Carolyn Ganaway and Arlise Ellis

Carolyn Ganaway was 58 years old when she was diagnosed with lung cancer. Her daughter Arlise was 39, but no matter your age, you're never prepared to hear the news that a loved one has cancer.

"I may as well have been 10, because I suddenly felt like a small frightened child, like I was going to be an orphan!" Arlise remembered. It's been thirteen years since Carolyn's lung cancer diagnosis, and yet she's still a force, in her daughter's words.

Though they haven't spent Mother's Day together in quite some time, Carolyn and Arlise remind us that at the end of the day, every day should be Mother's Day.

By Arlise Ellis and her mother Carolyn Ganaway, as told to Tara Moore

One thing about my mom…She has a quick wit about her that cracks me up.  My mother is a confident woman who is not afraid to speak to anyone.  She's always been the person to get the job done.

Carolyn: I feel the love and camaraderie I had with my own mother has carried on between my daughter Arlise and myself.

My mom's strongest feature…Her strength. I come from a family of strong women. My mother raised my brother and I alone after she divorced my father when I was about 2 or 3. She worked extremely hard to give us the best life she could manage. We attended Catholic school, we went to sleep away camps every summer, traveled and experienced things many of my friends who lived near us in the Bronx never had the opportunity to do. My mother, with the help of her mother or Mama Rae as we called her, made sure my brother and I followed the rules of society and established a sense of self-pride in ourselves as African Americans and good citizens that is still with us today. Now that I'm a wife and mother, I can't imagine raising my son on my own. It's daunting enough as a team let alone, alone.  

Carolyn: I'm happy she feels one of my strongest features is my strength.

On Mother's Day…One year I sent my mother the exact same Mother's Day card I'd sent her the previous year.  When she called to ask if I'd bought a copy machine we laughed and I told her that the card hit the nail on the head and expressed exactly how my heart and soul felt and Hallmark found a way to put it into words.

Then, another year, I sent my Mother's Day flowers from an online site. The daisies were beautiful. Perfect actually. I was so happy I found them for her. She called to thank me and said she will keep them out forever. ‘What do you mean forever?' She said, ‘Yes the lovely fake flowers you sent me are so nice.' I couldn't believe the flowers I sent were fake, but I was so glad that she could keep them forever.

I'm sad to say I rarely see my mother on Mother's Day because she is retired and moved to another state. But I talk to her on the phone almost every day of the week. Mother's Day could be called Every Day because I try to let my mother know that I love her every day, not just one day of the year. To make sure she has something tangible to touch, I always send her flowers, beauties for my beauty.

Carolyn: Every Mother's Day has been the best, because one of my greatest accomplishments is giving birth to two wonderful children, my son Aaron and my wonderful and caring daughter Arlise. As for what we will do for this Mother's Day, I'll just let her surprise me as she always has. I know it will be great. I still have those fake flowers.

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