I have been blessed many times. My greatest blessing, though, has been having my mother survive cancer three times to be a part of my life for all of this time.

I could have lost her when I was an infant. It was bad then. It was thyroid cancer but, quite advanced. She had surgery and it honestly it didn’t look good. But, she is a fighter. She insisted on being home for my first Christmas, after being in the hospital for almost a month. She insisted she be released so that she wouldn’t miss it. I have seen pictures and she looks so thin, and so frail but, to me, she was just my mommy.

Growing up, I guess from what I overheard, I always knew that I couldn’t take her life for granted. And, I may not have been a perfect daughter but, I never have. I love her more than words can even express.

After beating cancer the first time, she had to deal with an adulterous and sometimes cruel husband. A terrible time to have to deal with at any time, let alone while trying to  deal with all of the emotional baggage that comes with being diagnosed at such a young age. My mom was even younger than I was. She was in her twenties.  I think at one point his excuse for starting an affair was “I thought you were going to die”. Really?

But, she soldiered on. Sure, she was upset. I remember her crying when I was young but, she picked herself up by her bootstraps and kept going. She kept the house, got a job and worked her way up from the mail room to a professional position. I remember stuffing envelopes at the kitchen table for her when I was a kid. She worked her ass off to make enough to take care of me and Chrissy. She never complained and she never, ever called in sick. We always had plenty to eat, clothes to wear. We were taught at an early age to use our imaginations and to always do our best. We were brought up to believe that we could do anything we set our minds to.

In addition to taking care of us and working full-time, my mother found the time to go out and enjoy herself, too. I remember watching her get ready to go out with friends.  At the time Olivia Newton John hot pants were in vogue and my mother could pull them off. I used to watch her do her make up as she listened to Donna Summer on the stereo.  I was so proud of her and wanted to be just like her when I grew up. She was strong, independent, beautiful and living her life to the fullest.

She eventually met my “father” and got remarried. She then had her third child, Lori. It was amazing to me to watch how wonderful and natural a mother she was to Lori when she was an infant. I certainly had a wonderful role model for when I had my children.  We were a complete family then and I was so lucky, once again, that my mother had picked a man who treated Chrissy and I as his own. No better or worse than his own birth child. I know that this is a rare gift. I don’t underestimate the blessing we received by getting a second chance at a father.

Unfortunately, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was in college. My worst nightmare had come true. It is amazing, though, that although it was a moment I had dreaded my entire life, we survived! I remember playing games with the family and laughing the night before her surgery. I am so lucky to have a family that just “gets on with it”. We don’t wallow. We just do.

Mom had her surgeries and luckily, no treatment other than a pill a day was needed. We had dodged another bullet. Again, what life lessons to be learned. The moment she could get up and around, she did. She was back to her life in the shortest possible time and that was that. Chin up and shoulders back. Life went on.  We were lucky she was alive. We knew it, she knew it, and we were all so thrilled that we looked toward the future rather than railing at God that she had been struck twice by this awful disease.

She was wonderful when I had my babies and a rock for me when I was diagnosed. I can’t imagine the heartache she must have felt that her child had to go through what I had to go through. Honestly, the way I got through a lot of my ordeal was to say to myself “at least it’s not my child”. She couldn’t do that. It was her child.

Imagine, at the same time, she started to have pain in her hip. It got worse and worse. By the time she went to the doctor, we were told that it was a recurrence of the cancer that had metastasized to her hip bone. I was proud and honored to go to every doctor visit with her and every treatment she had. I am also proud and elated to let you know that was in 2003 and she has been cancer free since her original treatment. She declared a miracle in the doctor’s office and he didn’t disagree. It has been 8 years. (Knock on wood , please!). In any case, she continues to live her life with vigor and happiness. She is passionate about her children and grandchildren, a wonderful friend, an exemplary professional and a true hero.

There have been so many people who I have known, both before and after I was diagnosed myself, who I know were inspired by my mother’s three time survival and her continued positive attitude and faith in God. Instead of feeling that she is unlucky to have had to battle this three times, she feels lucky that she has been able to beat it. Instead of feeling angry at a man who deserted her emotionally and physically when she needed him most, she has often said if it weren’t for him, she wouldn’t have my sister and I. She is just an amazing woman and I would never, ever, have been able to get as far as I have in my life without her influence, her example and her love.

Thank you, Mommy.