Survivor: Her mom, Susie (pictured with her two grandsons)
It made me cry the first time I heard it, a song on country radio – “She’s Somebody’s Hero.” It is about a woman who has devoted her life to the sole purpose of raising her daughter to the very best of her abilities. This song could have been a true story about my hero, my mom Susie.
It is truly difficult to determine where her story begins. Her mother and father, though they loved her deeply, were plagued by alcoholism. She was a small town girl who wanted more for herself. She married young, at 17, in love of course but also wanting out of the environment she was raised in. Unfortunately, being so young meant a lot of growing up was needed, and my father tested their relationship often.
At 20 she had a little baby girl that she fell in love with instantly. Then her only brother died unexpectedly, leaving the family in turmoil. Forgive me if the sequence of events becomes fuzzy now; the next few years are seldom talked about. My father went to Alaska to work, which was difficult on a young family. My father was beginning to “grow up,” but had a ways to go. We made our way back to Oregon, and made a life in a new small town.
Ten days after my 4th birthday, my father died in a car accident just miles from home. Hearing the sirens, his loyal Dalmatian dog began mourning before we even knew he was gone. In this horrible, confusing, stressful time came a glimmer of light. My mother discovered my father had given her one last gift. She was going to have a baby boy. In her darkest hours I would try to comfort her like she did me. I would climb in her lap and sing her “Puff, the Magic Dragon.” She had to go on, for the little blond haired girl who saw wings on her mother’s back and knew she had to be an angel.
Another son, father, brother gone but soon there would be a new spirit to shine light into our family. She was a mother of two; a survivor of so much, so young. There were more deaths, more births, more heartache and more laughs. On August 11th, 1990, my brother and I officially received a new daddy and she the man of her dreams.
Family is, was and always will be her reason for living. She cried when I graduated from the sixth grade, she wept when I graduated from high school and she sobbed with pride and joy when I received my college degree. We danced on my wedding day holding tight to one another’s hearts as my life without her shelter seemed to be beginning. She didn’t tell me when she went in to have the first mass removed; she tried to give me shelter from the coming storm. I was so hurt; how could she not tell me? Only now as a mother do I realize why.
Facing the unthinkable
Stage two breast cancer. It seemed like a horrible nightmare. How could my mother have cancer? I remember pacing the hall with my dad as we waited for them to get the poison out of her. I had never seen such helplessness in his eyes. They removed 17 lymph nodes, three of which were cancerous.
This will be her fifth cancer free year. She celebrated her 15th wedding anniversary and will turn 50 in December. In those five years, she has became a Nana to two boys who also see those wings I saw 25 years ago. The youngest a survivor also, struggling for his own life during of an hour-long cardiac code. My mother stood there with me as we watched his spirit leave. He came back. They are both survivors, choosing life over death, now and always.
They say that your chances of reoccurrence drop drastically after five years. The thought of losing my mother, my hero, was inconceivable to me. She has been the wind beneath my wings for 29 years. I plan on soaring high for many, many more years. The winds may shift, strengthen and even weaken, but will always remain. She is and always will be my truest hero. I wanted to share her story, as I sit by her side in celebration of her fight to survive. I am now the one who sobs with pride, joy and awe. Thank you, Mom, for the past 29 years of love, support, strength and wisdom. Thank you for being my best friend. Thank you for being my hero. Thank you for being a survivor. I love you Mom.