Thursday, March 3, 2011

An Ode to My Mother

I have been MIA for the past few weeks, recovering. I had my swap surgery February 9th and started my Xeloda pills last week. My new "Girls" are looking pretty good, but it's hard to get excited about them when they are black and blue. Luckily, the new Victoria's Secret catalog came in the mail the very same day as my surgery. I treated myself to three new bikinis as motivation for falling in love with this new body.

On the chemo front of things, the Xeloda treatment is going well. I'm pleasantly surprised. I haven't had to call my doctor in a panic or get rushed to the hospital. So far so good, although I guess my previous medical dramas have set the bar kind of low!

I am definitely fatigued, but I can learn to fit fatigue into my lifestyle. There's nothing wrong with an 8pm bedtime; I've got nothing to prove. I also need to learn to live with a constant stomach flu. Most women my age have to remember to bring a change of shoes in their purse (heels for the office or the bar, flats or flip flops for getting around town) or they have a purse stuffed with technology: a work blackberry, a personal cell phone, a digital camera, an IPod, or the young mom carries a diaper bag stuffed with toys, snacks, pacifiers, wipes, and, of course, diapers. Not me. I can't leave home without making sure my Immodium is in my purse. I root through my purse at dinner to pull out, not lipstick or a mint, but those Xeloda pills that must be taken with a meal. I am not turning into my mother, like some women my age. I skipped that stage completely. I'm turning into my grandmother!

That said, my face may be suffering from the Xeloda even more than my tummy. The hives have retreated  everywhere but from my face. I have the face of a 14 year old now. This is not my face. I turned to the Big Man the other day as we were brushing our teeth and pointed in the mirror saying, "Who the Hell is that woman in the mirror? That is not the woman you married!" He, of course, told me I was beautiful, but later that evening he advised me against ordering dessert because the chocolate might aggravate my "rash." Don't be fooled, blog friends, the Big Man is not perfect!

I suppose this is typical of my cancer journey. I check off one item on the "Cancer To- Do List" and another To Do pops right up. Just when I  had finally gotten over the major self-esteem issue that was learning to love my post-mastectomy chest, I now have to learn to love my chemo-induced acne and nausea.

Like the Victoria's Secret shopping spree, I am now pondering a trip to a make-up artist. Do any of you Boston-area readers have a recommendation for where to go? I get nervous about the stands in the mall. I'm not looking to get "hot" for a night out at da club. I just want to look fresh faced for a trip to, I dunno, the grocery store.

So, I apologize for my absence, but I've been a little under the weather and also I haven't been too full of self-confidence. Blogging requires a bit of chutzpah. I'm letting it all hang out here on this website. I have to be in the right frame of mind to blog. I might wake up ready to take on the world, but when I look in the mirror these days, that attitude quickly disappears as my cancer-acne stares back at me.

Which brings me to my topic for today. I want to take this opportunity to praise my Mommy. She is truly the only person in the world who can help me at a low self-esteem moment like this one. My swap surgery was surgery number 8. In 6 years, I've had 8 surgeries. Mom has dropped everything and run to my aide for every one. After spending the last 3 weeks together, I've realized that I always proclaim my love for the Big Man and I really have barely mentioned the other major player in my life.

Oh, Mommy, How do I love thee? Let me count the ways:

Mommy and Bridge on my wedding day
Don't we look alike?
1) Mom is my biggest cheerleader. When I am feeling unattractive, she knows just the right thing to say. When I lift my shirt up above my head in the living room and say, "Mom, does the left one look slightly bigger than the right?" She takes my self-doubt seriously. She never tells me I'm being silly. She takes it seriously and she tells the truth! Mommy looks, critically, at both new breasts. She might even get out a measuring tape to take a closer, more scientific look. She asks me to turn to my left and turn to my right. Then she kisses me on the head and says, "They're perfect! I love them!"

2) She talks
and talks
and talks
and talks

When your life is a living soap opera, the best medicine is to forget about all the really huge life-changing stuff that's going on. People and US Weekly come in handy, but really the best medicine is a good, long conversation with mom. My mother will talk about anything. We talk about interior decorating and real estate, politics, and, of course, gossip.   My mother is like an elephant, she never forgets a face, a name, an occupation and marital status, or a child's name, occupation, and marital status. My mom loves to read the high school sports section of her local paper religiously. Why? She hasn't had a child in high school in at least 10 years. She reads the sports page because her friends and her neighbors have kids in high school. She likes to be able to personally congratulate them on their child's accomplishments when she runs into them in the grocery store.

You get the picture. Next to going out to dinner with the Big Man, talking to my mother is my favorite activity.

3) Last, but certainly not least, she does whatever needs to be done, no questions asked and with no expectation of repayment. Five years ago, I was bald as a baby's butt and just one week post-radiation. I wanted to move back to Boston to be closer to my boyfriend of one year. My mother not only allowed me to move, she moved me. I couldn't lift a thing. I was just a few months post-surgery. She drove furniture cross-country and then moved it all in for me. No questions asked.

Since that move, she has come up to Boston every three months to sit with me and hold my hand as I received my three-month scan results. She books flights. She books hotels. She takes me out to dinner. She takes me shopping and out for manicures to take my mind off my impending doom. She goes grocery shopping and cooks dinners that are frozen and ready to use after she leaves. All in all, she keeps my life running.

When I had my double mastectomy, Mommy moved to Boston for more than a month. She uprooted her life. She left bills and friends and the comfort of her own home. She found a long-term apartment down the street from my house and was at my disposal before I woke each morning until I fell asleep at night. She found a lovely B&B owned by an Irish couple that is three doors from my home that has become her second home. (if you ever want to visit Boston, I highly recommend it!  I owe my very life and all of my cancer fighting success so far to my mother's constant help. I couldn't have faced all that I have faced without her help.

Two Hot Girls on a Hot Summer Night
My mother is the ultimate portrait of a lady: graceful, selfless, smart, funny. She knows how to handle every situtation in exactly the right way, from talking to doctors to making career choices, from gardening to cooking & cleaning, from buying a house to renovating and decorating it. Mom has never steered me wrong and she is such a source of help, support and advice for me and for my three brothers. In fact, now that I mention it, how in the hell did she manage to raise four kids who were all a year and a half apart in age? Many women are exhausted by two, imagine raising four kids all under the age of five!

When I was growing up, my mother and I could barely speak without arguing; I believe it's because we were so much alike. We knew how to push each other's buttons and we couldn't help ourselves! I hate cancer, but I will forever be, on some level, very thankful for this nasty turn my life has taken. Cancer brought Mommy and me closer than we ever would have been otherwise. My mother is the port in this storm. This life would be unbearable and the situation would be untenable without her constant assistance. I can sleep soundly at night knowing that Mommy's got my back.

 Mommy can never be repaid. Saying "thank you" will never be thanks enough. Helping her move, taking her to dinner, remembering her birthday or Mother's Day, nothing I do could ever be enough repayment. This blog entry isn't enough. This ode could be a book.

The only thing I could possible do is take this opportunity to reassure her, to promise her, publicly: Mom, I promise never to put you into a retirement home. In fact, I think I owe you and all your best friends a very comfortable old age!

I'll close with my favorite version of a "Thanks, Mom" courtesy of Poet Laureate Billy Collins


Larry said...

Welcome back. And welcome to the new “girls.” I’m sure they are perfect, and a hell of a lot better than the old ones that tried to kill you. I’ll look forward to seeing you, and them, sometime soon. Um, uh, not sure how that came out in writing, but in my head, it sounded quite gentlemanly. Anyway….

You noted that your mom is “graceful, selfless, smart, funny.” You forgot “drop dead gorgeous, just like her daughter.” And in 20 years or so, when you continually demonstrate to your own daughter that you too are a fantastic mother, because you learned from the best, I reserve the right to say “I told you so!”

Molly is Fast said...

I mean...honestly Bridget. I was crying by the end and then laughed hysterically through my tears at this, "Mom, I promise never to put you into a retirement home."

Lots of love to you my friend.

Peggy said...

We LOVE Dottie too! It's no wonder you are her daughter...xoxo

Patty Mellon said...

Bridget - What a moving tribute. You and your mom both are beautiful beyond words inside and out. Thank you for sharing.

Grace said...

Hi Bridget! My name is Grace and I used to be your cousin Margaret's roommate senior year at Villanova. I remember when she and I first moved in and we were at a complete loss for how to decorate and place the furniture in the awkward layout of our apartment. But your mother to the rescue! She came one afternoon and brought a TON of fantastic things to help make the apartment homier like more lamps, mirrors, pictures, bright throw pillows, etc. Plus, she figured out how to arrange our furniture! I'll never forget the two things she taught us 1.) everyone hangs pictures on the walls too high and she added 2.) "you know girls, no one is going to arrest you if you take the warning tags of the lamps." She is pretty incredible woman!

Also, I had trouble with bad acne when I was in high school but I found Proactive helped A LOT! I had tried every over-the counter acne medicine and this one, by far, was the best. And Bare Minerals powder concealer is wonderful. It's so light on my face and actually helps my skin (its good for it!). It was the only make up that didn't aggravate my skin. I really hope this helps!

Jenny said...

Well, now we know where you get all of your grace, selflessness, intelligence and humor! And don't worry too much about the acne. I'm guessing with your girls, some of the attention will be drawn... Well, let's just say "elsewhere". :D

Grace said...

Oh and I forgot to tell you that you can buy bare minerals at Sephora.

I'll be praying that you start feeling better very soon!

ghouser said...

You are truely AMAZING! I hope that you don't mind, I posted a link to your blog on my facebook page because I think your story is inspring to anyone who has been touched by cancer. Congrats on the new "girls" it's a big step on your journey. I hope that you continue to take these steps and that one day you will be done with cancer once and for all. I look forward to your future blog posts because you are such a great writer. If you haven't already you should look into writing a book using your blog posts.

Hua said...

Hi, I'm new to your blog. Good to hear that treatment is going well.


huMmMingbird said...

What a fantastic blog. Mara introduced me to it. You are on am amazing journey, as was I when I conquered lung cancer. The nausea & side effects do eventually pass. It's almost 2 yrs now for me.(YEAH!!!) I'm sure your "girls" are perfect! And always remember how BLESSED you are to have such a wonderful living mother.

melanie goes pink said...

Another moving tear jerker Bridget. Beautiful tribute to your Mom. Glad to hear the new treatment is going well!
It's about that training time again, let me know if you are ever in the DC area, would love to do a training walk with you!

Bridget said...

Welcome, Hua! I am thrilled you have found me! Thanks for the kudos and thanks for reading, ghouser and Hummingbird! Writing a book is definitely in my 5 year plan, but I fear only my blogger buddies will read it, so I want to add a little something extra beyond just repurposing these posts! I'll be sure to keep everyone posted on that book if it ever comes to fruition!

Grace, would you believe my mom was up at my house last week cutting off all the warning tags on my lamps!

Thanks for all the love, Mom is loving her moment in the sun!

Jane said...


Bare Escentuals makes Bare Minerals makeup. They'll give you a free demo/makeover and you can layer on the powder foundation as light or as heavy as the moment or occasion demands. I wasn't a daily makeup wearer before I discovered them (while trying to find wedding makeup) and now I am. They have stand-alone stores and counters at some department stores, as well as Sephora- as someone else mentioned. I went to a stand-alone store, and had a really great experience. Having battled cystic acne as an adult and been on Accutane twice, I can relate to how the acne part can rattle one's vision of oneself. Ugh. I can't promise that Bare Minerals will make it all better, but it's something to try! Thanks for continuing to share your thoughts with us- and I hope the makeup works out!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post! Made me feel like I know your mom, and it made me miss mine even more than usual. So glad to see how clearly you cherish her, and she you.