Mom raised each of us to believe we could master anything we put our mind to, nothing stood in our way. I took this to heart as I grew up and became a young adult. Add a little strong will and stubbornness to that confidence, and there I was. While my career followed a different path than I had planned, I ventured into the corporate world from college and achieved quick success, gained expanded responsibility and was praised for my efforts. Even after I changed careers five years later, I focused intently and succeeded in my new role, just as mom had modeled for me. As such, I grew to believe this success was easily achieved in other parts of my life.
How soon I would learn otherwise. On New Year’s Eve in 1994, I was snow skiing with my friend Stephanie. Having grown up in Texas, I had only been snow skiing a handful of times and had taken minimal lessons. I could get down the mountain but not in the prettiest of form or with much grace, Here I was, skiing with my friend, an expert skier, following her closely as we made our way across the top runs of Breckenridge. I was confident of my ability to conquer and pretended I knew what I was doing. ‘I am in good shape and can keep up with her’ -or so I thought. It was snowing so I couldn’t see very far in front of me. All of the sudden I was flying through the air, skiing off a jump and wow, I landed straight up! Shocking for sure. Quickly the confidence took over- Easy stuff I thought. I can do this! Keep going. Next thing I know I am knee deep in a mogul field, crisscrossing the bumps. I am just getting going and then on one turn, my left ski keeps turning after cresting the mogul. Then I heard it- POP. Ouch. I plopped to the ground and thought, I just needed to rest a little while. I am ok. I will be able to ski down. Boy was I wrong. Next thing I know I am riding down the bumpiest run in Breckenridge behind ski patrol. Yes, I was invincible, or so I thought. Riding down the mountain staring at the sky above, I realized- not so much. It started to sink in that maybe I had limits.
With a torn ACL and meniscus, I returned to Austin for surgery. Characterized as outpatient surgery, I would be released in 23 hours, so the doctor said. I ended up in the hospital for four days. While I am not a believer that God is responsible for bad things happening, I am grateful for the outcome as this accident altered the direction of my life- in a positive way. Mom raised me to believe that good can come from our life experiences, if we chose to see the glass as half full. This perspective has served me well so far and taught me that I could choose my response when ‘bad’ things happened. During the four days in the hospital, the care I received from the nurses was minimal at best. Here I was a young adult and guess who was at my side, mom, caring for me lovingly as if I was still a child. She stayed with me day in and day out, all four nights. Cared for me, made sure I had pain medicine, and helped me relax. It was in this moment, this turning point for me where I first felt my mom’s deep love, in my heart. She selflessly gave me her time, support and mostly unconditional love. A turning point on my journey for sure- the birth of a deep and growing relationship between us.
So in 2003, it was my time to give to mom. And how blessed I was that she wanted me to. That I had started to learn how to, by listening from my heart. Mom was in and out of doctor’s offices and hospitals over the month of October. Being the obedient patient, she bravely faced the radiation and chemotherapy day in and day out, starting on November 3. Mom had 27 radiation treatments and chemo six days a week for four weeks- through a fanny-pack like bag that released the chemo slowly over the week. The doctors said her chance of survival would increase dramatically with this approach before surgery, so she agreed. Mom was ever so strong as these chemicals poisoned her body. After her treatments were finished, she had a regular dermatology appointment. Just a routine visit. Unfortunately, it was not so routine. Her doctor discovered a mole on her back that looked questionable and removed it. The results came in- melanoma. Shock once again. I started to feel a lump in my throat as I processed this news. Deep sadness of accepting reality. Her body is speaking loudly- feels like it is tired. Probably worn out from caring for everyone else. I felt paralyzed in my steps. As tears streamed down my face, I prayed- ‘Lord, fill me with peace and wrap me with love as I face this unknown, the transition I am not ready for, the biggest of limbo’s in my life’. Here it was- more news, just a few weeks after I signed my divorce papers.