To the Mom who sacrificed it all…

She brought me into this world. It wasn’t what she expected, but with the help of my dear Grandma Hale, my Mom told my Dad the child they had briefly discussed having without having come to a definitive agreement was already on her way. I now understand her fears of being an older mother, but can assure you they were all proven to simply be the fear of the unknown. 
My Mom gave me a beautiful childhood. She helped me with my homework each night, made sure I succeeded in school, never missed a school event or sports activity, sat on PTA boards and was a Brownie Mom for the Girl Scouts. My Mom cared for me with patience, she surrounded me with loving and compassionate people, she encouraged my relationships with other people in my family, even if they made her feel second best. My Mom sacrificed so much during my upbringing to make sure I had everything I needed, wanted, and so much more. My Mom brought me into this world and she made sure every day since was better than the last. 

Unfortunately, I didn’t always appreciate her and all she did for me. As with most teenage regret, I spent my high school years hating every decision she made for me. Instead of appreciating the direction she was pointing me in for my life, I resented her for going against what I wanted in the moment. Instead of understanding that the no’s often meant she was protecting me, the maybe’s often meant she would look into it to assure her only daughter would be safe, I criticized her for anything other than yes dear. But I don’t regret my regrets. What I mean by that is that I’m thankful that I was wrong. I’m thankful that I learned what a wonderful Mom I really had. I’m blessed that, although it often made her life difficult she stood by her no’s and she followed through with her maybe’s. 

Now I’m someone’s Mom. I appreciate all she taught me when it comes to being a mother to my son. I am grateful for all the important life lessons and values she instilled in me. I understand from the bottom of my heart all the love and concern that went into each no. I understand what a struggle it was to follow through but what an act of love it was to be consistent.

I see my Mom, now as a grandmother, and I appreciate her in a whole new way. She loves my stepchildren as her own. She supports them in ways one wouldn’t expect. She never misses an opportunity to be cheering for them in the sports stands or beaming with pride at a school event. She holds a place in her heart equal to the space she has allotted for my son, and we can’t ask anything more than that. She is a Nana who loves her grandson unconditionally. She is one who is there for every single glorious moment in his life and who runs to our side for every battle we have faced. As a grandmother, my Mom is even more patient and kind and loving than she was as my mother. She tells my son he is the greatest thing that happened to her and I believe that. Instead of saying “hey but I’m your daughter,” I appreciate her for putting forth so much of herself to make my son happy. I am beyond grateful that he has a relationship with his grandmother very similar to I did as a child. I’m even more grateful that I learned from my mother to encourage and appreciate the loving relationships that exist in Anthony’s life. I firmly believe that as he grows these relationships will make his life easier and happier and for that I’m proud to be just like my Mom.

But while she has supported me through every moment of my life, loved me unconditionally (even through my faults), and provided me with a happy, prosperous, and enriching life, it is the love she had for my father that has set her above the rest, in my eyes, as a Mother. She endured our endless bouts of busting her chops, she passed the phone without hesitation when she knew I always called to talk to him, she simply shook her head when she knew I went behind her back to get a yes out of him, she quietly sat in he background as I proudly proclaimed to be a daddy’s girl and that I loved my Dad the most. She calmly and collectively skated through all those years with a smile on her face and the ability to let everything roll off her shoulders. 

Then suddenly, when my Dad got sick, I saw my Mom in a whole new light. And I think that her undying and incredibly deep and inspirational love she had for my father was the greatest act of love she has shown me as my Mother. She kept him here until he no longer could fight. Whether she did it for him, or for herself, or for me, doesn’t matter. But the fact that my son got two wonderful years with him is an amazing gift that will always be my favorite thing in life. She sacrificed her earlier years for me and her later years for my father. It is no small act of love to stand by your wedding vows, “through thick and through thin, in sickness and in health,” and to provide your child with a loving home occupied by both of their parents. Especially with all the stress of today’s life, it takes a lot of commitment, effort, and sometimes a fight from within to do that. But my Mom showed me day in and day out, through her actions, that she loved me because she loved my Dad first. 

To top it all off, these past few months, she showed me that her loving qualities will continue to emerge as our relationship grows closer through the years. I had lost my best friend. I told her this. And in the wake of all the madness, she calmly, quietly, and easily slipped into my heart as the perfect replacement to the void I was feeling with the loss of my Dad. And she smiled contently when I referred to her as the “replacement best friend.” She put aside her own grief and heart break to make sure my heart was ok and that I could heal the way I would need to, just like the perfect Mom would naturally do.

Mom, thank you for literally giving me everything you could in life. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t recognize what you do and appreciate you for it. For loving me, my kids, my friends, my family, and mostly my Dad, I will always be indebted to you. I love you Mom. To the moon and back.

I can’t look…

I will never forget that moment. Anthony was being prepped for surgery and Doctor DiLuna came in to talk to us one last time to make sure we understood everything that was about to happen. He had someone alongside him who was pushing a computer. He asked if we wanted to see the imaging of the tumor. I instantly felt nauseous and angry. ABSOLUTELY NOT! I did NOT want to see this demon that was inside my son’s head and causing my family to be in this situation at this current time. So NO! I do NOT want to see the tumor. But Rob did. It’s the strength he carries when it comes to the medical situations that I wish so badly I could have…especially for Anthony.
I understand why Rob wanted to see, but I couldn’t. At least I couldn’t see while it was still in his head. Because my thoughts instantly went to what if this thing I’m about to look at is about to kill my son. For that reason alone, I just couldn’t do it. As Doctor DiLuna walked away, a million emotions ran through my head. I looked at Rob and said do you think I should have looked at it. He simply shook his head and said not if you don’t feel you want to. And there is was. The mix of emotions we had dealt with on this journey that left me feeling so troubled. I want to but I don’t want to. I should but I can’t. I need to but I’m scared.
Nine long hours later, Anthony emerged from the surgical unit with a swollen face and head. Although his head looked so much larger than the last time I saw my son, it was so much lighter without this tumor. The size of a small orange. For a little man like our Anthony, that’s a big pill to swallow. My son was living with a tumor that was the size of an orange. It was causing him incredible headaches. He was such a happy baby but in loud environments he cried so hard he would hold his breath. He vomited for days before doctors could diagnose him and even then they were WRONG.
It wasn’t until the veins were bulging in his forehead and his eyes went crossed from the pressure that we were able to figure out there was a real problem. And there he was. My precious little smiling son now crying with needles hanging from his little arms and an incision in the top of his head that would drain the excess spinal fluid. The crying would stop only because a ventilator would breath for him while he was fully sedated to undergo a more intense MRI and see the problem that we would fix the following day. My dad, the strongest man I have ever known, could barely stand at the sight of him. My stepchildren weeped at his bedside, I’m sure thinking they were coming to say goodbye to their brother. My mother standing strong as she always does…the rock in my madness. Rob’s cousins and aunts running to our side to hold me up and encourage me to keep it together. When I say this whole experience took an Army, it’s not an exaggeration.
So you wonder why this month of May is so important to me…why brain tumor awareness means so much. Despite popular belief, from a past filled with people who will never understand, it is not about standing on a soap box and feeling sorry for us. The strangest part of all of this is that I don’t feel sorry for any of us…not even my son. I feel strong because of this. I feel like this journey has brought us all so much closer, surrounded our son with so much love, filled our lives with incredible people, and humbled us beyond belief. But I do go back to that time. The time where the doctor looked in our eyes and said ten years ago there was no cure for your son’s illness. The time where the doctor looked in our eyes and said five years ago we had a cure but it still had its kinks. And when he looked in our eyes and said now we can do this surgery pretty successfully, however, your son’s tumor is resting against an artery. We need to cut off the blood supply to that artery for me to be able to remove the tumor. It really is a 50/50 shot.
Rob and I fought at that moment. We fought about who would sign the paper that would allow that surgery. We worried that the burden of responsibility should something go wrong would fall on that person who put the pen to the paper. I signed. He signed the paper for the tumor resection. It was a 50/50 deal from his parents. Anthony had a 50/50 shot and we all made it. Thank GOD!
So to the people who love me. To the people who love my husband. To the people who love my son. This month is so important to us. Without raising awareness, I would have lost my precious son that Rob and I worked so hard to bring into this world. As he gets older he makes me more and more aware of how blessed I am to have him. I have, since that day, looked at the image of his tumor. I’m not going to lie about it and act like I’m this incredibly strong woman. The first time I saw it…I couldn’t breath. It took my breath away. But now I look at this image with appreciation. I’m sure it sounds crazy to you. But I appreciate our struggle. Through it, I have found my greatest heroes, I have accomplished things I never thought I could, I have learned so much about love and life, and I have formed myself into a strong and loving woman.

My son was fighting for his life. I didn’t think he would make it. I couldn’t look at his tumor, but that tumor became the image at the front line of our battle. I know you might feel I’m on a soap box for my son’s illness, but what you will never understand is that it is far beyond that and far beyond your small minded way of thinking. I will continually work to find a cure for pediatric brain tumors. I will do this similar to the way that other have done before me that allowed my son to be alive. I have seen way to many precious souls die because of this terrible disease. I won’t take our journey lightly, Anthony WILL make a difference in the life of other brain tumor fighters.

And for those below us who like to justify our greatness as being on a soap box, I will tell you this. Soap box or not, we are making a difference. Spend as much time making an effort as you do talking shit and you will see how wonderful this world can be. God Bless!