Madeline H

Madeline H., NC

I vividly remember my brother-in-law letting me know he was waiting at my sorority house. I thought we were just going out to lunch. I had no clue my life was about to change forever. All that was on my mind was telling him about my weekend plans. However, when I got to the front door he was waiting outside and asked me to walk with him for a bit. I did, I knew something was up but not sure what. He then said words I’ll never forget. “Your mom is sick. She has lung cancer.” 

While a lot of the next few hours and days are a blur, I still remember clips. What I didn’t know when he told me was that my mom, sister and cousin were also in the car waiting for me. Waiting to take me home to Charlotte. My mom had a port in her chest. Which I later learned is why she didn’t answer any of my calls about buying a new Lilly dress and matching shoes. 

I remember walking into my sorority house and into my room, feeling numb and shocked. I packed a bag, which later I realized had nothing logical in it. I gathered some textbooks I needed and as I ran some last minute errands, I saw my Homecoming date’s fraternity brothers who said “I’ll see you tonight!” and I said “yes!” back because I wasn’t sure what to do or what was going to happen next.

I remember sitting in the back of the van with my sister and cousin making a joke about wigs. We got to Charlotte, and I realized my Homecoming date would be showing up any minute to pick me up for his fraternity’s party that night. What was so important to me at the time, changed in an instant. I went from sophomore sorority girl getting ready to go to a party to 19-year-old girl whose mom has lung cancer.

For the next three years my mom went through many treatments- chemo, radiation, surgeries. She participated in clinical trials, drove to Duke from Charlotte to try treatments. She was determined to beat the cancer and I thought she would.

But I knew something wasn't ok when she was in the hospital instead of being at my college graduation. In June 2008 she underwent brain surgery because the cancer had spread there. It was very difficult after the brain surgery. She didn't always know who I was, she didn't remember things, she got confused easily and wasn't herself. Despite all her fighting, she passed away that October. She was the strongest and bravest mom.

I would do anything to still have her here. I wish she was able to meet my beautiful twins. Every day I miss her and want to call her. I want to share my day with her, get her advice, eat her homemade bread, watch Gilmore Girls together, but most of all I wish I could see her be grandmama (the name she chose) to Eloise & James.

My twins are now in Kindergarten. I wish she was here to come with me to drop them off or take them for ice cream after school. I think of all the wonderful memories I have with her and want to make them with Eloise & James. But it would be so much better if she were here too.

I want to find a cure for lung cancer so other families don’t have to go through what mine did. I hope we can raise awareness and preventative testing for lung cancer. I believe if lung cancer is caught at an earlier stage, it will be more treatable.

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