I saw a hummingbird yesterday & my heart opened. Why? Because of my mom. More on that in a moment.
I’m walking, for the second time this year. I’ve learned that my participation (and the financial & emotional support I receive) are truly examples that the efforts of one, combined with those of others, can change the world! Last year, San Diego walkers raised $7.5 million dollars! Over 3 days! The Komen 3-day walks began in 1980 and have since raised $850 million dollars. YES- over three quarters of a BILLION dollars toward research, care, education and more. Please show your support with a donation.
Why am I walking?
4 years ago my mom, Nancy, died from metastatic breast cancer, after an 18 year fight. She lost the battle, but throughout those 18 years, she had treatment options, developed as a result of dedicated and constant research to find a cure, that weren't available when she was originally diagnosed. Still, treatments today come with a high price, sometimes causing one to ask whether the treatment worse than the disease. (See below for my story last year about Mom's terrible side effects.)
I will walk in remembrance of my mom, and for family and friends who have lost, are now, or will be, fighting the fight. I’ll walk so research continues and progress made toward development of treatments which are more effective, have fewer awful side effects, and which, ultimately, will lead to a cure.
Back to the hummingbird.
I was lost when Mom died. I was struggling with the elusiveness of life and death- alive and 1 second later, gone. Where had she gone? I’m not a particularly religious person and don’t have strong beliefs one way or another about such things. One evening a week after she died, I wrote a letter to her, “talking” to her, asking where she was. Right then, a hummingbird flew to, and hovered by, jasmine at the window. I asked, “Is that you? Is that your spirit?” The idea resonated with me--the hummingbird as a reminder of her spirit—the essence of who she was—her kindness and generosity, her tenacity, bravery and hope against the odds, and her love.
Hummingbirds have since made appearances in my life at the most apropos times. While on a repeat beach getaway with family, this time without Mom. During last year’s 3-Day Walk, in a tree next to our rental house, along with 50 or more of her hummingbird friends, the evening before Mother’s Day when I was feeling sad and missing her.
Even now, 4 years after her death, hummingbirds are my symbol of Mom’s spirit. When I see one, I smile and feel comfort and joy because it’s like she’s checking in to be sure I’m alright, and to let me know she loves me.
When I haven’t seen one in awhile I notice it and hope one will cross my path soon. Often these times are when I wish I had my mom to talk to, like yesterday. And she showed up, like she always does, just when I need her.
Please join me in the effort to find the cure.
Is the Treatment Worse Than the Disease?
My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer 21 years ago. She was a survivor for 18 of those years, and then she wasn’t. I’m walking to honor my mom, Nancy, in her long, long struggle with breast cancer and its associated treatments.
She was in the very lucky to survive those 18 years after diagnosis, but it wasn’t smooth sailing. That’s what I want people to know—about the unexpected toll the treatments and the disease take.
Here is what she experienced as a result of her treatments:
- From chemo- hair loss, fatigue, nausea, susceptibility to illness & infections.
- From radiation- mild burning at radiation site, nausea, and nerve damage resulting in excruciating pain which progressed to complete paralysis of her right shoulder, arm & hand. Mom was right handed. She had to learn to do things with the opposite hand; she had to learn to do them with 1 hand. She couldn’t open a bottle of water herself. But she retrained herself to do as much as she could—writing, shopping, and dressing. It took her twice as long to put on a pair of jeans, a snazzy belt, earrings, and make-up, but she never let her style slip.
Mom was a teacher and had beautiful handwriting. Her left handed writing resembled that of a grade school child. I still treasure a few mementos with her “real” writing.
I can’t tell you the heartbreak I felt, and still do, seeing and thinking of her walking with her arm dangling by her side, like a rag doll’s arm.
- From Osteoporosis Drugs- to reduce chances of metastasis to sternum- progressive disintegration and decay of her jaw bone.
- From Metastasis- Mom lost her voice, permanently, because of damage to vocal chords. She was only able to croak or whisper. Initially she sounded as if she had laryngitis but then was really only able to croak or whisper. She was embarrassed and stopped accepting invitations because (she felt), it was so hard to understand her. My mom, a social person, became disconnected from people and events that had been important to her.
Can you imagine? Having survived breast cancer all those years only to realize your body has let you down in ways that are completely out of left field, mostly due to treatment?
Please be part of the effort to improve treatments until the time they will no longer be needed at all.