When I was three and my sister was eight months old, suffered the loss of our mother at the tender age of 26 years old from ovarian cancer. This was the major event of my life. The loss of my mother has had an effect on every aspect of my life. The life that followed her death was anything but normal. My dad did his very best but his manly ways often fell short of a mother’s touch. Believe me we have stories! We were the original latch keys kids. I grew up way before my time. My childhood was stolen by cancer. Because my life growing up was so abnormal, I longed for normalcy. So, it is no surprise that I married a doctor, had two children, a girl and a boy, and lived in suburbia. The Kool-aid mom.
This was what I always wanted. I loved to cook, sew, and garden. This authentic Southern lady came by it naturally being born in Mobile, Alabama. And so it went for about 20 years. Then as fate would have it, I was cooking dinner when I discovered a lump on my neck. Not really suspecting cancer, I went to get it checked out. They did a biopsy and gave me a diagnosis of a very rare benign cancer of the nerve sheath. I decided to go for a second opinion and made the appointment. Right before the appointment, being Christmas time and all, I decided to have the surgery in my home town, since it was benign. One day before the surgery, the head of the head and neck department at MD Anderson called me personally and urged me to keep the second opinion appointment before the surgery. If anyone knows anything about medical office procedure, often the doctor does not know when a patient cancels an appointment. I felt this was divine intervention. I was on my way to MD Anderson within two hours. After five biopsies,( apparently the tumor was very difficult to reach, tucked in behind a neck muscle), the tests revealed Hodgkin Lymphoma.
My life and my family’s life turned on a dime. How could this be… not now. It was Christmas, this was my daughter’s senior year in high school, my son was playing varsity sports. Could cancer again steal from my life and the lives of my children? The answer was yes. Due to the fact that I was not responsive to treatment, I had numerous chemotherapies, radiation and ended with a bone marrow transplant. I lived for the most part of a year in Houston, TX - eight hours away from my home and family. This obviously had a great impact on my children. I missed my daughter’s high school graduation, against medical advice I went to her Deb presentation in a medical mask, only to have to go to the hospital the very next day. We were all striving to keep the family going. My husband moved my daughter to UT in Austin. It was very hard for me to miss these milestones. With the seriousness of my illness, my daughter found it hard to focus on her studies, and decided to leave UT and come home to go to a local college to be by me. I read in a book that children can take a parent’s diagnosis in different ways. The author said some children act out with reckless behavior, in a way saying take me instead. That was very true in regard to my son. And because of his struggles, the situation was getting out of control. My husband put him in military school. My son took my diagnosis very hard. I will never forget the day that he spoke of anything related to my cancer diagnosis. Believe it or not, it was a year after I was home. As I was getting ready to go to a check- up he walked into the kitchen and casually said, 'I hope your check-up goes good Mom.' I just kept making the sandwich, but my heart was so touched. We were moving forward. It had been so hard for him to talk about it. Amazing how maturity can make a difference. His favorite saying now days is "Adjust and Conquer".
After my recovery, it was my passion to do everything in my power to help others diagnosed with cancer and their families. I formed a non-profit organization in my home town, and today I have been working with those impacted by cancer for almost eight years with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. So as Mother’s Day approaches, instead of gifts, I urge everyone to think about giving the gift of time. When cancer strikes it steals time from our lives. Through cancer research we can change this.
Consider making a donation in memory or in honor of a mother in your life. She could have been stricken with this disease herself, she could have been a caregiver, or if cancer has not touched your family, this donation goes a long way to make sure it never does.
Mother and grandmother cherishing every moment,
If you would like to take time to honor a mother, like Jane, in your life please consider making a donation to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society this Mother's Day.
Make a donation online and a letter of recognition of your gift will be sent to the mother you are honoring with your donation. You are also welcome to mail in a donation to: LLS, Attn: Mother's Day, 8111 LBJ Fwy., Ste 425, Dallas, TX 75251.
Thank you and Happy Mother's Day from the North Texas Chapter of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.