Like many others, my life is divided into before and after cancer. I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1993. I had surgery and six rounds of chemotherapy. My mother was my caregiver. While I could have considered it the worst summer of my life, instead, I loved the time we got to spend together. In 2015, my life divided again when my mother was diagnosed with uterine cancer. My mother ran out of time on December 14, 2016. A week before she died, she qualified for a promising clinical trial but was not well enough to participate. I continue to search for ways to make a difference for patients and caregivers.
It’s been almost three years since my mother ran out of time in her battle with cancer. I miss her more than words can say. I think of her every day, several times a day. I am finally at the point that I have more good days than bad, but memories still cause tears. On the bad days, I try to look back and see that I have made progress in this new life with a different version of me. How did I get here? What gets me through the bad days?
- A husband who loves me. We lived 2,000 miles apart when my mother died but he did everything he could to ease me in to this new life. From a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen and lots of flower deliveries, he did it all. Most of all, I truly appreciate that he has never once told me to move on. Even today, he lets me grieve at my own pace. It’s a two steps forward one step back process, and he’s always there for me.
- Two loving dogs, Ruby and Baby. There were plenty of days that I probably would have stayed in bed, but two dogs make that impossible. They needed me, and I needed them. They got me out of the house for walks but also sat on the couch and snuggled when I needed it most. Somehow, they always knew how to keep me moving forward.
- A love of the outdoors and volunteering. After years of volunteering for cancer-related charities, I needed to step back. I felt like all my work had not produced the one result I wanted most, a cure for my mother. So I volunteered to chaperone a school group to their ski lessons at a local mountain. One thing led to another, and I am now a ski instructor at that mountain. It’s a dream job for me, and I often wonder what my mother would say about it. I know that she would be shocked at how much I enjoy working with kids.
Losing someone close to you changes you. A part of me died that day. I will never be the same, and in many ways, that is okay. I’m learning about the different me with help from my husband, my dogs, my family and my friends.