Late in 2013, 930 miles apart, I sat on the other line of a phone call that changed our lives. My mom had just been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer that had metastasized to her lymph nodes and adrenal gland. I sat in stunned silence as the doctor gave the prognosis. 6 months. That was it, and I was almost 1000 miles away. I sat there that night, on the phone with her, trying to calm her down, to think positive. We were going to fight.
I came home for the holidays and then moved home permanently shortly after. Two days before I moved home, she took a turn for the worse due to complications from the chemo and landed in the hospital. She went into emergency surgery and remained in a coma. It was the worst time of my life. I sat, every day, in that hospital, watching her slip away from us. When she woke, she didn't recognize my sister and I, nor did she really have any recollection of what had happened. Eventually, she turned around and things felt like normal. We laughed, we cried, we fought over silly things. She moved in with my then fiancé (and now husband) and myself, and we resumed a normal life. The staff at the hospital helped us apply for healthcare coverage, which is the only way she was able to afford the very expensive cancer treatments. That coverage gave us an additional 7 months of a normal-ish life.
Then one day, it wasn't normal. She went quickly, which when we look back at things, was better than any other alternative. We had gone through that, and it was torture. But knowing that doesn't make it any easier. In the end, she knew we were there, saw a picture of her grandsons, felt us hold her hand. We had gotten a full year together. There are so many things that she isn't going to be here for - my wedding, watching her grand kids grow up, holding my hand as I give birth, all those things she won't be here for. And every day I wish I had more time. More time to laugh, more time to cry, more time to fight, more time to spend with her, hold her, hug her, kiss her. So that is why I feel it so necessary to be here for Advocacy days. I am her voice and that of thousands of others who can't be here with us. I am her legacy, and I will fight every day so that, hopefully, another family doesn't have to experience that loss.