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I have spent my life subscribing to the philosophy of Alfred Lord Tennyson;

“Tis better to have loved and lost then to never have loved at all”

Telling myself this has gotten me through some very, very difficult times. I have espoused this same quote to my children, to people close to me  trying to make sense of the loss of a loved one and, also, to friends that were going through very difficult break-ups.

This Mother’s Day morning, I woke up and was hit with such a huge wave of sadness and despair. It’s Mother’s Day, I have no mother. She was taken from me at the way too young age of 66. I no longer have a grandmother, who really helped to raise me when my mother was sick with cancer for the first time. I was only an infant. This was my fourth year that I haven’t had either one of them on this day. I know it’s supposed to get easier and I suppose someday it will but, today, when I got up, it hurt like hell.

It’s really not fair to get a good gauge on how well I’m “moving on”. Back in January, I lost my cousin suddenly (the closest one to my age and, for that fact, probably my closest cousin).  We have been close my whole lie. We grew up together. Just a short day and a half later, my daddy passed away. He was a great man, dad and husband. Of course, I was devastated by both of these losses but, to be honest, I was not really able to grieve them properly. The reason for this is my beautiful cousin, Amy.

I call Amy my cousin because that’s what she was to me. She started dating my cousin, Neal, when they were in college so; I have known her for almost 30 years. We have spent countless hours together; at my house, at family weddings, wedding showers, baby showers, holidays, etc. Amy was diagnosed with breast cancer that had already advanced about two years ago.

Naturally, because of my history of breast cancer, I had a very active role in Amy’s life dealing wither her own diagnosis. I went with her to pick out her wig, before she started chemotherapy, spent hours upon hours talking to her and texting her and Neal; about treatment options, how they were feeling emotionally, how to treat each other and be there for each other during one of the hardest times that they will ever have in their lives, the best way to recover from the surgeries, and about just about every other thing you need to start fighting this devious disease.

Unfortunately for Amy, she had a diagnosis of triple negative breast cancer. One of the most aggressive and one of the hardest to treat. Amy, my love, had to treat almost constantly for the two years she battled. And battle she did. The treatments were brutal, as were the surgeries. She ended up with almost every side effect one can get from chemotherapy, including a very painful condition called neuropathy. When standard chemotherapy wasn’t working, we were all excited when she started a promising trial, only to find that that didn’t work, either. By the end, she was both emotionally and physically exhausted, in an extreme amount of pain, unable to breathe because the cancer had spread primarily to the lung and because of her very low immune system, brought on by the chemotherapy, was having problems with fluid in the lungs. Nothing about the entire ordeal was peaceful and there was no silver lining.

And, let’s not forget, in the midst of all of this, when she could barely walk across a room without needing oxygen, she lost her husband and her uncle (who she was very close to), within a day of each other. Being Amy, there she was, at both services and funerals, sitting with the utmost in grace and dignity, all the while most likely thinking that there was a very good chance that the next time she attended a funeral she would most likely be the one in the casket.

The hardest thing for me to witness during the whole awful week of deaths, funerals and tears was when we went to my cousin’s final resting spot at the Locust Valley Cemetery. I knew that just about a week earlier, Amy had picked this plot for herself – made all of the arrangements. I cannot imagine being 44 and knowing that I was so close to the end of my life that I had to make “final arrangements”. The very thought of it makes me shudder.

At Neal and my father’s services, quite a few people came up to me to tell me how great Amy looked. You see, Amy was a gorgeous woman by anyone’s standards, and even with the extreme pain and breathlessness she was experiencing, and being there to bury her beloved husband and an uncle she loved so very much, she still looked beautiful. I however, having known Amy for so long, could tell that she didn’t look like “herself” but, looked very, very sick.

So, my grief had, in a way, been put off. Placed on the back burner, if you will, due to the worry over Amy’s health, my steadfast promise to be there for her every step of the way, along with my participation in fundraisers for her treatment (which was not covered by insurance), etc.

Well, my beloved Amy passed away at 3:10 in the afternoon this Thursday. Now she is gone. When I woke up this morning it really hit me that they are all gone. I will never get another big bear hug from Neal (he was the best hugger), I will never be able to hear my father’s booming voice and I will never again see Amy’s beautiful smile and hear her lovely chuckle. Never. Ever. Never again. It is now a trifecta of grief and it hurts. It really hurts.

Even more tragic is the fact that my Aunt Angela loved Amy as her own. She was the daughter that she never had. They talked 2-3 times a day, every day. I used to make fun of them because they started to look alike and sound alike. They even had the same mannerisms. For all intents and purposes, my Aunt lost two children in the span of 4 months. Think about that for a minute. I cannot even imagine the pain and the absolute devastation of her heart. I speak with her every day. Every day she makes me so proud. Instead of lying in bed with the covers pulled all the way up, she is working, she is preparing for the birth of yet another grandchild this Wednesday and she is spending time with her family. She is crying – a lot, of course but, she is living. She is so incredibly strong. Then again, she is my mother’s sister. My mother happens to have been the strongest women I have ever known. I come from a long line of strong, courageous women.

And, of course, I was thinking of Amy’s mother today. She lost her little girl. Although she has a son, she does not have another little girl. Amy and Neal were not able to have children and, so, there is not even a little piece of Amy in the form of a grandchild for Amy’s mother to cling to and give her hope. The pain she is feeling is enormous. The huge hole in her heart as a result of Amy’s death will never be filled. My heart aches for her, in a primitive, real and raw way. I pray to God that somehow she is able to find some joy in the rest of her life. After watching her poor daughter suffer and pass away before her eyes will, no doubt, make this very difficult.

As painful as it was for me upon waking this morning, I can’t imagine the pain either of these lovely ladies felt when they opened their eyes. How does one feel when they wake up on Mother’s Day after just losing a child/children? There are no words in the English language to describe it. The really aren’t.

I was looking through some old photo albums for older pictures of Amy so that I could use them to post a status update about her passing. The digital pictures I have are all of Amy in her thirties and early forties, for the most part. I wanted to find some of her with her big eighties hair, with my babies, when she was in her twenties. I was successful in finding what I was looking for. While going through the albums, I came across the pictures from each Christmas spent at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.  There are scores of us, sitting around three tables that had to be pushed together to fit us all. Looking at these pictures, a thought struck me like a bullet through the heart. Six of these beautiful souls were now gone from this earth. They were here, the asked us to pass the gravy, they handed out the presents they had gotten for everyone, they loved, they laughed, they cried, they felt joy and happiness and sadness and they had hopes and dreams for their futures. With the exception of my grandparents, who were in their eighties when they passed, they were far too young to leave us. They had so much more life to live, so many more laughs to have, so many more tears to shed. And, no matter how hard I try, I am having a hard time making sense of it all. There are days that I really feel my faith being tested, like today.

But in looking at the pictures of us all around the table(s), I also saw the faces of all of the wonderful people I still have in my life. Would I give up the love of even one of them so that I will not have to suffer if I lose them?

The answer is a big, resounding NO.

Tragic things will always occur in life. Of that we can be sure. Tragic things will happen no matter how many people I love and accept love from. And, when those tragic things happen, it will be the people I love whose arms I will run to. It will be those people I will cry with and pour my heart out to.

And, it are these people I love – my family and friends – who inspire me, who make me laugh until my stomach hurts and tears are running down my cheeks. They are who I will share my hopes, dreams and fears with. Without them, I wouldn’t be the person I am today and I even dare say that without them, it is possible I wouldn’t still be on this earth. Their constant support and love are what helped me through my heath ordeals.  Like the song said, they loved me through it.

So, at the end of this Mother’s Day, which was so incredibly difficult for not only me, my aunt, Amy’s mother and the far too many women I know who spent their days without a mother, a grandmother, their children, and a woman who was like a mother to them, I say I am so very sorry for your loss and I wish their was something – anything – I could do to take even a small amount of your pain away. 

At the end of this Mother’s Day, my biggest hope is that you spent a beautiful day with your mother, the mother of your children, your grandmother, your aunts, your God Mothers and your God Children. But, not only do I hope that you spent the day with them, I hope that you took in every moment, that you hugged them and kissed them and that you told them how much you loved them. Because tragic things happen, and the truth is you never know what life will throw at you – they could be gone sooner than you think. If you didn’t do that today, it’s not too late. Tomorrow is another day. Just make sure that you do it because remember;

“Tis better to have loved and lost then to never have loved at all.”

Happy Mother’s Day.

xoxo

 

I only have glass. No warm body to hug. No sweet New York accent to discuss things with. No help with questions about how to deal with the boys and their issues and problems, no calling her to help her make me feel better when I am sick, when I land safely at a destination or when I am worried or just need to vent.

I only have a glass frame to kiss.

I can’t change anything about this. My mother is gone. She is passed away and there is nothing I can do to change that. I am working hard to forgive myself for not coming home to be there when she passed. I missed it by about fifteen minutes. I know that she didn’t want us to come home from our vacation to California, she didn’t want the boys to see her the way that she looked. Even her oncologist told me not to come home a day early, but that he would meet me at the hospital that day after I got home and we would figure out the plan for putting her back into remission – since obviously even the “easiest” chemo was clearly too much for her. But, the chemo was working. Her numbers were down.

Unfortunately, since it was an infection that ultimately took her life (peacefully, thank God), there was nothing the oncology department could do. Their treatment was working. It was up to the infectious disease doctors to work on her issues. Again, unfortunately, they just couldn’t get her vitals back to normal and her infection under control. There was a tear somewhere from being so sick that week from the chemo (who knows – it might have been the stomach, the intestines, etc.). In any case, since she was so uncomfortable, they decided to sedate her to do the scan to find out where the tear was. Before she went under, she was giving my sister, Chrissy, instructions on what to do on her desk at work. Luckily for her, she never woke up from that surgery.

You see, mommy wasn’t afraid to die. She believed that she would be would God, and Jesus, and her parents and all of the others that she had lost. What she was worried about was dying from a long, drawn out cancer death. One of the last words she heard was from her oncologist telling her that her tumor marker numbers were going down (that’s a good thing). She gave him a thumbs up from her hospital bed. She went under happy that the chemo was working and she never woke up. She was blessed by God (perhaps because she was such a wonderful person who helped so many with her story of survival – remember, Mommy had cancer three times). I am so, so happy for my mom that she passed the way she did.

But, again, I have a lot of guilt. I was with her for every single doctor visit, every scan, all of her blood work. I was even her health care proxy so that I was the one that the doctor called with all of her results so that I could tell her in a way that would keep her calm and positive. And, I wasn’t there when she died. I have nightmares about my mother where she is mad at me; it could be for something as small as spilling a drink (which was SO unlike my mother) to really bad ones where she was begging me to help her and I was unable to even lift her.

I also have guilt that I put her through MY cancer. Now, obviously, that is irrational. Still, I hate that I made her worry and have stress that may have made her cancer worse – it’s a fact that real stress can lower your immune system and have whatever disease it is come creeping back. I’m working on that, too but, it’s a work in progress.

Then again, I’m Italian. I guess guilt comes with the territory.

But, I had a wonderful conversation with my friend Inez yesterday. This wonderful woman took a big chunk of her day to come up to my office to talk to me about what she had been through and how it related to certain things that she had experienced in her life. She came under the guise of talking about work. LOL. I got teary a few times but, it was something I needed. I appreciate all of the support I get on social media and from my friends and family but, only those who have been through similar situations can really understand what such profound loss feels like. Inez gets it.

One of the things I got out of our talk yesterday is that I need to try, as hard as I can, to start compartmentalizing that grief. I have responsibilities; to my husband, to my sons, to my company, to my friends. It’s a lot of responsibility but, I’m glad to have them because it also goes to show that I have so much in my life that is so important to me. So many people who love me, who depend on me and who want me to ask them for help when I need it. Inez didn’t need to be told, she could just tell; from my facebook posts, from my blogs posts, etc.

You see, I not only lost my mother, I lost my biggest cheerleader, my best friend, my confidante, my mentor and my love. It is a loss too large to be able to put into words that work sufficiently to describe it. But, I have to take my mom’s own advice and get up every morning and instead of focusing on what I lost, I need to look around and “count my blessings”.

I hope that this post helps all of my friends, and the people I don’t even know, to realize that you are not alone. I still pick up the phone to call her and realize that she’s not there. I will stare at a picture of her and take in every millimeter of her face, lest I forget exactly what she looked like. I even thought that moving into our new building would help, because I never worked there with her but, ironically, I have a harder time there because she never worked there. It’s just another part of my life that has changed dramatically.

I have good days, and I have bad days. The worst, as I pointed out in my last blog, are when I am not feeling well. I feel like a five year old but, if I could say it out loud it would be “I want my mommy!” as I stamp my feet on the floor.

I am so very grateful and happy for my friends who still have their moms. I look at pictures of their birthday cakes; some are turning 70, some 75, some 80 and some even 86 or 87. I want to give you some advice. I know that you love your moms, and that you are grateful for them but, a minute can change everything. My mom taught me that. To not be jealous of what your friends and family have, but to rejoice in their happiness and accomplishments.

To all of you out there that are blessed enough to still celebrate birthdays with your parents – kiss them, hug them, call them every day. I did. If you haven’t so far, that’s okay (and probably normal). Most people go through life not worrying about losing a parent. But, it’s not too late to start. I am eternally grateful that I did those things, however, and the reason I did was because my mom had been battling cancer my entire life so, I didn’t take one second with her for granted. That was a gift from God.

I am strong. I have more love in my life than I ever thought possible. I have been blessed with so many things, along with the bad times, since the time I was very young. I seem to get along with people well and, so, have lots of friends, I have my beautiful boys and never had to go through any fertility problems, I have my supportive and understanding husband, who is by my side every step of the way. I think I am a generous and giving person, both materially and emotionally, and it just comes naturally to me to want to help others. I know in my heart that my mother is proud of me. This is so important and one of the reasons that I will be okay.

But, the most important thing I took from my talk with Inez yesterday is that my mother is all around me, she sees what I am doing and she is supporting me from wherever it is she is now.

So, yes, it’s true. Now all I have is glass. I kiss one of her pictures every day and all I get in return in the cold, smooth feel of the glass. I can’t smell her, I can’t feel her, I can’t do anything but, kiss that glass. The difference is, now I do it with my eyes closed. I can smell her perfume, I can hear her laugh, I can feel her there, kissing me back. She is with me, always. I just have to remember that.

Thank you, Inez, for being there for me. And thank you, my faithful readers, for giving me an outlet for all of my feelings; whether they be heartache or joy. You have all touched my life in ways you can’t imagine, and I love you for it.

Peace and Love to you always.

~Nicole

They say that you always remember your first love – there’s something so special about it – something that can never be reproduced.

My first love loved me before I was even a being. She loved the very thought of me. She dreamed about me before I even came to be. Dreams of how I would look, what gender I would and what my personality would be like.

My first love loved me even more after she laid eyes on me. My blue eyes gazing into her kind brown eyes. It was love at first sight. She has told me that there was nothing like it. The euphoria, the feelings that you never thought you could feel. The love that is so all encompassing, bigger than you ever thought it could be. Once we fell in love, our love was the center of both of our worlds.

They say that you experience real intimacy for the first time with your first love. No truer words have ever been spoken. The affection, the warmth, the thousand sweet kisses that covered me like a warm blanket. She tickled my back to put me to sleep, she hugged me and kissed my “boo boos”, she climbed into my home made living room tents and got under the covers with me to watch “Sesame Street” through the afghan holes. I will never forget the smell of her, or her face when she looked at me with so much love.
You take so much pride in your first love. I was, for sure, her pride and joy. Your first love is always trying to make you be the best version of yourself. Mine was always teaching me, encouraging me, pushing me to do my best and be the best me I could be.

In a good relationship, you learn from your first love. Mine taught me about perseverance – I would have to work hard to get what I wanted and needed and if I worked hard enough, and wanted it badly enough, I could get it. Mine taught me to be self reliant. No matter how many people I have in my life who love me, she told me, your best friend is always in the mirror. She taught me that it is ok to stumble and make bad decisions, as long as you pull yourself up by your bootstraps, dust yourself off, and keep going.

A first love gives you the confidence to feel like you are good enough for someone to love you as much as they do. I could not have felt more loved. No matter what struggles we had, we stuck by each other and weathered them together. We knew that we were there for each other, no matter what. And that we would go to the ends of the earth for each other.
Most importantly, your first love should teach you about unconditional love. Mine did. There is nothing I could have done that would make her not love me. Ever. And vice versa.

And so, for all of the reasons above, you never forget your first love. I think it’s clear by now that my first love was my mother, Elizabeth. She was the best first love I could ever have hoped for. And, on the one year anniversary of her passing, it becomes even more clear to me that all of the Hallmark “First Love” sentiments work well for me and mommy. The way she treated me was actually a wonderful model for the loves I had, subsequently, in my life. And, the love that I ultimately ended up with and created my family with.
Unfortunately, losing your first love is one of the most difficult things in the world. I have to say, this has been the hardest year of my life. However, because of the things my first love taught me, I kept on living. I went to work, celebrated holidays, nights out with friends and spent lots of time with my family, as she instilled in me how important that is. I feel such pride and happiness when people tell me how lucky we are as a family that we are so close. I don’t take it for granted.  I’ve tried to conduct myself in a way that would make her proud. I try to treat people with respect and love, as she did. She empathized with me, and I carry on that trait and empathize with others.She taught me about fairness and justice and, although it is not always easy, I try to always do the just thing.

I thank you, my mother, my first love. You have helped to shape me into a person who I really like. When I look in the mirror, I do see my best friend. As a bonus, I have many friends that love and care about me. I give you all of the credit.

I know that you are no longer with me on this earth however, I feel you in my soul. Just like the literature says you do feel about a first love. You will always be my first love and you will always be more special to me than you can ever even imagine.
Please continue to shower us with your love and wisdom. So many of us still need it. I like to think that you are even more powerful there than you were down here with us. You have a special place with God, because of the person you are. Even the way you passed, so peacefully and without suffering, makes me think that you are one of God’s favorites. To have Stage IV cancer and be told before by your oncologist before you are put under anesthesia that your numbers are down (which obviously made you happy), only to never “wake up” from that anesthesia, is a true gift from God. You never had to have that dreaded conversation that most cancer patients have to have about “how long you have”. You were never told to “get your affairs in order”. You never had to wither away in a bed/hospice while we watched by your bedside. It was fast, it was relatively painless, it was what you deserved.
The outpouring of love that your family received today is also a testament to how much you were loved and are missed. You really had no idea while you were on this earth how loved you were – I know that you feel it now. So many people were thinking of you today, my love, and wish you could have stayed with us a little bit longer.
So, you will always be my first love, as I was yours. I will always remember you and you will have the most special place in my heart carved out for you, always. I love you, of course, but, it is so much more than that. I’m going to  keep some of  those feelings to myself because if there is another thing that first loves have, it’s some secrets. Our are good ones, Mommy.

Until we meet again, I hope your are playing Bingo Bash and winning every hand, I hope that there is a casino that you can go to, I hope that you can see Big Brother (its’ such a good season!), I hope that they have an endless supply of Merit 100s and a nice glass of red wine for you at night, Knowing how much you loved to work, I hope God gave you a great assignment up there.  I know you are visiting us each day, I hope that you are catching up with your family, and most of all, I hope that you are remembering your first love, as I remember mine.

.
Forever,
Nicole

Me and Mom

Happy Fourth of July in heaven, Mommy. I miss you so much that there are no words to do justice to the way I feel justice. I know that this was one of your favorite holidays. You were so proud of your father, the Marine, and how he fought valiantly at Iwo Jima. You were also proud of the fact that Al followed in his footsteps and enlisted in the Marines, as well. One of my favorite pictures of you is when we went to see Al graduate at Parris Island and you and his mom are standing with him. You have a big straw hat on with the eagle, globe and anchor emblem and you look so proud and happy. I inherited that hat and am so grateful to have it.

So, if you were here with us you would have bought the boys Old Navy 4th of July T-Shirts (Al bought one, I didn’t have the heart.) Your nails would have been painted red, white and blue, as would your clothes. You would have baked some sort of sweet concoction decorated with stars and stripes.

It’s not nice today in New York. I have to say I’m glad. I feel as though the world ( or whoever you touched in it ) is mourning your loss. I always knew that your story had inspired many people who were diagnosed with this terrible disease called cancer. As an aside, whenever someone says the word “cancer”, I think of how we laughed when we went to see “The Help” with Aunt Carol and Angie (I think?). Anyway, is was set in the deep south and when they would say “cancer” they would whisper it as though it was a bad word. For some reason, we thought that was really funny. But, I digress.

What I was saying was that I knew that you inspired and touched so many people with your survival story but, It was only after you passed that I really realized just how many people loved you. Deb, for example, who was your client, and who you really respired and respected, felt the same way about you. I hope you hear it when I read out loud her posts about missing you and how she felt a special bond with you because of your similar backgrounds. I am happy to report that you two really are alike, As you know, she suffered the loss of her beloved husband and, instead of crawling under the covers, she is spending time with friends, vacationing, and even taking surfing lessons. See, Mom, she loved you, too! She felt the same way about you that you felt about her.

And poor Aunt Phyllis.. I’ll never forget how devastated she was when I called to let her know that you had passed away. I think she had the most devastating reaction. She screamed, cried, and couldn’t believe it. She loved you so very, very much. She calls me, Chrissy, Lori and Daddy to check in on us but, we invariably start to cry, because she does, too.

So many of our friends have let us know that they felt so welcome in our home. Trish, I think (or maybe it was Liz Turner) was saying that they felt like misfit toys and that they were happy at your house, spending time with you and that you were compassionate and caring and non judgmental.

Lorenzo has a picture of you, Jack, Mike and him as his profile picture. Sometimes I think he misses you almost as much as Mike and Jack do. And, God, do they ever. It’s so difficult to see them tear up when they look at your picture or when they tell a story or relate a memory. They are doing well, though. They make the honor roll at school, they have wonderful friends and good heads on their shoulders. Thank you for helping me make them into the young men that they are. There is no doubt that you were instrumental in that, Mommy. They have both told me that they felt as though you were a second mother to them. They are so lucky to still have Chrissy and Lori. They are wonderful Aunts and influences on the boys. Everyone teases us because when one of us goes somewhere, we all go. We are about as close a family as you can get. That is because of you also, Mommy. And, we truly LIKE each other and not just love each other. We make each other laugh, like always. We may be a little bawdy at times (like a certain other family on TV that I get made fun of because I watch) but, we ALWAYS have each others’ backs. And, we always will. There is nothing that can tear us apart, ever. Bible – LOL for the people who got the TV reference above.

I am so proud of your work ethic, your strength and your true generosity with everyone (and in many different ways.)

So, I’m glad it’s raining on your favorite holiday – which also happens to be the last one you ever celebrated. As you would often say we were so lucky to live in “the best state in the best country in the entire world!”. I spent the day reflecting on how wonderful you were and, although I don’t live in a state of constant melancholy, I think to spend a day to reflect on how wonderful you were and how much we miss you now and again is perfectly alright.

But, don’t worry. I am your daughter through and through. Tomorrow there will be a big BBQ with all of the regulars. We always talk about you at these events and we laugh – not cry. I do feel bad for Maria – she is still a little lost without you at the parties. You can see how much she misses you at all of the holidays. I love her for it.

So, God Bless America, God Bless my Mommy in heaven (who was one of the proudest Americans I have ever known) and God Bless all of you fighting for our country, fighting your own battle with any life threatening disease and God Bless the family and friends who are there for you, helping you fight for your lives.

In my Mommy’s honor, live your life to the fullest – no matter how difficult your situation may be. Do as much as you are able to. If you can work, work. If you can’t, volunteer, if you can’t get out of the house, do it on the phone. If you can still function “normally” then, take any opportunity you can to help others, to see friends, to work, to love.

Count your blessings, both big and small and a very, very Happy Fourth of July to all!

So, I have to go to my oncologist next month – our oncologist. I have to call and make the appointment. Of course, I am filled with dread.

You see, it was something we did together – this cancer thing. We were diagnosed a year apart and every single viist we made to the oncologist was together. As if there is safety in numbers.

We had our little routine. She would pick me up, wearing pink or red (they made her feel “healthier”).  She would be sipping on a water (which she despised) because it made it easier for them to find a vein for her bloodwork. We would chat. About work, the kids, minor annoyances and things we were looking forward to. During the fifteen to twenty minute car ride, she told me no less than two or three times that “she hated” this shit and that the only time she felt like she had cancer was when she had to to go the doctor.

In any case, aside from surgeries and scans, we were on a schedule of once a month for her. I would also be seen twice a year (every January and July), as I probably will be for the rest of my life.

Like me, Mom had a tendency to talk a lot when she was nervous. Sometimes her face with involunarily tick, under her right eye. It was hard to see her like that but, I wouldn’t be anywhere else. We were so blessed that for ten years, things were always generally good for her.  Every positive thing that the doctor pointed out I was sure to repeat over and over. If the doctor said something like “The spot is small and has not changed since last year”, I would say “See, Mommy? That’s great. Small and unchanged! Remember, cancer is only dangerous if it is growing! That’s awesome!”.

So, most of the time, we left happy and relieved. We would go through Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts and get some coffee. Then would stop at the Northgate Shopping Center. First, we would go to the stationary there. We would get Yankee candles, something for the boys, a gift we might need. After that, we would venture into the deli (two roast beefs on rye, please! Mayo, lettuce, salt and pepper!). Then, Mom would stop at the fresh fruit store and get something to bring back to the office.

The chatting was much more relaxed on the way back home (or the the office, really). As she drove, I called Dad, Al, Chrissy and Lori and gave them the low down. I could hear relief in their voices.

That was that until the following month. My mother was easy but, she was a stickler for not talking about the cancer in between the visits. She would take her pill every day and I would take mine and that was that. We didn’t “live cancer”, we just lived.

And, now I am living without her. And so, it is time for another first. Yeah, we did the first Labor Day BBQ, the first day of school, pumpkin picking, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas. We did ok. This is different, though. This is something that was just ours. No one elses.

I’m afraid to go without her. I will sit in the waiting room, where we sat together for ten years, all by myself. We shared such heightened emotions in that room – unless you’ve experienced that kind of fear and anticipation, there is no way to put it into words that work. I will miss those looks that used to upset me. The looks from the other patients that said “look at that mother and daughter – how terrible that they are both seeing the doctor”. I will miss holding her bag when she went in to get her finger pricked for the CBC.  “Here, Cole. Just hold this for a minute.” It will be sad when they call just my name and not “Nicole and Elizabeth”. I’m sure that when the doctor sees me for the first time since she passed, he will hug me and I will lose it. And, the same thing with the nurses. They all loved her, of course, like everyone else I know.

We would eventually be walking the opposite way – out of the waiting room into the hallway – and freedom from that hell for another month. And, invariably, we would be on a bit of a high. Our doctor gave my mother (and, by default me and the rest of my family), the greatest gift these past ten years. He honored her wishes over being worried about covering his ass. You see, my mother, although she had Stage IV, was in remission most of the ten years she lived with it. When it did rear it’s ugly head, however, she did not want to know where the spots were, how many there were, or any other details. All she wanted to know was what she had to do to fight it. And, that’s all he told her. He would switch her meds, make her come in between the monthly visits, schedule a scan but, he never, ever scared her. He made her feel safe and well taken care of – and she was. He didn’t even scare her at the end, when he knew it was progressing. He explained that it was, and that he would have to change her meds and be more aggressive but, he never made her feel helpless or hopeless.

That was the best gift her could ever have given us. My mother was spiritual and she was good. It wasn’t that she was terrified of dying. She was afraid of suffering, of dying from cancer. We are so very blessed that she was blissfully unaware of what was going on inside of her, even when she passed. I truly believe that it was divine intervention, because of how good she was and how many people she helped and inspired, that she passed that way.

So, as I’ve said at least a hundred times on this blog alone, I am my mother’s daughter. I will call the doctor Monday, I will go to the doctor next month, I will ask for prayers and I will hope for the best. I will get through this first, too. I will then, in honor of my mother, go home and try not to think about cancer until my next appointment, six months from now.

And maybe, just maybe, I will stop for a roast beef on rye on the way home.

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It’s been a long time. Almost four months. It feels like an eternity.

Do you know that we had a BBQ for Labor Day? It was only about two weeks after you passed and it was very sad but, we had a BBQ. I made the flank steak you loved so much on the Fourth of July – the one with the pineapple juice and the onions.  It was delicious. The kids swam and the adults mostly talked about you.

Do you know that we went to Chrissy’s for her Fortieth Birthday a month after you passed and had a party? We were all there and so were her closest friends. We saw her new deck (which you would love) and we sang and ate cake and missed you. But, we had a party, because it was Chrissy’s Fortieth Birthday.

Do you know that a bunch of my girlfriends, Lori, Chrissy and I went to the vineyards at the beginning of September. You weren’t even gone a whole month, I don’t think. Mimi came, too. We all thought about you all day. You would have LOVED it. We had a limo and we drank and we laughed and talked about old times. We had a delicious lunch and we have lots of priceless pictures of us smiling and hugging and loving each other. Chrissy had a hard time that day, because she knew how much you would have loved it, but, she came and we got her to smile and laugh, too.

Do you know that almost exactly two months after you passed, we flew to the new condo with friends and went to Halloween Horror Nights. I was able to spend time with friends that I have had since childhood (the usual suspects – Randy, Mike Eger, EJ, Muzzy). The power of old friendships is something that I am always grateful for. I don’t need to explain to them how close our family was, the history, etc. I can just be me. We laughed a lot on that trip. Chrissy did, too. She really laughed, for the first time. It was hard to pass the luggage carousel that we were at when Daddy called to tell us you had just passed away. We all cried then, especially Jack. But, you know what? It was still worth it. We laughed more than we cried.

Do you know that we went pumpkin picking at the end of October? You had been gone a little over two months by then. We took Lorenzo with us and we watched Gavin run around and play on the wood playground and we ate roasted corn and bought useless jams and jellies that are delicious but, we won’t eat. We took lots of pictures and we posted them to Facebook and we picked out pumpkins, of course. We also apple picked.   I didn’t cry until Lorenzo said, “It’s sad without Mimi but, Gavin makes it fun..”  I only cried for a minute, though, because then I had to make the kids stop their giggle fest over a green pumpkin they found and named the “pickle pumpkin”.

Do you know that we went to the annual Halloween Party at the beginning of November? The boys were sad that the tradition of you sleeping here that night wouldn’t happen but, they slept at Daddy’s house and had a great time. And, so did Chrissy, Lori and I. Again, our friends and laughter saw us through. I don’t remember any tears that night, as a matter of fact.

And, do you know that we went to Chrissy and Jay’s for Al and Jay’s birthday? You were gone almost three months by then. Chrissy had gone to the psychic Glen Dove and we listened to the tape. We cried as we listened. Most of the things he said seemed spot on but, you know me, your daughter, the skeptic. I doubted even when he said “who is Nicole?” out of nowhere. After we cried, we sang, ate cake and laughed. Gavin ran around singing and the boys, as always, made him happy.

I went to Daddy’s house the day before Thanksgiving and cooked. Daddy picked up the fresh turkey and when I got to his house the next day, it smelled like heaven. He cooked it perfectly. Although we didn’t take down your decorations or your “Thankfulness Tree” (a tree where every year, we write something on a construction paper leaf what you are thankful for and add it to the tree), we did decorate with some stuff we bought at Party City and we made every single dish that we usually have. We took pictures and we ate until we were stuffed. Lori and I were talking about how well we did and how proud we were of ourselves as we were doing dishes when suddenly Daddy’s new sink crapped out and I had water all over my feet. Luckily it was fixed in just a few minutes by Jay but, we joked that it was you saying, “Oh, really? You did that good without me? I’ll show you!”. And, we laughed. Aunt Carol and Uncle Mike and the kids came, Amy and Neal came. There was a home filled with love. Your home, filled with love, like there is every holiday.

Yesterday was my first birthday without you and, I got up, I got dressed and did my make up, I took Chief Brody to the vet and then, treated myself to a massage and a new bag (well, Al treated me to that). We had a nice quiet dinner at home and watched movies as a family. I cried on and off but, I did more than just “get through” my day. I lived it. We are having cake for Lori and my birthday this Sunday at Lori’s.

I have been having a hard time trying to think of a way to put into words how I am feeling after your sudden and tragic death.  As you know, you are my hero, my inspiration and my role model. You are everything I aspire to be. Just because you are not here with us anymore doesn’t mean that those things are still not true.

Don’t get me wrong, there are days where I can cry for hours if I let myself but, you know what Mommy? I don’t really do it. Everyone grieves in their own way, so they say, and, it’s not for me. I break down, talk to Al or call one of my many friends, daddy or one of my  sisters, they talk me through and I move on.

I wrote this to you so that you would know that we honor you every day, not in how much we cry or in how sad we are but, in what we DO.  You were so vibrant and full of life. You have left a void in this world that is felt by so many. But, we think of what YOU would do and try to emulate that. Because you had some secret, some magic, that made you such a happy, fulfilled person in spite of all of your trials and tribulations. Your life was not always easy – it was often more than most people could take- but, you lived with such wonderment and took joy in so many things, many of them little things.

So, that’s what we do. We have a BBQ on Labor Day, we see friends, we work, we laugh, we carry on your traditions. Chrissy, Lori, Daddy and I are on the phone constantly, talking to each other, lifting each other up. We’ve never been closer.

I have such a large circle of friends because of the person I am, I hope. I am the person I am in large part because of you. Like so many other things, I thank you for that.

I hope you are proud of us, Mommy.

I am proud of us.

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Me and Mom

Thank you all so much for coming out to honor my mother. Whether you called her Mom, Liz, Elizabeth, Betty Ann, Aunt Betty, Miss Betty or “Toots”, like my dad, you are all here because she touched you in some way.

People often talk about my strength and I am quick to tell them, “Well, if you were in my shoes you would do the same thing, too. You do what you have to in order to survive.” In all honesty, though, I’m not sure if that is entirely true.  a huge part of the reason I am the way I am is because of my mother.

Mommy tried to shield Chrissy and me from the crappy stuff that was going on at home when we were very small. She was a mama bear with her cubs and we were her first priority, no matter how traumatic her own situation was, whether it be the collapse of her first marriage or her first serious bout with cancer when I was just an infant.

My mom knew when we were hurting and needed extra TLC. It was okay to cuddle in her bed to watch Rocky on the little black and white television. Bed times were not a priority – making sure we felt loved and secure was. It was also important to her that we loved each other with all our hearts. Anyone who knows us knows that we are referred to as NicoleandChrissy, as if it is one word. We are as close as two sisters can be. Mom taught us to stick together, and we have all of these years.

My mom picked a stepfather that treated us as though we were her children, every bit as much as his own. Poor Daddy, a single man suddenly had not only a wife but, two ready-made children who, as I mentioned earlier, had been through a lot and were a little lacking in the strict discipline department. He is our dad. We love him as though he is a our natural father. She picked a good man, a solid man and she loved him. That would be my father, Bob. When it didn’t look like Mommy was going to make it, Daddy as assuring her that he would look after his girls, all three of them. He loves us all the same. His heart is breaking for us and ours for him. Daddy and Mommy were soul mates. They just fit, like two pieces of a puzzle. Daddy would go to the moon if he had to get her a soda or a pack of butts. He would do anything in the world for her.

In addition to giving us a wonderful father, together they gave us a beautiful baby sister – go ahead and ask her – she’ll tell you how beautiful she is. We adored her! With her shock of black hair and adorable little smile, always making us laugh, always making us smile. Lori got older. Chrissy and I unclasped our hands for a moment and took hers. Since then, we’ve been a circle of three.

We had a fun mom We were allowed to mess up the house to build forts. We were allowed to pull up the basement rug to roller skate. our kitchen became a Lego Land, with no less than a thousand Legos in every corner of the room. We could make a mess painting. We could have friends over at the house whenever we wanted, and my mom made everyone feel welcome. We certainly didn’t have the biggest house but, there were always kids there. It was a warm and welcoming place.

We would spend lots and lots of time together with mom. And, she was PRESENT.  During the times that she was struggling to get by as a single mother, worrying about things we had no concept of, she was LISTENING when we talked, PAYING attention when we put on our plays and CONCENTRATING when she read to us for hours. Again, she was not just there but PRESENT. I can’t stress how important this was.

My mom always had an awesome ability to make the best out of every situation. Chrissy and I loved to watch her get ready to go out with friends while she blasted her Donna Summer music in the house. I remember how pretty she was with her dancing clothes on. I was so proud that I Had a mother that didn’t just sit and cry in a corner when she got divorced. She refused to settle for the fact that she was going to be sad for the rest of her life. She was young, she was beautiful and she was entitled to be happy. What a wonderful thing to show your little girls. What a beautiful example to set.

My mom was also fair. When we messed up, we paid for it but , she picked her battles wisely. She was, after all, so wise. She really tried to think about how whatever we were going through was affecting us and cut us slack accordingly. I always felt like she had our backs. We came first, no matter what.

My mom also taught us to have a wonderful work ethic. I can’t remember a time when she wasn’t working hard to make sure that her family was provided for. I remember helping her address envelopes at the kitchen table when I was just a kid. She would get us ready for school, work all day, help us with our homework, get dinner made and everything prepared for the next day. After that, she would take all of her paperwork out and work at the kitchen table until all hours of the night. I was truly in awe of her. She seemed to never tire. She worked her way up from the mail room to a professional position due to sheer will, hard work and determination.

Anyone who knows my mom, all of you here, knows she was a true patriot. WE would make fun of her because almost everything she owned had some sort of flag or red, white and blue on it. Her dad served at Iwo Jima and she had a special affinity for the Marines. She was especially proud of my husband, Al, who followed in my grandpa’s footsteps. She loved all of her son-in-laws deeply. She loved to sit on the front deck that Jay built her and enjoy the beautiful trees that Al planted for her. Chris and Mommy loved their talks about finances (LOL) and their trips to Mohegan Sun. She treated them as if they were her own, and she loved them all very much.

My parents sacrificed so that we could have. I found out as I got older, and by accident, things that they had done that I hadn’t even known about so that I could have something I wanted, so that I coud go to the college I wanted to, to that we always felt financially secure. They sacrificed and did for us . And not only did they not expect anything in return except for our best efforts, they never even let us know the sacrifices they made. They truly were an awesome team and wonderful parents.

My mom taught me strength. The first time she was sick, I was too little to understand how bad it was. We were so blessed that she survived and that she was able to be there for me and my sisters. The second time she got sick, I was in college and just devastated. We all were. Despite the fact that it was happening to her, she comforted us. Now I know. I know how scared she was, how she probably felt like screaming and yelling and crying and railing at God but, she stayed calm, and she comforted us. And, then, when she recurred right after I was diagnosed, she took care of me. She was in so much pain but, she cleaned my house and she watched my babies and she talked to me and loved me. She handled the loss of her own parents with grace and class. I hope that I can do the same now.

My mother was selfless. She would give you her last dime if you needed it. She was a wonderful grandparent to her grandkids. She would think nothing of breaking out into a full clog dance in the middle of a store, singing a song at the top of her lungs, if it would make one of her beloved grandchildren laugh. My oldest son told me just the other day that he will have his kids in his twenties just so that his kids can know his “Mimi”. They love her so much. It’s palpable when she is in a room with them. I am so sorry for him that his wish will not come true.

As much as she loved us, her grandchildren were the real loves of her life. She was so proud of all of them and each of them had their own special relationship with her Michael was her first grandson. They loved to talk about anything and everything under the son. They had such a special bond. Jack she called her “comfort baby”. He was the only thing that could make her happy when I was sick. And Gavin, her baby. She taught him everything. She used to say that the kids were so smart because of their Mimi. None of us had anything to do with it.

I always think “What would my mother do?” when I am faced with a situation where I am unsure. It’s a true gift.

My mother’s story of strength and courage has helped to make the lives of other people who were diagnosed with cancer a little easier. She gave them hope and courage. She was a tremendous example of how to live life with a serious disease. For mom, it was not about just going through the motions. My mommy lived, as you all know.

Mom used to say that Chrissy, Lori and I were so different and that each of us had some of her in us. WE have every intention of sticking together and hope that together we can be half the woman she was on her own.

IN addition to her trials and tribulations, she was blessed with a wonderful family, a loving husband, children who adored her and grandchildren that idolized her. I am not sure how we will navigate through this life without her, but I am confident that the strength and courage she has passed to us will not end with the physical loss of her on this earth but, will live on in us through her spirit.

IN the end, Mommy didn’t suffer. She was at peace. I have no doubt that we will meet again. She will be as beautiful and loving as always. Until then, I am saying goodbye to her from Daddy, Al and me, Michael and Jack, Chrissy and Jay, Lori and Chris and Gavin. And, of course, from Hope, Barkley and Brody.

We love you, Mimi, and we always will.

I’m unsure of the author of this poem, but my cousin Cathy sent it to me today, and I think it will bring us all a little comfort:

“I am standing upon the seashore.

A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts

For the blue ocean.

She is an object of beauty and strength.

I stand and watch her until at length

She hangs like a speck of white cloud

Just where the sea and sky come

To mingle with each other.

Then someone at my side says:

“There, she is gone!”

Gone where?

Gone from my sight. That is all.

She is just as large in mast and hull

And spar as she was when she left my side

And she is just as able to bear  her

Load of living freight to her destined port.

Her diminished size is in me, not in her.

And just at the moment when someone

At my side says, “There, she is gone!”

There are other eyes watching her coming

And other voices ready to take up the glad

Shout;

“Here she comes!”

And that is dying.

Mommy, go in pace. Your parents, your friends, cousins and everyone that you have loved who have gone before you are waiting. They will keep you until we meet again.

My mom’s favorite expression was “county your blessings”. She certainly did. To honor her memory, I ask that you all go home tonight and do just that.

I love you, Mommy. And I always will.

All of Us

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There is always hope.

I know a few people now on their own personal journeys through a health crisis. I hope that they believe me when I say that hope and belief in the future is so important to not just recovery but, happiness as well.

I remember crying in my doctor’s office when I was “staged” as 2a. Cancer staging goes from 0 to 4 and, of course, I was hoping for a 0 or at most a 1.  But, there I was, stage 2a. You can never go back a stage, either. You can only be unfortunate enough to move on to a further stage. It’s just one of those things.  When he told me 2a, I felt like he was telling me I was halfway to an early demise.

I was lucky, though, in my choice of doctors. Well, except for that a-hole that I mentioned in my last blog and that I’ve spent enough time and negative energy on this week so, I won’t mention him again.

Anyway, my beautiful, caring love of an oncologist put it to me this way (and, believe me, this is not an exact quote – it was many years ago – but, it’s close enough that you’ll get the drift of it).

“Nicole, I have had people in my office with a stage 0 cancer who should have gone on to live for many, many years and they don’t survive the year. I also have appointments today with stage 4 cancer patients who have been coming to see me for twenty years and are still going strong. We will do every available treatment there is and then, when you are finished, I want you to go and live.”

Those words were so powerful to me.  They gave me such hope in a desperate, terrifying time.

I also am going to now plead with everyone going through this to stay away from statistics. First of all, you are most likely getting your information off of the internet so, you have no idea where the statistics are coming from, if they are from a reliable source, if they are accurate or if they are up to date.

Here is an example of something that might strike terror into the heart of some poor soul, just back from the doctor’s office, just diagnosed, who has not yet learned that if you go roaming around on the internet looking for things to make you feel better, you will probably end up making yourself feel so much worse.  This is  completely made up example, by the way, and is in no way based on any facts.

“Twenty percent of people diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer will survive longer than five years”

Now, the implication is that the other eighty percent within five years of a cancer diagnosis, no? Ouch.

First of all, this doesn’t touch on various, much important information such as; what was the prior health of the patient before diagnosis, how old is the patient, what is the patient’s family history, do they have the mutant breast cancer gene, what treatment are the receiving, what is their mental state, what is their emotional state, do they have family support? You get the idea.

Second, a statement like this would scare anyone with a cancer diagnosis. Why are we only talking in five-year increments?  Is that the best I can hope for, even if I am in the lucky 20% that should survive, according to the statistic.

It’s nonsense.  This scientific information that you, the lay person, are getting off the internet is meant for scientists, people. It helps them determine treatment, come up with new treatments, etc.  So, leave the statistics, charts and study analysis to them.  If you absolutely need to go online, you are better off in a support group room where you can find people who have similar situations to you and ask them about their personal experience.  Even then, remember that every person and every cancer is different so, if one type of chemotherapy made them sick as a dog, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will have the same experience.

The best advice I can give you is this: when you are first diagnosed, with whatever illness it is, go in a dark room, close your eyes and picture a big, bright neon sign (in the color of your choosing – I prefer purple) that says HOPE.

The fact is, if you wake up in the morning and you are breathing, there is hope.

Hope not only for your survival but, for an ability to lead a life with joy in it, regardless of the circumstances.  I have always tried to do this and I do believe it has served me well.

I got this attitude from my mother, who is still going strong after three cancer diagnosis (and a hell of a lot of other crap in between that would bring many people to their knees). She has the best mental attitude of anyone I know. She is so grateful to be alive that she radiates life.

You also need a strong constitution. Not all doctors are as positive and kind as my oncologist.

I went for the genetic testing, to see if we carried the mutated BRCA gene in my family.  If we did, it would mean that I would have a much, much greater chance of developing ovarian cancer and my sisters would have a much greater chance of developing breast cancer than the average woman.

The test, mercifully, came back negative. We were elated. We were relieved. It should have been a wonderful moment.

The geneticist, however, felt it necessary to point out that there are other mutations that could have caused both my mother and I to get breast cancer that may not even have been discovered yet.”

Well, a big Thank You for that!

The bottom line is, my oncologist wanted me tested for the BRCA – it was negative. My sisters are followed as if they are high risk anyway and will continue to be. God only know why both my mother and I got it when there is no other family history. Something environmental, a drug she was put on while pregnant with me, the fact that something like 1 in 8 women who olive on Long Island are diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime? We will just never know.

I was upset for five minutes, my mother not at all.  We try not to let people who will always find the negative, and feel the need to point it out, affect our lives.

So, my friends, stay positive and focused. Remember to keep the faith and do whatever you have to do to get well, or stay well. Lean on your family and friends and, don’t forget to keep thinking about that light at the end of the tunnel, as cliché as it may sound.

My mom was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer in 2003. A few months later she got a new puppy.

She named her “Hope”.

 

 

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.

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