For Mom

Today is Mother’s Day, a day to celebrate your mom and perhaps other “moms” that may be special to you. However, I don’t think we should take just one day out of the year to celebrate our mom. Every day we still have our moms should be reason for celebration.

My mom grew up as somewhat of an only child – her brother was born eight years before her and two older sisters born after him did not survive past toddlerhood. Because her only remaining sibling was much older than she was, my mom spent a lot of her time with older family members. I’m quite sure that her spending time with this generation was somewhat of an apprenticeship for her into her role as the family’s main caregiver.

She went to beauty school after high school and found some opportunities out of the state. However, her father became ill, and mom returned home to help her mother care for him. After she returned home, she got married and started a family of her own. Shortly after I was born, her father died, and we permanently moved into my mom’s childhood home with her mom.

After working at a coal mine for years, my dad suddenly got laid off. With two young kids in the house, mom stepped up to the plate again and found a job to help support the family. Even after dad found another job, mom continued to work. We were so grateful to have M-ma (what we always called my maternal grandma) in the house with us to help raise my sister and I while mom and dad were working.

As we grew up, it was always my mom and M-ma taking my sister and I everywhere. Dad worked a lot, and at one point he worked two jobs for the longest time. Mom was always playing taxi, taking my sister and I to and from after school functions, appointments, shopping…seems like we were always going somewhere.

Of course we don’t stay kids forever, and eventually my sister moved away. I remained at home, however, even though I was working and taking classes. I liked being there with mom, dad and M-ma. Plus, since most of the time I was at work or school, we were hardly ever in each other’s way.

Mom and I were always close, but then everything changed on Sept. 1, 2006. That’s when I had my biopsy on the lymph node in my neck, and our family was about to get caught up in a long medical saga for the next several years.

For a long time, I was quite secretive about my personal affairs, especially doctors appointments. They were always pretty uneventful, so there was really no reason to tell my parents every detail. But when everything started changing with my health, I found myself opening up more and more with mom. I’m not sure when, but I do remember at one point asking her if she would start coming with me to my doctor’s appointments. It was all just getting too overwhelming and having an extra set of ears in the room would be a relief.

But mom was WAY more than an extra set of ears. She sat with me through every chemo, drove me back down to the doctor’s office the day after chemo for my Neulasta shot, and kept an eye on me at home. Luckily, I was never really sick from the treatment, but mom took care of me anyway. She listened to me complain about being bored, she offered to make me anything I was hungry for, and she took me places when I felt good enough just so I could get out of the house and break up the monotony of sleeping and watching television. Mom was going through everything I was going through, but in a different way.

And when I relapsed and learned I needed a stem cell transplant, it was mom who was by my side continually. It was also at this time when I, overwhelmed with stress and uncertainty of the upcoming events, turned over my finances to my mom. I could not deal with making arrangements with the health insurance company as well as trying to focus on getting better. Not only was mom more than willing to help out, but she also handled it like a champ – much better than I would have. She made phone calls, filled out and sent in forms, and even organized a binder with all of my insurance information.

My treatment required us to stay at the Family House, connected to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, where I would have my transplant. Mom drove me to and from Morgantown several times for tests, pre-chemo (yes, can you believe I had to get chemo so I could get more chemo later?!), and doctor visits. And when it came time to take up residence for a few months, guess who was with me? Yup, mom packed up just like I had to and stayed with me at the Family House. We stayed together while I went through outpatient procedures, but when it was time for me to be admitted to the hospital, mom stayed by herself in the Family House. She came over to my room every day and sat with me all day long. I actually felt bad for her because she had to have been so bored – I know I was bored out of my skull. But yet she sat in that chair next to my bed faithfully, day in and day out, for five and a half weeks. Even after I was released, mom was – and still is – my “driver” to and from WVU for check-ups.

In early 2011, mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. Now it was her turn to go through the surgeries, the continual doctor visits and tests. I regret being unable to take her everywhere like she did for me, but thankfully dad was able to do that. Being on the other side of the cancer fence as the caregiver instead of the patient was terrible. I felt powerless. What would I do if something happened to my mom? But she pulled through splendidly – as if we all expected anything less!

My mom is my hero. Not only was she my caregiver during the most difficult time of my life, but she was also my foundation. And she took care of many others in the family as well. But that’s just my mom. Selfless, strong and remarkably resilient through very difficult situations. She’s my best friend, and I talk to her every day, even if I don’t have anything to say, we still talk long enough to say, “Hi, I’m fine. I love you.”

If I continue to write about how special my mom is, this column would go on forever. So let me just say happy Mother’s Day, mom. There are not enough ways to thank you for everything you’ve done and not enough words to tell you how important you are to me. You are a wonderful role model and it was because of you that I’ve become the woman I am today.

To all mothers, I wish you all a beautiful Mother’s Day full of memories that you will cherish forever.