, in her raspy voice like this, she was telling me like, okay, all of the passwords to all of my accounts are under the jewelry box, all of the numbers for all the insurance policies and who to contact her under the jewelry box, all the diamonds. Like she had a bunch of like my grandma's and her grandma's like heirloom jewelry. So like, just if you're listening to this, I don't have a bunch of diamonds, but she made it sound very luxurious. Or in the jewelry box under the window. And like she was just like, we never had these conversations. I was like, Okay, and so I was like, Where do you want to be buried? Like, we had a very, like honest, like, I'm the older sister conversation like I'm the Executive queen, Atlanta, we're both executors of the estate, but it was me. And, you know, she's she, she said, you know, told us where and she made some other requests that I am not prepared to share just yet. But there's a funny story there. And you know, like she and I just talked about some logistics end of life you know, it'd be I'd sit with her she'd be sleeping and like, snoring or cute little angel way. And, like, you know, she open her eyes look at me and be like, so what are you gonna name your daughter just for you guys out there and don't have kids and I'm probably not having guests. And like, can we clarify like,

Alana Kaplan:

we both love our mom very much, but her snoring was not angelic.

Blair Kaplan Venables:

And anyway, I have videos of her snoring in the hospital. And it's funny also sound with you. But anyways, any listeners would come and be like, I can tell you're a cool mom because you have your bellybutton piercing like she was a cool mom. Like we had a really cool mom. And if you're listening to this, and you know her, she was rad. And like, I you know, like I was a rebel without a cause. But like I did pretty good in school. You know, I'm a B plus student and like, showed up and didn't skip and ever got arrested. And yeah, I had fun. And I was wild. But like my mom always knew where I was. And I like, you know, I wasn't like a shithead. And Alanna, I paved the way for basically everyone in my family because I'm the oldest grandchild and oldest cousin. Well, sort of the oldest cousin, just one other one in Toronto. Anyways, and we hung out and she looked at me and she's like, You and Alanna really need to be together and like you're the older sister. And this is going to be really difficult for you. And she just kept saying, like, I don't want to ruin Alana's birthday. So this is February. Alana's birthday is March 9, she's like, I don't want to die last birthday. Like you're not going to die at Alana's birthday. You're not going to die and Alana's birthday. And then Alanna came in. And then And then so now Lana and I are together and mom has moved from. She's moved from the ER, into a room in like, I don't know what the units called. But like a lot of people in palliative care, go to this unit where there's like, it's like a mixed medical unit in the hospital, but she did not have her own room. And it was, it was really interesting. So basically, Alon I'm going to pass the story back to you because now you're with me.

Alana Kaplan:

Yes. So now I'm with you. I get in Saturday night, close to midnight. And so Sunday A morning, we are spending the day at the hospital. We had to really find the humor in it. I mean, it's not hard for our family to find the humor in things like I would say we're a pretty giggly bunch of people. And so my mom had this roommate, we're not gonna say her name. But she was very old. I actually she fun fact about me, I look at the obituaries every day to see if this person is still alive because she was also in palliative. And she is still alive to my knowledge. And we, so she has this roommate, who is just like, she's also on pain medication, she

Blair Kaplan Venables:

has hearing aids and they kept falling out. So she couldn't hear. So she was very loud.

Alana Kaplan:

She was very loud. She just really wanted her son to be there. And so like she was, she would say some funny stuff. And so that helps me and Blair.

Blair Kaplan Venables:

We, she kept a mother to be sleeping. And like, the neighbor would would say something really ridiculous. And mom would like, open up her eyes and roll her eyes and rolling eyes. Yeah, she would roll her eyes. So like, even like our mom was like, when she would wake up was humorous about it.

Alana Kaplan:

Yeah, it was she also like, so this other roommate was much older, and so didn't have a cell phone. So I, I don't know if you remember back in the 90s. If you've ever had to deal with being in the hospital, you'd have to pay for a room phone. And so I guess this is what the roommates did. And so I have this distinct memory of the phone ringing. And being like, I can't talk like this isn't your phone. This isn't this isn't for you, like you have your cell phone right here. And so we found these humorous moments. Another one, that I think it's important to highlight these humorous moments just because it helped us get through these really difficult days. So another humorous moment. So backstory if my mom or mom didn't love bananas, because they gave her heartburn. She would always say that like, like, whenever I'd come into an approach, she'd buy bananas, but I'd be the only one to eat them. And if I didn't eat them, she'd be like, well, I can't eat them. They give me heartburn. So we, we were we bought snacks, because we were camping out there for hours.

Blair Kaplan Venables:

Like we literally would wake up, be at the hospital all day sometimes take a break and go back and like leave like at night.

Alana Kaplan:

And the only reason we would take a break is because we went to check on like the cats.

Blair Kaplan Venables:

And because like my my mom's brother and sister in law would come visit to and we can only have

Alana Kaplan:

Right, right because of COVID so I'm eating a banana. And Blair who who might not have known the backstory about the bananas, and the heartburn is like offer she's like wanting to offer mom so I'm like no, no, she won't want any she'll she hates bananas to give her heartburn. And with like the biggest eyes possible, because my mom couldn't speak gave me like the dirtiest look like how dare you say I don't like bananas. And so I'm like, What do you want a piece and she nodded. So we gave her a piece of banana I guess when you're dying of cancer doesn't matter if it gives you heartburn.

Blair Kaplan Venables:

I think that was the last the last thing she ate was a banana?

Unknown:

I think so.

Blair Kaplan Venables:

Okay, so now she has been in the hospital for a couple days. The second day, me and Alana are together at the hospital. She's basically sleeping the entire time. And my gut was telling me like that was probably one of her last days. And I remember we spent the day with her. She mostly slept the entire day. Like she did like the entire day. We got there and she was a little way but she slept the entire day. We left around nine and we got a call. I got a call at 130 and Elena was in a very deep sleep.

Unknown:

Should we Sorry to interrupt Should we just tell

Blair Kaplan Venables:

them? Well, it's up to you what you wanted to disclose about what so I use CBD for my anxiety CBD oil and I was prescribed a nighttime oil that has THC but I wasn't taking the nighttime oil because I had this fear of being called the middle of the night and not hearing my phone. Like I had a fear of like the hospital calling me so but Alanna to help her manage her anxiety was taking a small amount. It would knock her out and I wasn't sleeping. She wasn't sleeping. And so you At 130 in the morning, my phone rings and the nursing your mother's breath has labored we want to call the family in and it felt like my head exploded like like it's like all the blood rush to my brain. I felt like my brain was exploding. I like freaked out called our aunt uncle to pick us up I wake Alanna up I was like, my head's exploding. We got to go what's happening? It's happening in Atlanta was like in her deep sleep from her medicine and she's like, what's happening? I don't get it. Like just get dressed. And so like this kept happening and it's probably good that you had that like thing to take the edge off. And so like right out in the middle of the street or and going barely even stop the car. We hopped in, got to the hospital. And we were like just the high level it was a very intimate, like death isn't great, but it was a very beautiful passing on. We got to her room and it was me and Alanna my uncle Stuart Mandy Shira, we were all holding our mother meet Alanna. We're each on one side of her. And we were all holding hands. And we were together when she took her last breath. And her eyes were close to her last breath looked at Alanna and a tear Rolo for i. And it was it was, you know, like a very beautiful moment in a very terrible time. But we got to be together. But then we had to now deal with the fact that our mother died. And it was fucking hard. You know what, why don't we talk about this in next week's episode? Okay, so we're gonna tune back in. Yeah, thank you for joining me to part one of how don't know this is I mean, forever, it's going to be part like 100. But no, not for you guys in the Listening land. But so this was everything that was leading up to a mother passing away and experience. So we want to invite you to listen to next week's episode where we talk about what happened next. And this is really important, because we learned a lot of lessons, we learned a lot of really important lessons of what you can do now while you're alive to help your people in your life when you're gone. But also like how to support one another because I again, never thought my mom's gonna die. Like I knew one day I thought like many, many years, but it was not anything that crossed my mind. And we did a lot of lessons. And I really learned that a way for me to heal us turn my pain into purpose. And I bring Alanna along for that ride, and she shares what she's comfortable with. But we want to share with you what our life was like, after a mother died, the things we did and what the past year has been like for us as we've come up to the one year anniversary of her mother. So thank you for tuning in to this episode. Oh Alana wants to say something.

Alana Kaplan:

AOne more thing. And another thing because we alluded to this earlier, so I think it's important we come back to our experiences with Oh, right body as our mom was getting sick.

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