To My Mom on Mother's Day
Advanced Metastatic Adenocarcinoma. Which essentially meant, aggressively spreading cancer with not a lot of time left to get your affairs in order. My mother; a small but feisty woman who had had to fight her entire life to be herself, had to fight now again but for her life with stage 4 cancer. It happened very fast, at the start of school year when I had turned 12.
We moved from Vancouver to a small town outside of Guelph on a 200-acre farm and renovated 100 year old log cabin my uncle was kind enough to let us stay in. Apart from the dark cloud looming over us, the farm was magical. Abandoned farm machinery sat rusted from the years of heavy Ontario thunder storms, neighbors down the road brought you fresh tomatoes and homemade bread. Mom hung crystal prisms from the tops of the window with fishing line so when the sun came in the window she would spin them delicately and rainbows would dance along the dark wooden walls surrounding you with light. In the summer you could hear the crickets and see almost every star in the sky. Fireflies would jet out of the wheat field like thousands of fairies being careful not to be seen lingering in one spot for more than a blink.
The maximum chemo and radiation started immediately after her diagnosis and her tiny frame didn’t take well to the weight loss. At 83lbs we didn’t have a lot of hope, but she pressed on. Friends stopped calling for fear of the worst and family waited. My older sisters were devastated that she wouldn’t make it for Christmas. Mom was too sick to do her arts and crafts. She loved using her hands as she always had to make beautiful things. It came natural to her. Be it her mother’s brown sugar pie or refurbishing an old chair-mom always put her heart and seemed to channel the type of creativity that only the greatest artists have accomplished from a place of passion and skill. Some nights after school we would sit on her bed under the covers and watch British comedies and stand up comedians under the strictest prescription that laughter was the best medicine.
We also delved into the world of Natural Medicine. Juicing, Essiac, Kombucha, organics, eating right for your blood type, meditation, Reiki, wheat grass and essential oils. I fell in love with the principals of how science and nature could come together with a strong mindset and the idea that healing could also come from within. I watched her change into a softer person who paid more attention to how beautiful and precious life was.
We lived about an hour away from any sort of civilization so when I woke up one morning to an empty house, I knew something was wrong. I called myself in sick to school and waited at the kitchen table staring at one spot on the wall while the crystals dangled like pendulums. The phone rang that they had to take her to emergency room in the middle of the night and was in the hospital. I thought it would be the last time I saw her.
The rest is true. I don’t know how. But, by some miracle, some grace of something beyond the capacity that I can ever understand, while on her death bed, she got better. Little by little and one day at a time, she got stronger, healthier until after a few months, the scans came back that the cancer was gone. Even the doctors thought there was something wrong with the machine and sent her back for more tests and to not get our hopes up. Still gone. Miracles of miracles, the cancer was gone. When I asked her how she thought she made it through-she said she had a dream where she had a choice to stay or become an angel. She said in the dream, she made a deal with God that if she could stay then she would have to bring hope to other people and to never take life for granted. And, now after 24 years of remission, a heap of beautiful grandchildren and many years of her Christmas sugar pies, I am incomprehensibly grateful to my mother and to the miracle department up in the clouds for giving her a second chance to be with us, grow with us and teach me how to me the kind of mother she is; always appreciating what a rare and amazing phenomenon life is and how important it is to love with every ounce of your heart.