My Mom was definitely not supposed to get cancer. The thought was impossible and unreal. This strong, beautiful woman who lived each day focused intently on taking care of her family, offering unwavering support & strength and functioning as the glue that held everything together; the possibility of her being seriously ill was unthinkable.
My brother and I hit the jackpot when we were chosen to be her children. What do you learn from a woman who uproots her life and moves across state simply to be near her grandchildren? Or caters to every need, desire or whim of her 94 year old live-in parents? Or drops anything, anytime to simply listen, offer advice, help navigate the difficulties of my single motherhood, be a second mom to all of her young grandsons, work hand in hand with my father for 49 years (and going strong) to build a beautiful life for her kids? The list is endless. You learn selflessness, generosity, patience and a knack for rolling up your sleeves and diving in no matter the size of the obstacle. Because that is what she did with her cancer and boy was it an obstacle – the grand-daddy of obstacles. She rolled up her sleeves, dove in to face her battle head on and the only option was recovery. And yes, that truly is her mindset – the only option was conquering the beast in her pancreas and getting on with her life.
A few weeks in, I asked her if she was scared and if she’s cried about her diagnosis yet – I’m not positive she answered me 100% honestly because, true to form, she was more focused on my emotional well-being than her own. But her answer was “NO!!!!” She rolled her eyes and said she was, however, terribly annoyed with cancer for causing this inconvenience and pausing her daily routine. We both laughed long and hard at her response. And I was yet again, overwhelmed but not surprised by her strength, commitment to getting better and overall awesome attitude.
We rallied as a family, of course – we were close but have grown closer. Her friends and cousins mobilized, taking time away from their own lives to travel across state and even internationally to visit and offer support. The most tragic part of this story being that the cousin (closer than a sister) who took a surprise trip from Canada right before my mom's surgery to give her a hug was the same beloved cousin who would succumb to pancreatic cancer just two years later. We didn’t know it at the time.
My family connected with The Hirshberg Foundation less than a week after diagnosis. What would we have done without this source of information and support connecting us with others fighting the same fight and emerging victorious? How would we have navigated this unthinkable happening without having them on the line with us, patiently listening to us cry or ask uninformed questions? Where would we be if they hadn’t connected us with the life saving medical team at UCLA – her doctors appearing to us as super heroes wearing capes in the form of lab coats? I don’t have to wonder about any of this because we didn’t have to navigate this all alone. The Foundation was there for us, every step of the way. And 5 years past this nightmare, they are still there for us with support, love, friendship and grace.
Mimi - we are here for you, we love you, we will do anything for you, and we are proud of you for kicking this “annoying” disease’s butt.