Pre-Order So God Made a Mother

I remember the moment. The phone call. Raw. Icy cold. The moment my heart stopped. The moment my world spun off its axis and never quite righted itself again.

“It’s not good news, honey. The cancer is back and it’s spread.”

I saw a therapist once. While my mom battled breast cancer for the third, and final time. Her body ravaged by the disease, gripped in its deadly talons, a shadow of who she used to be.

“It’s the new normal,” the therapist told me, as if this was enough to guide me to acceptance. It wasn’t.

The new normal. I’ve grown to hate that term. What is normal about your body turning against itself, eating you from the inside out? What is normal about watching someone you love slowly fading away before your eyes? What is normal about wanting to drive into a concrete barrier to stop the pain that is ripping your heart to shreds? I just wanted to go back to the old normal. But desperately wishing for something doesn’t always make it so. I couldn’t go back. Neither could my mom. Cancer had stolen that normal. That normal was gone. In the flash of a moment.

The new normal lasted five years. A normal that was anything but. A normal that consisted of radiation treatments, chemotherapy, and blood transfusions. Months spent in the hospital trying to get the pain under control. A normal that revolved around endless doctor’s appointments and tests. Poking, prodding. The countdown to the end. I was trapped on a roller coaster I desperately wanted off of but, at the same time, I was clinging tightly to the handlebar, willing it to keep going. Knowing that when it stopped, there was no starting it again.

I grew to accept that new normal but never embrace it. It was full of so many moments. Dark moments. Moments of intense rage at a disease that was stealing my mom, my person. Moments of unbearable grief that made me forget how to breathe. Moments of guilt so strong I feared it would suffocate me. Moments I felt like not only was I losing my mom, I was losing myself.

But then there were the other moments. Moments I cling to, even now. Moments of gratitude for the time we did share. Moments of love, quiet and still, in the midst of such deafening sorrow. Moments of peace and joy amongst the chaos and pain. Moments of laughter, a rainbow through the tears. And then one day, in a moment, the new normal slipped into the old normal. The roller coaster stopped and I was forced to get off. Forced to face another new normal. This one without my mom. I desperately wanted to go back. Back to the normal that I hated. Back to a normal where my mom still existed.

I am still adjusting to this new, new normal. One where she is no longer here. I wonder, what does normal even look like anymore? What defines normal? According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, normal is “conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern.” But is it? What is a regular pattern for life? You are born, you live, you die. But what happens within that is different for all of us. No two journeys are the same. No two normals are the same. Who says what is normal? Its only constant is that it is forever evolving and changing.

So I change with it.

With each new normal I have gained a new perspective. A new way of looking at life. A life where I have learned to let the small things go. To ask myself, “Will this matter in a year? A month? A day?”

I carry with me so much gratitude. For my family, my friends, the ones I love. I cherish the days that are boring and mundane, because there is comfort in the ordinary. I work to choose happiness because I know the agony of grief that strips you raw, leaving scars that never fully heal.

I write letters to my young children for them to read when they are older. About their milestones, their adventures, their stories, their lives. But these letters? They are also for me. So I won’t forget the moments that make up my normal now. I remind myself daily to stay in this moment. This moment of the everyday. Because in a moment, this new normal could fade into the old.

I hug my kids a little tighter. I gaze upon their faces a little longer. I say I love you a little more often. Because this new normal? It will change, too. And so will I.

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available for pre-order now!

Pre-Order Now

Heidi Hamm

Heidi Hamm is a writer, wife and mom of twin boys who are nothing alike, and their older sister, who won’t admit that she really does like 80s music. She loves bookstores, Starbucks and peanut butter. You can find her on Facebook

I Never Wanted to Be a Hospital Mom

In: Cancer, Motherhood
Toddler standing with IV pole, black-and-white photo

Life as a hospital mom is not a life for just anyone. You have no other choice, there is no get-out-free card you can just put down and say, “Nope, Lord, I do not want this, take it back.” My heart hurts 99 percent of the time. My heart hurts for my child and the pain he is suffering. A necessary evil to keep him on the side of Heaven’s gates.  My heart hurts from the unknown of each day. Will he eat? Will he thrive today? What utter chaos will be thrown our way today? Will there be vomit...

Keep Reading

Cancer Is Weird

In: Cancer, Living
Woman smiling, color photo

Cancer is weird. For 3.5 years I looked into the mirror and didn’t recognize the person looking at me.  First, it was scared eyes. My eyes had lost the look in them that made me feel invincible. I had learned I wasn’t.  A week or so later, I saw the cut on my chest for my port. Then it was a bald head. Then a bald, steroid filled, and puffed up faced person looking at me. RELATED: This is What Cancer Looks Like Sometimes it was a teary-eyed, defeated person. Someone who had been up all night in pain.  I...

Keep Reading

Please Don’t Let My Baby Die

In: Cancer, Motherhood
Toddler boy lying in hospital bed, color photo

I wasn’t made for this.  I am not strong enough. Lord, where are you taking me? Why does this joyful time, filled with our last baby’s firsts, have to be this way? Why did the doctors look at me that way? They know what’s coming, and deep down inside, so do I. The inevitable word that is about to come out of their mouths.  The C-word.  Cancer. It’s life-changing.  Almost as if it were a car accident. Believe me, I know about that. To be the reason behind a grown man hanging onto a thread. Completely unintentional. I just needed...

Keep Reading

The Art of Showing Up

In: Cancer, Kids
Dad hugging young son

As a father of four boys, you may imagine that life is hectic from time to time for me.  While it truly is, in fact, quite crazy sometimes, it isn’t always because of the reasons you might think.  I have four boys, ages 11, 4, 3, and almost 2, and that certainly makes for an interesting daily living experience for my wife and me.  We do our best to remain patient and lean on God’s strength and peace to fill us on the days that seem overly daunting and occasionally even downright impossible, but we are human.  Therefore, we fail...

Keep Reading

No One Prepares You for When Your Husband Has Cancer

In: Baby, Cancer, Marriage
Family sitting by window

No one ever prepares you for the moment you hear your spouse has cancer.   More so, no one prepares for you to hear this when you have a 5-month-old at home. “Mom, they said the tumor is cancerous, and they need to enucleate his eye on Thursday,” I say quietly into the phone as I pump in a dirty bathroom stall at the eye hospital.   Whir. Whir. Whir. Whir. Gosh, I hate pumping.  Today is my first day being away from my daughter. My mom is watching her while I made the trip to the eye hospital with...

Keep Reading

l Will Never Stop Missing My Sister

In: Cancer, Grief, Loss
Woman in red shirt

It might be 16 years too late to properly depict the depressive senses that engulfed my whole being when I lost my only sister Aurora to colon cancer in 2006. Painful flashbacks continue to fill my everyday life at the most inopportune moments that  writing about it might somehow alleviate my grief. I remember getting that random phone call from her one sunny day in September 2006 and how guilt automatically hit me. It had been a while since I last saw her. “It’s positive,” she said. Backed with years of joking around and playing tricks on her since childhood,...

Keep Reading

Having Cancer at 34 Taught Me How to Live

In: Cancer
Husband and wife on boat, color photo

This picture came up in my Facebook memories today. It took my breath away for a moment, just like it has for nine years now. It was the last picture taken of me before my midwife found the lump and my life changed forever.  The first time I saw that photo, I realized I didn’t know that woman anymore. She was naive. Laying there in the sun without any inkling that a cancer was growing inside her. Look at her—unafraid and without anxiety. Less than 48 hours later, she would be gone, replaced by someone who was afraid of each...

Keep Reading

How Grateful I Am for a Mother Who Believed in Me

In: Cancer, Grief
Mother and grown daughter, color photo

It was a hot summer day sometime in the middle of high school. I was young and naive, but the ugly six-letter word was looming over our family: cancer. Although I didn’t know it then, this would be our last normal summer before my mother’s health would worsen. Cancer would give way to terminal cancer. It’s funny how something so big can seem so small in those moments. My mom and I were sitting on our back porch, encased in a narrow hedge of yew bushes. It was a yellow, lazy Saturday, and my brothers and father were at Cub...

Keep Reading

A Medical Diagnosis Challenges a Marriage

In: Cancer, Living, Marriage
Bald woman holding clippers over husband's head, color photo

It is no secret now that Albert Pujols and his wife have announced their divorce shortly after she had surgery to remove a brain tumor. As a breast cancer survivor, this news hit me in a special way. As I was reading through an article from Today, there was a quote that hit me hard, “But a marriage falling apart is far more common when the wife is the patient, researchers have found. A woman is six times more likely to be separated or divorced soon after a diagnosis of cancer or multiple sclerosis than if a man in the relationship is...

Keep Reading

When You’re Barely Hanging On, It’s OK to Ask For Help

In: Cancer, Living, Motherhood
Worn mailbox, color photo

I’m a bundle full of fun. My list of fun things include being diagnosed with cancer at age 33, having the BRAC1 gene mutation, doing six months of oral chemo, having a hysterectomy at 34, my ovaries and tubes out at 34, enduring a double mastectomy, and a million scans and procedures under my belt, followed by five months of oral chemo. I was a stay-at-home mom during this time with a 7, 5, and 2-year-old.  Sometimes I feel like I experienced a whole lifetime in one short snapshot of a year.   At the beginning of my diagnosis, our mailbox...

Keep Reading