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I want to thank you all for coming out to honor my father, Robert Taub. Most of you know him by Bob, although he was also known as Daddy, Papa, Robbie, Uncle Bob, Mr. Bob, Big Bob and, most recently, Slim Daddy. Whatever it is that you called him, the fact that you are here today means that he touched your life in some way.

My dad was born on January 27, 1949 in the Bronx to Harry and Dinah. He grew up in Hicksville, NY and was always regaling us with stories of the Cloister Street Gang. Just to name a few, Joe B, Dale, Walter, Richie, The DeGuilios and the Zeigs. So many tight childhood friends, who he kept in touch with pretty much right until his death. I feel that that says something very special about a person. It speaks to loyalty, generosity and commitment.

Daddy played Little League for years and then, football in High School. If I must say, he was quite a fox. When he was 18, he traveled across the country to California where he rode motorcycles, went to Woodstock, had many adventures and was quite the hippie. I know that this time in his life – just having far out experiences with his buddies, was a very special and happy time in his life.

Being a true New Yorker at heart, though, he eventually made his way home. He ended up earning a degree from Nassau Community College and after numerous jobs – he was always telling us he went to Whopper College! – he ultimately discovered that his love for photography was what he was meant to do. In the early 80s, he started his own photography business and named it “Chris Cole” after me and my sister, Chrissy. We were so proud! He had an amazing eye and took gorgeous pictures. Although he later switched careers to computers (he would be mad if I didn’t say Apples, NOT PCs), he never got over his love of photography. For his entire life, he was always there, at every event, with a camera in his hand, capturing every joyful moment.

As soon as personal computers became popular, he was hooked. Mostly self- taught, he went on to have a very successful career as a Macintosh consultant. Some of the places he worked were Sony, Viacom, MTV and CBS. He was so generous with his knowledge and helped so many people learn to navigate this new technology. I know he’s helped many of you here, whether it be which computer to buy, how to use the newest versions, or which programs would best fit your needs. He was always on the cutting edge of technology and loved his gadgets. We were always the first family on the block with a video camera, a VCR, Disc Player, Blu Ray player, TIVO. You get the idea.

These were passions of his. And, I’m happy for him that he got to make a living doing things he loved. But, as everyone in this room knows, his real passion was his family.

He met my mother, Elizabeth, a single mother when I was very young. They met out with friends at a bar. He ran over to light a cigarette for her. Of course, the way he told the story was that she saw him from across the room, whistled through her fingers and yelled, “Yo, Sailor!” They fell in love quickly and soon, he asked her to be his wife. He was a man strong enough, and brave enough, to marry my mother despite her having two very young (and let’s face it – we’re talking about me and Chrissy), somewhat wild little girls. They married in 1980 and gave us our beautiful baby sister Lori in 1981. Finally, after all of the turmoil Mommy, Chrissy and I had been through, we had a loving and stable home. Daddy, at NO time, made Chrissy or I feel as though we were any less of his daughters than Lori was. This is truly a beautiful and rare thing.

And, come on, you have to give the man credit. He lived in a house with 4 females and 1 bathroom. He lived with mood swings, emotional outbursts, snotty teenage attitudes and, it was almost impossible for him to EVER get his hand on a phone that wasn’t being used, the cord stretched to the breaking point around the corner from the kitchen into our bedrooms. In the early 90s, my parents changed their phone number. A couple of years later, I was selling sporting goods at Sears when I was ringing up a middle aged couple. When they asked for their phone number, and they told me it was 499-0103, I excitedly told them that that was MY old phone number. Their faces changed immediately from good natured to something else. The woman said to me, “Oh, Lord. Are you Nicole or Chrissy?” Apparently, they were still getting calls – lots of calls – looking for Chrissy and I at our old number. It was an expensive treadmill and I was on commission so, thank God I did not lose the sale, although it was clear that they weren’t happy!

Despite raising us three girls, who could drive him absolutely nuts, we had a very happy home. We celebrated holidays in a huge way, for every birthday, the house was decorated and filled to the brim with presents and loved ones. We took trips, we went to see movies, we wanted for nothing.

Daddy was also such a loving husband to my mother. They were different in so many ways but, something about them just worked. He would go to the moon and back for her and she knew it. When we went through Mommy’s things after she passed away in 2013, we found some love notes that he had written her over the years. Some were sweet and, some scarred us for life. Really, there are certain things children do NOT want to know about their parents private lives.  However, the one thing that was clear in each letter was how very much he loved her. She was his “toots”. I am so happy that they found each other and believe that theirs was a true love story. Daddy was heartbroken when Mommy passed away. He was never the same. The only thing that got him through it was his children and grandchildren so, let’s go there.

He called me #1. Although I was so happy to have a dad who loved me, boy did I give him a run for his money. My mom had been extremely laid back and I was NOT happy when he first came into our lives and tried to add some discipline. Bedtime? What’s that? What do you mean I have to wear a hat in 20 degree weather? I just did my hair! I’m punished? What the heck does that mean? Eventually, though, we found our groove and, once we did, it was magical. He put up with my boy crazy phase, he allowed my friends to practically live at my house – especially Jill, who he affectionately called his fourth daughter. He was proud of my scholastic achievements, beamed when I graduated from college and felt like I took after him when I became a small business owner. He was tough but fair and taught me life lessons that helped make me into the person I am today. When I married Al, he couldn’t have been happier. He loved Al like his own. They had a very special relationship. I know that Al was always there for him but, after he got sick, Al became his rock. My entire family is grateful to him for this – and will never forget that kindness that he showed Daddy and the wonderful way he took care of him these past few months.

Chrissy was #2. If I gave Daddy a run for his money, she gave him an Iron Man race. We all know Chrissy, and the teenager she was – up for anything to have a good time. A memory that comes to mind is when she traumatized Daddy by basically totalling her car in the city, coming home, parking the car right in front of the house and going to sleep. You can imagine his reaction when he woke up and looked out the front window and saw the car. After ascertaining that she was not hurt – I was seriously concerned that HE would hurt her. Despite many other stories like these, she could also make him laugh like no one else. He used to love to tell the story of when they went to the supermarket and he told her to go to the next aisle and get a 5 pound bag of sugar. He almost peed his pants when she called out to him “Daddy, do you mean the bag that says 5 libs?” As she got older, all of the values he instilled in her came to fruition. He was so very proud of her work ethic and her extremely huge heart. He also used to say that she was the most like Mommy – she would do anything for anyone – always. He really depended on her after Mommy died. She was the one who would run errands for him and check on him every day. He was also thrilled when she married Jay, the love of her life. He knew how much he loved her and that he would be able to be there to comfort her in times of need. You see, when people have hearts as big as my sisters – empathic people – they don’t only feel pain that is their own, they also feel the pain of others around them. It can be a heavy burden to bear.

And then #3, Lori. His baby girl. The greatest day of his life was the day she was born. I remember he was deliriously happy holding her – she couldn’t have been more than a few minutes old – when she farted – loudly! He was stunned. My mother leaned over to him and said, “You know that they do that, right Hun?” Again, he couldn’t stop laughing. So much that he was almost crying. Since the photography studio was in our garage at the time, my mom went outside of the house to work and he was a stay at home dad before it was in vogue. Because he took care of the day to day caring of her, there is no question that they shared a special bond. They did everything together. Wherever he went, she went. When he rented space for the photography studio, he took her with him every day. She would sit at the front desk and, as the customers would come in, she would say, “You can give me the money and then go talk to him”. She was four. He was also incredibly proud of her athletic ability. She was a phenomenal soccer player – a star, really – and, he did not miss ONE game. Ever. There he was, on the sidelines, cheering her on with that big booming voice of his. He was also thrilled with Lori’s choice of a husband. He couldn’t love and respect Chris more. My sister, as I’ve said before, can be a little high maintenance. He always knew that Chris would be able to keep her happy without giving into her every whim and landing them in the poor house.

And, then came the grandchildren.

First was Michael, who was special just for the very fact that he was the first one to make Daddy a Papa. He was so proud of his smarts and kind heart. I am so very happy that not only was he around to hear that Michael got into every college that he applied to but, also that he got academic scholarships.

Then, Jack, who was raised by a village since I was diagnosed with cancer just four months after he was born. Daddy was amazed at his resilience and kindness. He made mention, many times, about how special he thought it was that not only did Jack spend time with his baby cousins but, that he did it with a smile on his face, with patience and with love. He was also proud of his skills both on the basketball court and the football field. All the while maintaining grades high enough to land him on the honor roll every quarter since middle school.

Then Gavin, Lori and Chris’s first baby. All you have to do is look at a picture of him holding Gavin to see how much joy he brought him. Gavin is smart, kind, funny, loving and a real “Papa’s Boy”. He could put together a puzzle of the entire United States by the time he was a year and a half. You know how much Daddy loved him also, because he forgave him for being a diehard Mets fan! Daddy’s favorite sport to play, and to watch, was baseball. He was so proud and happy that Gavin shares this passion!

And, finally, Baby Mason. Daddy’s doppelganger. His zest for life, humor and spunk was a joy for Daddy to witness. Mason was the blessing that God gave to Daddy after he lost my mom. It gave him so much happiness to watch him run around with unbridled joy. Thank God for Mason – because of his incredible resemblance, it will be impossible not to think of Daddy every time we see him.

So, Daddy loved many things; photography, gadgets, computers, his friends, poker, his koi pond, all of the dogs and birds that we had throughout the years, Bob Dylan, playing his numbers, motorcycles, the Yankees, his hippie days – but, there was nothing he loved more than his family. Not for one second. Ever.

I can’t neglect to mention just how incredibly strong Daddy was. Despite many health issues in the past, he always pushed through to fight another day. Although this last illness finally took him from us, he was positive and looking towards the future right up until the very day that he passed.

Daddy, Papa, Mr. Bob, Mr. Taub, Uncle Bob, Big Bob, Slim Daddy

  • We will miss you at every milestone
  • We will miss you at every holiday
  • We will miss you at every birthday
  • We will miss you on a random Tuesday afternoon when there is nothing going on

However, we are happy that you are with Mommy. We are happy that you are with all of those who you loved and who passed before you. We are happy you are with God.

We will take care of each other because that’s what you taught us to do. We will live life to the fullest, in your honor; no matter how hard it is, because we love you that much.

And, lastly, please take care of Little Neal. He just got there a day before you. We know how very much you loved him. Please watch over him until his parents are reunited with him again. 

Love you always,

Number 1

 blog today 1

I was going to write about James Gandolfini passing. It’s the same old story. While I was watching much of that series, I was sick as a dog going through chemotherapy, countless surgeries, radiation and the like. He seemed so alive, so strong, so vibrant. I bought the box set and continued to watch it, pretty much on a continuous loop, through the ten or so years I was going through my health issues.

I am sad tonight but, trying to focus on this. My mom has said before, when I am in a dark place and can’t imagine that I will make it to old age because either I will recur or just because of all the trauma that my body has gone through. Anyway, in those moments, my mom often says that if you asked her years ago, after she had been diagnosed, who would live longer, her or Princess Diana, she would have bet the farm that Princess Di would outlive her. Well, as I was swollen from the steroids, with a stomach that felt like the water churning on a windy day on the Atlantic, with my bald head and my mouth sores, I never, in a million years, thought that I would outlive Tony Soprano.

But, such is life.

His death also makes me want to talk to people who have had recent heart issues and come through the other side. A lot of these people feel scared, hopeless, lost. I get it. But, what they really should be focusing on is the second chance that they were given. Mr. Gandolfini didn’t have that choice. It sounds like, with the little information that we are getting fed to us by the press, he just pretty much had a heart attack, possibly a stroke, and it was over as quickly as it began. I’m sure he would have given anything for a second chance.The only comfort to me is that it sounds like it was quick. I pray he didn’t know what hit him.

And, once again, here we are talking about the frailty of life. I bet if you had asked James Gandolfini who would have lived longer, the actor who played Junior Soprano or himself, he would have put money on himself.

We just never know, folks, when our time will be up. We pray for a long and healthy life but, the bottom line is, we just don’t know.

The moral is, and I don’t want to sound like I am preaching, that we have to be grateful for what we have, the time we have, the health we have, the things we are able to experience, both joyful and sorrowful. Because it is in these experiences, the good and the bad, that we are truly alive.

Al and I took a trip to Bermuda last week. It was a great week, full of relaxing, good food, and more relaxing. One day, while laying on the beach reading one of the five wonderful books I was able to devour while away, I heard a rat a tat tat sound next to me. I looked up, shielded my eyes from the sun, and found myself looking up at an old man – a very very old man. He had on little black shorts and was walking with a cane. It looked like his son and daughter in law were with him, although I can’t know for sure. In any case, they walked down to the water and I turned away to give them some privacy. It turns out, when he was walking back up a few moments later, he was still dry and made a motion to Al as if he was frustrated. He had been trying to get into the water and was just unable to do it. Well, about an hour later, here he comes again. Rat a tat tat. I didn’t look up, as to not make him self conscious. About ten minutes later, I looked towards the sea. There was the man, sitting at the edge of the rough surf, knees up, hands behind him, leaning back. His son and daughter in law were there for support but, damn if that wonderful man wasn’t letting that beautiful sea water wash all over his body. It was in his face, his eyes. It would move him a bit – again, the water was rough – but, he would adjust himself (with a little help) and let it wash over him again. It touched me in a way I can’t explain.

On the way back to his blanket, a woman behind me, probably in her fifties, told him “God Bless You”. The man’s son (or so I’m assuming) told her that they took this trip for the man’s 91st birthday. 91. After the woman wished him a “Happy Birthday” he proceeded to rat a tat tat all the way up to his chair, under a nice big blue umbrella, where he dozed for much of the day. He also read a book, ordered lunch and at one point, I noticed him putting his feet in the beautiful pink sand.

Unlike Mr. Gandolfini’s short 51 years, this man had had lots and lots of time. Who knows what his story was? Perhaps he lost his parents at a young age, maybe a child? He could have had cancer, or heart trouble, or money troubles his entire life. Maybe his life was charmed, and there were no real troubles that he had to deal with. Again, you just never know. You know what, though? I doubt it. Realistically, we all go through hard times. However, even at 91, he was living. Really and truly living. Not feeling sorry for himself because it took him twenty minutes to walk twenty feet, or because the only way he could get in the ocean was to sit down. He didn’t care who was watching. He didn’t care how he looked. He was happy to be alive.

So, Mr. Gandolfini, I hope that you lived the life you had to the fullest. I hope that you took full advantage of the things your celebrity and wealth could afford you. I hope you smoked cigars, and ate good food. I hope that you were proud of the work that you did and that you were proud to have left the legacy of Tony Soprano. I hope you slept with lots of women and drank good wine with your loved ones. I hope that your Italian home was like mine, filled with love, laughter, loudness and insanity, at times. I hope you showered that new baby of yours with kisses and hugs in the short time you had with her because, she will remember. I hope you lived like that old man.

I am a work in progress. I am doing my best to practice what I preach. I am trying to not sweat the small stuff but, to be inspired by all of the crazy, wild things this life throws at me. I hope I have as much time as the old man in the sea but, I could just have as much time as Mr. Gandolfini. In either case, it’s not a hell of a lot of time.

In the words of another great character from the twentieth century, Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it.”

Don’t miss it.

Happy Birthday, Old Man. You are an inspiration.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Gandolfini. Thanks for everything.

I have to say, I really despise the term he or she “lost their battle with cancer”. It just bothers me on a visceral level.  I would much rather hear “Amy decided not to play the cancer game anymore. She told cancer he was a dirty player, that she would not participate anymore, and she walked off the field.”

I guess I hate the term so much because it implies that cancer, and not God himself, has the control over when we leave this earth. It implies that cancer is the winner, is victorious. Gets to make decisions that only God can make.  I was not raised to believe this.

Like my  Grandma Nickie said to me my whole life “It’s in the book”. I may have mentioned it in some of the early blogs but, for those of you who didn’t read some or any of them, let me elaborate.

Grandma believed that God is sitting with a big book, a tome, if you will. He uses this book to keep track of all of his children. Before you are born, he dreams you up, what you will do, be, how you will help, whose lives you will touch, and how long you will be needed in your physical body, before you are brought back up to him. So, an entry is made on the day that you are born but, there is also an entry made, on the very same day, of the day that you will pass away.

No matter what you do, or how you try to change it, your name is on that page. That is the day. Now, he may edit it from time to time. That is for him, and only him, to know. But, for our purposes, the date is the date. That’s it.

This is why, although my mother has battled cancer three times, she outlived Princess Diana, who was the epitome of health. It is why my oncologist told me that he has people with very early stage cancers, who should live fifty more years, die in a few months and people with very late stage cancers, who for all intents and purposes, shouldn’t make it to their next birthday, live another fifty years. It’s why children die, why four innocent people went to the drug store on Father’s Day and were gunned down and killed instantly. And why, deep down, I really don’t believe in Karma.

God is holding the book, making his entries, and there is really not a damned thing we can do about it. I find the notion both scary and comforting at the same time.

Scary in that, at the end of the day, you have to admit that you don’t really have control. That’s tough, especially for people like me, who become very agitated and nervous when they feel that they are not in control. And there are a lot of us out there.

Now, I’m not saying not to take care of yourself while you are here, so that you can be as healthy and live life as comfortably as you can when you are here. Also, I don’t mean to imply that you shouldn’t be a good person because I don’t believe in “karma”. I believe in a heaven, and if you want to get there, the being a good person thing is key.

I really am starting to believe in Grandma Nickie’s theory, the older I get.

It’s in the book.

That’s also comforting. You can relax in the fact that you know that when it is your time, it’s really God’s decision. It’s nothing you did wrong, or because you were a bad person, or because you did chemo and radiation but, you decided not to take tamoxifen. When someone  you love passes, it prevents the useless “What could I have done differently? What didn’t I do? Were they ready?” According to Grandma, they were taken because the page was flipped and their name was on it.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I hope that I am in a very late chapter. I am just as scared as the next person of when my time will come. Right now, I am highly motivated to live on this earth with the people around me.

I heard that my friend who recently passed was coherent, knew that he most likely was not going to make it, and he was peaceful. That makes me feel even more strongly about the whole book theory, as opposed to the “losing” theory.  Knowing he was peaceful makes me think that it was God calling off the game. That my friend didn’t “lose” any battle. I think of his passing as going something like this; Cancer throws a particularly nasty throw at him on Thursday, God steps into the ring and yanks my friend out, not even glancing at Cancer, standing there frustrated that he can’t continue this fight. For the fight is what it likes, it’s the misery that it enjoys inflicting.  God tells my friend, “OK, here’s my book. I’m on page one trillion, three hundred million and fifty-two and there is your name, three lines down. You have been such a good man on this earth and I thank you for that. I have big plans for your everlasting life, though, and we have to start right now.”

Cancer is the loser. My friend is the winner, who was lifted up, out of all the earthly misery to a place where there is only happiness, only joy, no worries, no envy, no fear and certainly no cancer.

So, since you have no idea what page in God’s book you are on, enjoy your time here to the fullest. For, there are also many happy and joyful moments to be had.

And, please, for my sake, try to prevent using the “losing battle” analogy. Let’s not give cancer any credit for doing something that only God can do, which is call us home.

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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