My Mom is Super Woman by Malorie Burden
I think my Mom is Super Woman.
Growing up, we would do everything together. Each year for my birthday she would take me on these amazing shopping trips, every evening we had a routine of drinking coffee and watching Gilmore Girls together, and every once in a while she'd treat me to a fun concert.
She helped to create these amazing memories together and provided me with life lessons that I'll never forget; like the importance of being a badass, independent, and career driven woman.
Because of that, I found myself living and working in New York City right out of college. It was a bit far from my small hometown in Georgia, but my parents were proud of me and I was beyond excited to start a new adventure in NYC. Due to the distance, I would fly home for the holidays and found myself calling my Mom every day after work to catch up.
I had just gotten back to NYC from visiting my family for Christmas one year, when my girlfriends and I were trying to find a bar with a Happy Hour so we could chat about our holidays.
On the walk there I decided to give my Mom a call to see how she was doing. I was particularly interested because she had been dealing with headaches and dizziness for the past few weeks. The doctors thought it was Vertigo, and after some physical therapy they said she would be fine.
Me: "Hi Mom, just calling to see how you're feelin' today?"
Mom: (immediate crying)
Me: "Mom, don't cry please! I'm sorry you feel that way; I wish there was something I could do to help."
Mom: "Malorie, I just know something isn't right."
Me: "Everything will be ok! Maybe you should go to another doctor just to get a second opinion, but I'm sure you'll be ok."
But I wasn't sure everything would be ok.
A week or two went by and she had an appointment to get an MRI. Once they received the results, they called to tell me that my Mom had Stage 4 Lung & Brain Cancer.
I stood on the streets of Brooklyn bawling my eyes out as strangers walked by. Nothing seemed like reality. I couldn't control the emotions that were coming out of me and after I managed to settle down, every inch of me was in pain from the crying.
My emotions were a mix of confusion, devastation, and anger.
I couldn't even believe that this was actually happening. My mom was so healthy and the thought of it ever happening to her had never crossed my mind.
I was devastated because there were so many things I still wanted to do with my Mom like shop for a wedding dress one day and eventually give her a grandchild to love. It was also heartbreaking to remember us having fun dancing at my brother's wedding just months before, and how our lives would never be the same.
I was angry because my mom had smoked cigarettes when I was a kid, and even though she stopped years before, this awful disease still happened to her. I was mad that people could purchase cigarettes so easily, even though it's known to kill people. And I felt hurt because no one should have to go through the pain of having cancer.
The following year, I still lived in NYC and would fly home to Georgia to visit my Mom every chance I got. She was going through continuous rounds of chemo and radiation to help treat the 2 small tumors on her lung and the larger tumors she had on her brain. Even though I was talking to her every day, I felt terrible for not actually being there.
Honestly, it was a lot easier being far away so I could pretend this wasn't reality, but I knew I had to find a way to get back down South to help support my family.
It was almost summertime and within a few weeks of job searching, I landed a job Asheville just a couple hours drive from where my parents live. At that point, my Mom was feeling pretty stable and even helped me look for apartments in my new city. We were having so much fun and it started to feel like old times. I also felt at ease knowing that I could visit them and help out whenever I was needed. It was perfect.
Then the seasons started to change and I noticed my mom's health progressively getting worse each time I saw her.
It was winter and she could barely walk on her own, and she seemed to get skinnier each time I saw her. Her complexion was pale and gray. The medication and treatments had depleted her energy so much that she couldn't even have long conversations without needing to rest. By the end of the year she couldn't do anything for herself, and even though she was still doing chemo, the medicine wasn't treating the cancer anymore.
She had been going through this battle for almost 2 years, and I thought it would only be a matter of time before she was too sick to go on.
Out of desperation, she decided to go to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston after being referred there by one of her doctors. My aunt and I met my parents there for a week to help take her to appointments and get an understanding of what they were going to do to help.
They started her on a new chemo, and it was instructed that she complete 3 rounds of it in 3 months. My Mom decided it would be worth flying from Georgia to Texas every month to hopefully keep her cancer at bay, and we all agreed.
I flew back to Asheville a little relieved, as it seemed like she was in good hands in Texas. Each week she seemed to make small steps towards progress. She gained some weight back, had color back in her cheeks, and was getting a bit stronger each day. Honestly, I was just happy that my Mom felt more "normal" than she had in quite some time.
After her last treatment there in April, they did an MRI to compare to the one she had when she arrived at MD Anderson months before. My expectations for the chemo weren't very high because I didn't want to get my hopes up, so nothing could have prepared me for the results I was about to hear.
All the tumors on her brain have completely disappeared!
My Mom and I were crying happy tears because I don't think either of us realized that was a possibility at this point. And in the weeks following the amazing results, my Mom has started to regain some of her independence in doing simple things on her own and we hope she will soon recover enough to be able to drive and start working again!
My Mom's tumors may be gone now, but I'll never forget all the love, awakening, and growth my family all went through during the past two years.
My Dad has been the one taking care of her through all of this. It is amazing to see the amount of pure love he has for her and to see him standing right by her side, even when he was hurting over the possibility of losing his wife of over 30 years.
I learned first-hand to enjoy each day you have, and to make sure your loved ones know how much they mean to you. Getting a second chance to create more memories with my Mom is like winning the Lottery, and it's something I'll never take for granted.
Even though the situation was terrifying, she went through each day with a positive attitude, put others' happiness before her own, and even maintained her Faith even when it seemed impossible.
That's why my Mom is Super Woman.
Malorie Burden supports the MD Anderson Cancer Center.
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center is one of the world’s most respected centers devoted exclusively to cancer patient care, research, education and prevention. Their mission is to eliminate cancer in Texas, the nation, and the world through outstanding programs that integrate patient care, research and prevention, and through education for undergraduate and graduate students, trainees, professionals, employees and the public.