RELAY: Cancer can’t take memories

Published 5:23 pm Thursday, May 12, 2016

When watermelons are in season, I feel sad.

A beautiful piano solo can bring tears to my eyes.

And anytime I see a bald woman with a scarf on her head, I want to hug her.

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My mom, Gloria Davis, died of ovarian cancer four years ago. Watermelons were her favorite fruit and she was an accomplished pianist.

Even though she is gone, she blessed me with the woman she was, the things she taught me, and the gift of her heritage.

Longevity ran in my mother’s family, and my brother and I used to joke about who would take care of her in her old age. The jokes came to an abrupt halt with the unexpected discovery of a tumor followed by a diagnosis of Peritoneal Ovarian Cancer, Stage 3B when she was 71.

There were surgeries, an ostomy, chemotherapy, radiation and complications of every sort.

The next two years taught me what “fighting” cancer is. Cancer patients fight pain — pain from surgery, from tumors, from side effects of medication and chemotherapy.

Cancer patients fight fatigue, discouragement and despair. Cancer patients fight time — so much time is spent waiting in doctors’ offices, lengthy chemotherapy sessions and repeated hospital stays.  Cancer patients fight the demoralization caused by hair loss, dry skin and other aesthetic issues.  Cancer patients fight stigma from ignorant people who think cancer is contagious, or some type of punishment from God.

Cancer, strangely, can bring good things, too. Cancer gave my mom and I time to say all the things we wanted to say. I got to thank her for being a great mom, and to apologize for being an unappreciative young adult. She told me stories about her childhood, and the ones about mine that I’d forgotten. My young son spent as much time with her as possible, because memories were the most precious thing she could pass on to him.

Best of all, I got to tell her I loved her over and over again.

When my mother ultimately decided the cost of fighting was higher than the cost of living, we found angels on earth called hospice care. Hospice is a calling, not a job, and no question what we had was too silly, no time of day too inconvenient and no need too big.

When the shadow of death approached, they were not afraid to face it, held our hands and walked through it with us.

Cancer is a complicated beast. I celebrate with those who have beat it, and with those, like me, who’ve lost loved ones to it, I mourn. Cancer revealed to me a world of caring people who are dedicated to helping those affected by cancer. Cancer showed me the strength ordinary people can have when faced with a terrible enemy growing right inside them. But most of all, cancer taught me that even though it may take the body, it can never take the memories of someone you love or the legacy they leave behind.


Love you, Mom!

-Sally Green