Mom came into this world a warrior. Weighing in at 4 pounds at birth on March 9, 1929, it was a miracle she lived. She was the only one of her three siblings to survive and grew up an only child. Mom was born under the sign of Pieces. In her journal, she captured some key descriptors of the sign: generous, compassionate, receptive, imaginative, and efficient. All representative of the mom I came to know growing up as the youngest of five girls.
It’s now August 28, 2003, and I feel the wall of grief hitting the hardest. A time when everything about my identity with my home, my job and my marriage continues the journey to an end. I remain amazed with the support and love that mom and dad continue to give to me. Pure unconditional love. I finally convince mom that I am stable and to go home and see her doctor. She went soon and her doctor ran several tests. Wow, what a difference a day can make. In early October, we were all stunned when the test results came back. An ulcer-like tumor the size of a grapefruit, cancer. A fast growing, atypical type of cancer. Shock and fear paralyzed me. How could this be?
My warrior mom was not a novice to cancer. She had faced the challenge of cancer once already when I was in college. Out of the blue, a call came with news. Mom had late stage breast cancer. Surgery was scheduled for the next day. 2% chance of survival – statistics her oncologist only shared with her family, not her. At that time in the mid 1980’s, mom became a quick study of the beliefs that your mind can heal your body, in part from the book Love, Medicine, and Miracles. I remember sitting in her hospital room after her radical mastectomy and her teaching me about visualizing her body being healed. She would say- ‘Imagine the cancer cells evaporating like water on a hot sunny day.’ Mom survived her breast cancer with persistence and determination as I graduated college. She survived with grace and reverence, all while she endured painful bone marrow and liver tests every six months for 15 years.
As I sat in my soon to be former home back in Boulder, I was paralyzed once again, that evil ‘c’ disease was coming back for another round, a different type of journey this time. Something felt different. As the fog started to clear and my depression of the transition I was living through started to subside, I had a feeling. Call it a dream, a gut level thought that popped in my head. Mom is not going to survive this time. I quickly dismissed it. No, God, I am REALLY not ready for this. I am not strong enough. Her clinical prognosis was not good. Through clinical research, I learned what the likely outcomes would be for someone with her pathology. In five years, less than 12% chance of survival, for patients who could withstand the entire treatment pre and post-surgery. The cancer had spread to her lymph node that was connected to all her major organs, something I learned from reading her pet scan. Mom’s body had a strong voice this time around, something I would come to learn.
With less than two weeks from moving to my new house and not fully packed yet, I called mom and offered to come to Austin to be with her. My own drama seemed so insignificant compared to this news. Mom was ‘fine’ and I did not need to come. I could come later, she said. The next morning, the phone rang. She wanted me to come now, wanted my support. I made plans and went for the weekend. Mom was not afraid, or so she said, and was not sad or didn’t need to cry. We went for a walk in the rain. A bolt of lightning struck very close to us and we heard the loud thunder reverberate through the trees. Mom said that was good- lightening brought oxygen and her body needed oxygen to fight the cancer cells. Being present for her in this moment helped me put my grief in a box; hide it away for a while. We took her to get a makeover also. Wow, how mom’s faced glowed with pure light as the joy exuded from her heart.
Our deep and growing relationship continued to expand. One experience at a time. I was grateful to be able to start to give to mom from my heart, something that was hard for me to do. Somehow through my experiences growing up I built an armor of protection around my heart. My logical mind believed my heart was safe and no one could stomp on it with this armor. Funny thing- opening up and supporting mom now from my heart felt safe. So I continued to give.