I recently did something scary. I got on stage and talked about my mom.
When I looked at the crowd, I wasn't exactly sure how to start. I knew her story, have lived with daily repercussions of it the past five months, but stared out and didn't know what to say first. I defaulted to a fact and said a headline that couldn't be debated.
"My mom died this past May of breast cancer."
Some people like to cushion things when they talk. I'm not one of them. Softer words can make hard things easier to say, but the more direct I can say something – even a subtle difference like "she died" instead of "she passed away" – keeps me grounded. It helps make sure when I do speak or write from the heart, it's the raw truth and not some flowery version.
I don't remember exactly what words fell out from there, but the worst part was already admitted. She died. "She died." How things led to that end, and how it has impacted our family since, are details easier to say when you've uttered the hardest hurdle.
The day she died, May 19, 2017, I wrote something on Facebook. I felt I owed it the many who knew she'd been battling. My mom was an open book about everything, including her breast cancer journey, and there was no reason to hide that she was gone.
So, I posted something. There wasn't tons of thought about what I should say because at that point I wasn't really thinking. I was moving. I was doing. I was checking things off a crappy list that had to be completed and I'm a good list-checker. But I wasn't processing. I was definitely not absorbing. So whatever I wrote, I wrote. I put the words down and hit publish. I then put the phone down and tried to figure out what had to be done next.
It went like that for weeks. Two months, actually. I was a high-functioning doer.
A seaside service we had in July helped me transition to more of a sponge.
That perfect morning thirty of us stood at the ocean and watched balloons soar high as five angels – her five best friends – spread ashes. It was remarkable.
Ever since, I've gotten better at taking in her loss. Now I let myself feel a pang when I go to my phone to call her, before remembering I can't. I've found birthday cards she wrote in her hippie artsy handwriting and I've let my eyes repeatedly retrace her letters. I've encouraged P and H to talk to her at night. I'm even starting to – at least in my head starting to – unpack boxes of her things stored in my front living room.
Through all the peeling back of these little layers, October 7th has loomed.
Suddenly it's only two weeks away.
The curse and blessing about Facebook is things live on forever. Even though the night of May 19 I wrote something, I hadn't gone back to re-read it since. This week I did.
The picture I'd posted got me. Mom is holding pink balloons, smiling-slash-cheering into the open air about her pride at being a breast cancer survivor. (You can see it here >> http://tinyurl.com/MyMomFB)
The picture was taken at a Susan G. Komen Charlotte Race for the Cure a few years back. That picture is the exact reason I pushed away my own fear and stood on stage to talk about her. It's why I'm attempting to write about her now.
My mom was PROUD. Look at the photo in that link. It says it all.
She was PROUD.
She was strong and PROUD to be a survivor.
The fact that her breast cancer got sneaky doesn't change any of that. The pride I see in that picture does one thing and one thing only: reassure me. Mom felt loved. Mom felt supported. That's why mom felt PROUD.
My mission is to continue to make other survivors feel that same way.
The first Saturday in October is a beautiful gift for thousands of people. Mom and I had been at Race for the Cure together the past seven years; it was a bonding moment. I'd stand on stage and see a sea of pink, but always catch her eyes in the crowd. She was always crying. Happy tears. She loved the morning. Loved the Race. So much so, one year she illegally climbed on top of a WBTV News live truck to get a better vantage point while waving her survivor flag with wild abandon. The photographers had no idea what to do with her on top of their vehicle.
I'm alone, typing and just laughed out loud at that memory.
This year's race will feel different. Mom won't be there waving up at me, but her spirit will be looking down on all of us. In some ways that's a peaceful thought. Mom, along with thousands and thousands of others being remembered that day, will all be looking down.
I hope you can join us. The Race is Saturday, October 7 at 7:30 a.m. There are hundreds of teams that come out – we'd love to have you on ours. No matter which one you join, just get out there.
Here's the link to join our WBTV #TeamMolly.
(If you are going to sign up to join our team – please do so by September 30. It'll make it easier to get you your t-shirts.)
The race is not and has never, ever been about just one person. It's about the endless amount of families impacted by breast cancer. But I'd be remiss if I didn't try to honor my mom individually by sharing her story on stage, or writing it now. She can't do it anymore, and I know she would be PROUD that I am for her.
There will be lots coming in the next two weeks. I can't wait until the morning of October 7 and seeing so many survivors out there, PROUD to be where they are.
Thank you guys for reading.
As I wrote on May 19, here's to finding a damn cure.