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Guest Viewpoints

Mother is a Verb

My older daughter is an environmentalist. She doesn’t send greeting cards because trees died to produce a maudlin Hallmark sentiment that she can more sincerely communicate when we Duo. However, this year was different. I tore open the envelope, wondering what was up. An adorable cartoon creature waved from the cover and announced, “Mom, without you the world would have missed out on something wonderful!” And inside – “ME! (The world and I thank you!)”

You’re welcome.

Nicole was a sweet baby, an adorable toddler, a doting big sister, an outstanding student, a Girl Scout, a Goyan, a gifted pianist, and an awful teenager. My koumbara lamented that we should be able to put them to bed at 12 and wake them with a fairy tale kiss at 21. Or at least send them to boarding school and let them be some Miss Hannigan’s headache. Clearly, neither was an option.

She rebelled in ways I never would have imagined and tested my patience beyond Job! She made decisions I disagreed with. Then again, she never asked my opinion. In the midst of all the chaos, she paid me a left-handed compliment. “You’re a weeble. ‘Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.’” That’s me. When the dust settles, I’m still standing. Once, maybe in a moment of self-awareness, she asked me why I continued to bother with her. I didn’t have to consider my response. “Whatever this is – you’re not the child I raised. I’m just waiting for you to come back to me.”

And she did.

Nicole is an amazing woman. Not because she’s my daughter. Because she is who she is. She is a wife and mother.  She is a high school science teacher who has transformed lives and the environment through numerous sustainability projects with her students and my grandsons. They have planted fruit orchards and gardens at her school and reshaped the wash in the area to stop the overflow of tens of thousands of gallons of water into the streets, restoring wildlife habitats in the process.

She is a lupus patient. She is a stroke survivor. She is fighting cancer.

Nicole was diagnosed with lupus a year after I was, but her disease process is far worse than mine. She has endured every complication that this awful disease can lob at her.

She’s had two strokes. The definition of heartbreak? Watching your child use a walker to get around. She’s much better now.  Ever the teacher, she used her MRIs to teach brain structures and functions, brain damage and its effects.

And then – just when I thought it can’t get any worse – she was diagnosed with lung cancer that had metastasized to her brain. She had no symptoms – no dizziness, no shortness of breath – until she passed out. She thought she’d had another stroke, but her brain scan revealed 14 tumors. Her lung tumor was 11 cm, so big that she actually named it John Adams because of its uncanny resemblance to the second president of the United States.

The world stopped when she told me. By the way – that may be a cliché, but that’s exactly how it feels when you learn such devastating news about your child.

The first time I saw her in person, I sensed a profound change in her. Never the alarmist, she was calm, almost serene, as she spoke of her diagnosis and treatment plan. We spent a lot of time talking. Actually, she talked: Megan asked questions, and I listened. She even gave up her shrink appointment to us, figuring we needed it more than she did. She trusted her docs implicitly and was confident in their strategy. More important, she had adopted a strategy of her own, one we could all stand to model. She was totally focused on her family and her health. Nothing would distract her. No pettiness. No nastiness. No waste of time.

She is consciously choosing not to engage negative energies. She surrounds herself with positivity and lets everything else go. “There are lots of people fighting the social justice/education/environment fight. I’m taking a break.” She’s got a different fight to focus on.

She’s also got a ‘Dammit Doll’ that takes the hit every now and then. God knows, I can certainly use one of those!

She’s doing well. The brain tumors are gone, and John Adams continues to shrink. She’s had side effects from the chemo and radiation but, as with her other health challenges, she deals. She also maintains a video blog on CaringBridge, where she updates family and friends as to her progress. More important, she uses this platform to uplift everyone who watches, patients and caregivers alike, with words of encouragement and support for whatever journey they are on.

Because they are. We all are.

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