My mother is warm, engaging, outgoing and loves to talk to people. She’s very easygoing, fiercely loyal and regularly optimistic. She raised three daughters and is a proud grandmother (Mimi) to five grandchildren. My mom is someone you want to have at the party. Underneath that outgoing and lively exterior though, there lives an inner warrior.

My mother lost her mother when she was sixteen. The grandmother I never met, died at a very young age from ovarian cancer. My grandmother was a pioneer in her time. She
was one of the first women accepted into dental school and practiced dentistry from an office in her home. She saw patients, organized her professional life and put dinner on the table for her husband and two daughters.

When my Grandma Jean died, my mother’s life changed forever. My mom began college and left home permanently. She often told me it was too sad to return home. She married my father and eventually moved away from the Midwest.

Throughout her life my mom was always hyper-vigilant about health screenings. She impressed upon my sisters and me the need to have regular mammograms and to always keep up with our health. The ghost of my grandmother’s cancer haunted my mom. She was always running from that monster, but living an outwardly joyful and productive life.

We celebrated mom’s sixtieth birthday and a month later, she was diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer. I will never forget the telephone call between us when she told me they had found something suspicious on the mammogram. It was as if the monster had finally caught her. My father, sisters and I confronted the grim fact that mom would not have a lot of time left with us. It was a cruel diagnosis.

My mother went in for surgery and began an aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatment protocol. It’s true when they say that sometimes the cure can be worse than the
disease. Mom’s body was ravaged. Her lovely hair fell out, her eyebrows disappeared, she could barely keep food down, and she wasn’t able to sleep. Mom looked like a skeleton with skin.

However, Mom’s inner warrior emerged and she started to fight.

She would put on her wig and leave her bedroom. She would venture carefully down the street to her church and sit in the chapel to pray. She would call my sisters and me and
let us know how much she loved us. She didn’t want things to go unsaid and encouraged us to say what was needed. She didn’t want regrets lingering in our family.

When mom felt really strong, she would ask me to bring my daughter over to visit. It was important to her that her granddaughter would have memories of Mimi.

The medical prognosis for my mom never really improved. It was an uphill battle all the way. But Mom stayed with us. Two more grandchildren were born and Mimi was there to welcome them.

Mom kept battling, fighting, slowly healing and getting stronger. The months passed by and then the years. Our family continued to expand and Mom was there. It has been thirteen years since that battle began. Today, against the odds, my mother lives a happy, healthy and grateful life.

Thank you for fighting that fight, Mom. You are the strongest woman I know.