Friday, October 1, 2010

Five Years On

Five years ago today, Mom died. Five years. So much time, so little.

I've sometimes written, and often thought, that I wish Mom were here to see how the story she let me tell in Mom's Cancer has circled around the world and still comes round to revisit in surprising ways. How it's being read in German, Italian and French. Today, what surprises me most is its staying power. Most books fade away after a year or two, and Mom's Cancer certainly has to some extent. But in the past year it's also been written up in the British Medical Journal and gotten me invited to speak to an international conference in London. Last Mother's Day, the Huffington Post listed it as one of their seven favorite mother-themed books, and in January the Onion's A.V. Club named it one of "25 Great Songs, Books, Films, Albums, and TV Shows in Which Cancer Plays a Major Role." Just last week, a German newspaper highlighted it in a big article. Independent of Mom, independent of me, the book lives.

That sounds like bragging, and it is, but it's bragging on Mom. Mom's Cancer is her story and legacy; I was just the messenger. Each of those accomplishments was one I wished she were here to share, along with the other life achievements of her children and grandchildren. She'd love to see what everyone is up to, and I know she'd be pleased.

My sister Brenda ("Nurse Sis") posted the following on Facebook this morning that I thought was good enough to steal: "The minute my Mom was told she MIGHT be ill she quit smoking that day... cold turkey. Done. I'm giving you permission to quit smoking BEFORE you get Stage IV Lung Cancer with Mets to the Brain. My gift to you on the 5th Anniversary of my Mom's death. Mom would want you to have THAT gift!"

I'll just add that Mom was always a stubborn smoker who reflexively fought any pleas to stop, arguing that she wasn't hurting anyone but herself. The one truth she realized too late that I'd like to pass on is that dying of lung cancer doesn't just hurt you; it hurts everyone around you that you love. Apply her hard-won wisdom.


Jane said...

Thank you for this. I haven't had the chance to read your book yet, but my own mum died from the same illness nearly 18 months ago (stage IV lung cancer metastasized to the brain).

I'd wholeheartedly echo your sister's message... my mum was an amazing woman, but she was only 62; how much she smoked must have taken ten years+ off her life, and I can't help but selfishly think how many more memories together we could have had in that time.

Anyway, heartfelt congratulations on the success of your book - it looks very well-deserved, and I know I'm going to get my hands on a copy when I can afford it.

Sherwood Harrington said...

Lessons like these, ones whose payoffs are the absence of something bad and years down the road to boot, are so very hard to learn. I can't tell you how often I struggled with how to get Doug to quit smoking -- only to find ultimately that not slathering him with sunscreen when he was young may have been my faster failing.

Mike said...

I often chuckle when Ashley Judd's name comes up, because the first thing that comes to mind is "Cute shoes!"

Well, your mom's not an extra anymore, and the award-winning, starring role you gave her continues to transform lives.