Saturday, February 21, 2015


Early November 2005: The shared hospital room was dark and I was glad to have the window bed as my roommates were revolving. Many of my friends had come to visit me in the hospital including one who had become a dad for the first time just days earlier. His wife called me on the phone and I could hear the gurgles of their newborn baby through the hospital phone receiver. My work supervisor had come bringing bags of magazines and crossword puzzles and even cried when seeing how weak I was. My dad endured the torture of such a small space and seeing his daughter in pain he couldn't fix. Cards and flowers had piled up in the window sill. George, who was my fiancĂ© of two weeks, would race after work to catch me before visiting hours were over. 

But there was someone to whom visiting hours did not apply: someone, who I can still see quite clearly in my mind with the blue light of the IV pump reflecting off of her face in the darkness: my mom. I am not sure what time it was -- late.  As I reflect, I see how Mom's eyes were closed, her body slightly bent forward in the uncomfortable looking hospital chair;  her hands in her lap were open, fingers gently separated and palms facing the ceiling as she was in prayer. 

Admittedly, I have not read the book, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, but I have seen enough movie versions to be more than familiar with the story. The mother character was affectionally called "Marmee" by her four daughters. There is one scene in particular where Marmee is away attending to her husband who had been wounded in the Civil War. But when she got word that her daughter, Beth, who was prone to illness had been doing very poorly, Marmee rushed home and in the 1995 movie version of Little Women, she practically ran home from the train station, burst into Beth's room, immediately assessed the situation, knew exactly what to do and took control by starting right away working with determination to help her daughter be well.

Before the early November 2005 hospitalization, I had been quite ill since September with e coli that wrecked havoc on my body. On a certain day in late October, I developed symptoms including vomiting, headache, hypersensitivity to everything and a Migriane that would not disappear--though at the time, we did not know it was a Migraine. I didn't even know what a Migraine was! George had done his best to take care of me, but I was so sick I was no longer eating or drinking and could no longer get out of bed. The medications I had been given were not helping either.

A few days later, my bedroom was dark as the sun had set. Gatorade and crackers sat on my nightstand untouched as I could not drink or eat. I had become so ill that I could not think straight and laid as still as possible staring at the ceiling. I heard a knock at my condo's door, quiet conversation and then to my great relief, my mom, who by car lives six to seven hours away, came in the room. Once Mom had realized how ill I was, she had taken a plane and a taxi to get to me as soon as possible.  She was backlit from the hallway and I could not see her face, but I could smell her comforting Chanel perfume and I knew everything was going to be okay.

My Marmee had arrived...

She immediately took charge; realizing I hadn't drank in a long while, she retrieved applesauce from the fridge and got me to take tiny bites. Since then, whenever I see individual applesauce containers, I think of that night and how my Marmee had cleverly started to rehydrate me. She took charge and got my primary care doctor to admit me to the hospital. She was my advocate, my comforter and my cheerleader. Most of all she shared Love that is impossible to put into words.

After a couple days of hospitalization, there were no answers, but I was still severely ill and quite weak as I could not tolerate even a bite of cracker. Another evening and the blue light of the IV pump lit up Marmee's face; she gently stroked my forehead and as I closed my eyes, she started to tell me a story about a little girl. It was the most beautiful story about a girl who was so loved and about all the things she enjoyed and experienced as she grew; eventually I realized she was telling me about me. As the gentle calmness of my Marmee's voice rhythmically calmed my soul in a way that can only come from a trusted mother, I finally drifted off to sleep after being fitful to that point.

Those days were over nine years ago and my mom has continued to encourage me, support me,  listen to me, advise me, take care of me, pray for me with devotion, come to my side when she herself was ill and much more that I know I do not even know.

Recently, I have been especially ill. Mom packed up her SUV with her three dogs and headed my way. Unfortunately, two-thirds of the way into the trip her Toyota Highlander hit a patch of ice that caused her to skid across the interstate at 55 mph going down into the ditch and ramming into the embankment. The side airbags deployed and she was taken to a hospital for evaluation and scans which showed nothing serious. Despite the fact she had been in a serious automobile accident that caused physical distress and pain and would shake anyone up, she got on a plane two days later and flew to my side. We knew there would be no talking her out of it. When my mom is determined to do something, she is going to do it. Everything she did to help George and me was so much sweeter as we knew she was making a sacrifice because she was in pain herself.

Again Marmee rushed to my side and she was more helpful than she knows or will admit.  As George has become more in touch with his emotions, he has become more affected by my illnesses and depression makes it even harder. Marmee was a mother figure to George which was just what he needed at that time. Loving and supporting George as a mother would is part of what makes my mom Marmee.

There is not enough time or space to write how thankful I am for how my mom loves me and others. And I know that I am not alone in experiencing my mom's love. She is a woman who loves God and loves people.

Sharing about my Marmee stems from our celebration that she is now a five year colon cancer survivor!!! Getting a colonoscopy saved my mom's life as she was diagnosed at 54 years old at stage 3b out of 4.  She had a particularly aggressive form of colon cancer as her colonoscopy at age 47 was clear and in only seven years the cancer not only developed but had spread to her lymph nodes.

Colon cancer can be prevented by getting a colonoscopy starting at age 50 and every ten years after that unless you have a family history like I do, you would get it earlier and more frequently. My first colonoscopy was at the age of thirty. And of course if you are having symptoms, get thee to a doctor now!

When it is time for you to get a colonoscopy, don't hesitate!! It is not scary at all; what is scary is not getting one, developing cancer, having to go through chemotherapy and experiencing whole body side effects from the chemotherapy that permanently affect your life. Words cannot describe how painful it was seeing my mom go through chemo and its affects during the many times I was there. I can guarantee that a colonoscopy is much easier than 50 hours of chemotherapy every two weeks for six months equalling a grand total of 12 rounds. And that is just the beginning... Get your rear checked!

My mom frequents the same fast food establishments and as she has a talkative and caring personality, she talks to the people working the drive-thru. I mean really talk; not like "can I have an extra ketchup?" but "how are you doing today?"  She is kind and caring and it shows. For many many years now she has been randomly paying for the meal of the person behind her in the drive thru and then telling the cashier to tell the person it is a random act of kindness. By the time my mom got cancer and was going through chemo, the people at these specific restaurants knew her well. And one day while talking to one of the cashiers, she mentioned in passing that she had cancer and was going through chemo. The next time she drove through that fast food restaurant's drive thru and she pulled up to the first window to pay, the cashier told her that the employees had paid for her meal. I still tear up when I think about this story and she may kill me for telling it but you get an idea of her personality by how much she affects so many people in a positive way...not just me.

Happy Five Years Cancer Free, Marmee! You are so very loved and appreciated--more than words can say.

(You can read about my dad in a post I wrote called: My Dad's Gift of Himself)


  1. What a lovely tribute to your Mom. Makes me miss my Mom and her gentle touch on my forehead. So glad she is doing well!

  2. Happy 5 years cancer free, Donna!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Congratulations! Love, Gena