I was 34 years old when I lost my mom. She had ovarian cancer. She always said she would be fine. I believed her. When she went for chemo sessions, she told me there was a policy at the hospital that prevented me from going with her. I believed her. 

My mom went through hell fighting her cancer. She had multiple surgeries and multiple rounds of chemo that left her nauseous, vomiting, weak, and bald. After the first major surgery and rounds of chemo, she was told she was in remission. I think that lasted about a year. Then suddenly she was no longer in remission. She handled it all with grace. She once told us that maybe she was suffering so that someone else didn’t have to. She was remarkable. According to the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance, less than 50 percent of women are alive five years after diagnosis. I’m grateful this was not something I knew at the time.

Living life without my mom around was (and is) unimaginable, so I simply didn’t imagine it.

Raising my children without her in our lives was equally unimaginable. She was a stellar role model and I felt prepared to be a mother on my own but wanted so very much to share this experience with her. After my mom’s fourth surgery the surgeon told us there was nothing else they could do and she had somewhere in the vicinity of 6 months left to live. It was November. I counted out the months on my fingers, November, December, January, February, March, April. She would not be here for my daughter’s second birthday in May. It was surreal, unfair, devastating. 

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After fighting like hell for 4 ½ years she was done all at once. We didn’t have 6 months. Turns out we had less than 8 weeks. She was not here for my son’s fourth birthday in January. She wasn’t even here for Christmas. Unimaginable. The 8 weeks we had were a blessing and a curse. We had time to start getting used to the idea of her leaving us. We had time to ask questions, profess our love and our thanks and to say goodbye. It’s been 16 years and I cannot write that without tearing up. 

To my friends who are blessed to still have their mothers here with them a little advice:

  1. Take pictures of your mom.
  2. Take pictures with your mom.
  3. Take video—someday you will yearn to hear her voice again.
  4. In the words of Elsa, “Let It Go!” All of us moms can be a little annoying now and then. We nag, we remind too often, we ask too many questions or make too many recommendations but all in the name of LOVE. Forgive your mother and let it go. You will be glad you did. 
  5. Ask questions about anything and everything that they would remember that you may not. I tried to do this, but it wasn’t until my kids were older that I started to have so many questions about my childhood. Did I do that?! (Surely not!)
  6. Appreciate what you have. There are so many things that only a mother will do for you. Only mom remembers all your fave foods and all your friends’ names from elementary school. Be forever thankful that she comes to babysit or picks up your kid from school. I had so little help with my kids growing up. My mother-in-law was far away and my mom passed when they were very little. I see moms taking the help for granted left and right. 

Remember to express your gratitude often and sincerely. You are beyond blessed to have a safe, dependable, free babysitter who loves you and your kids. Remember the old adage treat others the way you want to be treated? In this case, treat mothers the way you want your children to treat you.

Diana Romeo

Diana Romeo recently published her first book From an Autism Mom with Love. She previously published articles describing her family’s adventures in autism in Autism Parenting Magazine and Exceptional Parent Magazine. She has a degree in Business Management and has worked in Human Resources.