It was the Monday before Thanksgiving when I got the call. I was on a walk on an unusually warm night for November. It was my mom. That she was calling at 5 p.m. wasn’t unusual — she called me every night on her way home from work.
But this call was different.
She joked that my dad was driving her to hand bells practice because her doctor had just informed her she had multiple tumors in her brain. The doctor said she probably shouldn’t drive anymore. She had just received the most terrifying news of her life, and she was laughing.
Little did I know that my closest friend, my mentor, and, of course, my mom would be gone just shy of six months from that day.
She lost her battle with cancer, but I believe my mom is still alive. She lives on through me and through everyone she touched in her life.
Throughout her battle with cancer, my mom never once complained. In fact, she would look at the other patients going through treatment in the cancer center and say she was lucky. She said she was lucky when she got a targeted drug treatment instead of chemo and when she was released from the hospital only 48 hours after her brain surgery. She could have complained about the type of cancer she had — lung cancer. She could have said it was unfair she got lung cancer when she had never smoked.
But she never said she didn’t “deserve it.” That would have implied someone did.
I still admire my mom’s resilience. Cancer changed her appearance on the outside, but on the inside she was still the loving, generous, persistent Mom who had always been my biggest fan. She taught me the importance of helping others, loving everyone, working hard and enjoying life, especially by traveling.
I still feel the warmth of her smile. During her last months, my mom always smiled. Even if I had to pick her up off the toilet because she was too weak to stand on her own, she still smiled. To her, life was meant to be lived to the fullest, even up until her last week of life.
I still remember how beautiful our time together was. On Mother’s Day, we went to Venice Beach and watched the waves crash on the shore. That beach was one of our favorite places to go together since I was a child.
I also know she will be with me on my wedding day. The same beach where we spent our last Mother’s Day is where I will be married in October. There will be a seat for her as I say my vows. She won’t be there in person, but she will be there in spirit. She will be with me snorkeling in Australia and hiking in New Zealand on my honeymoon. And someday she’ll see my first-born child.
Even now, I see my mom in every patient I meet while volunteering at the hospital, and I think of her every time I advocate for lung cancer research and awareness.
I believe my mom is still alive, because she lives through me.