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She whipped down the narrow mountainside trail, pumping the hand break, twisting around the corner with perfect precision and uncanny grace. Upon reaching the base of the mountain, she snapped her shoes out of the clip peddles and unmounted the red and white, mud-specked mountain bike. Her toned musculature still rippling, sweat streaming over her popped out veins, and a most exhilarated smile on her face.

Meet my Mom as she was four years ago. My wonder woman, capable of tackling trails on her mountain bike that most men would cower and turn back at. Physically impervious. Mentally determined. She ruled courtrooms as a lawyer, trails as a biker, roads as a traveler, classrooms as a teacher. Able to speak three languages and navigate any situation. There was nothing she couldn't do. In my mind, she was a superhero. And then, my every perception of her was challenged.

September 2, 2013: Two painful weeks ago--it seems like so much longer--I went somewhere I hadn't been in sixteen years. The hospital. I was going to visit my Mom, whom I hadn't seen in seven weeks.

I anxiously stepped through the tinted sliding doors, staring about at the strained faces of every mother, father, sister, brother, son, and daughter waiting to hear news of their loved one. The pain was unbearably tangible. Above the smell of antiseptic, I could feel the agony of every person in the room. I could feel their dread. I could feel their uncertainty.

The hallways were scrubbed raw in an effort to mask every glum prognosis and shed tear. Still, I could tell that this wasn't a happy place for most people. Maybe if I had been in the part of the hospital with the happy new moms and nurses clad in pink, care bear scrubs, I would have felt less terrified. But this was the Oncology wing, where the nurses never smiled and wore dark, navy blue scrubs. The walls didn't have cutesy wall paper, and there weren't teddy bears and balloons in the patient rooms. The sounds of beeping heart monitors, the grey, tiled floors, and the barren, white walls were anything but comforting. It felt like death. Nurses hurried by, glancing at me with pitying smiles and sad puppy-dog eyes. One directed me to my Mom's room.

I couldn't bring myself to walk in right away, so I sat on the floor by her door with my head in my hands, just breathing. For a few minutes, I felt overwhelmed by nausea. I didn't know what to expect. I'd never done this before. I needed to be strong for her. But I couldn't even be strong for myself. I just had to do it. I couldn't let her know how scared I was.

I timidly tapped my finger against the door, to make sure I wasn't interrupting anything. I heard no objections, so I pushed the door open and forced myself to go inside. I felt my extremeties go numb, my legs wobbled, and before I could do anything to stop it- my face was drenched in hot tears and my throat closed tightly into a painful knot. So much to putting on a brave face for my Mom.

Through my eyes distorted by tears, I saw the tubes in her nose giving her oxygen and needles jabbed here and there pumping her full of morphine and blood and who-knows-what-else. She looked so small. I tried to convince myself that it was just the oversized hospital bed, the covers, and the way she was propped up by a bunch of pillows. But I couldn't. She had lost even more weight since she'd been on hospice earlier in the year. She had pulled out of that, but she had gone downhill again. All of her muscle was gone. I looked at her legs and could see the shape of every bone through her skin. Her face was gaunt and thin. Her skin, which had been beautifully tan every day of her life, was pale and grey. She looked like death.

The cancer had taken over. Only a true miracle would save her now, and I'd pretty much lost all faith in miracles when she was first diagnosed. I pulled myself out of my moment of cataclysmic realization. My Mom was looking up at me with a smile, but her eyes were full of a kind of pain no amount of morphine could help. Never had I seen her so submissive, so broken, so dull.

All I wanted was to lay beside her with my arms wrapped around her and cry into her shoulder like I used to do when I was little. But even that, I wasn't allowed to do. The cancer had disintegrated her bones. I tried to gently give her a light hug, but she shrieked in pain, so I didn't do it again. I felt terrible. I couldn't comfort her. I was so helpless, but she was even more helpless than I was.

It never got any easier or any less painful to see my Mom this way. She was in the hospital for over a month. She had surgery to remove her hip ball joint that had fractured, and was told she would never be out of a wheel chair. She had another surgery to put a metal rod in her leg to stabilize it and keep it from snapping in half like a toothpick. Her legs where held together by pins and rods. They doctors found that she had a spinal fracture on top of everything else. They didn't think she would ever be able to go off pain killers. They didn't think that she would live much longer.

She was able to move out of the hospital and into a nursing home. I only could bring myself to visit her there once, it was more depressing than the hospital had been. They fed her terrible food, she was surrounded by dying people at least thirty years her senior, and she was in pain. And the only way they would let her leave was if she could walk a short distance with a walker. I thought she would never be able to leave, that she would be stuck in that despicable place until her death. It was infuriating that I couldn't take her home, cook her wonderful meals, and talk to her everyday.

And then, she was able to walk that short little distance with a walker and they let her go home.

She found a quaint little apartment a light blue-ish grey, victorian style building by my school that suited her perfectly. The doors were wide enough for her wheelchair, and she had a little front porch where she could sit and be in the sun. What excited her most was the bath tub. Sitting in hot water made her hurt a little less, she said, and it helped her relax.

The cancer was there, but she wasn't dying anymore. She had cheated death for the second time.

She has been living in the little blue apartment for several months now. We had Thanksgiving there and Christmas too! Just this week we celebrated her 45th birthday. She walked with a cane to greet us at the door, nearly pain free, and off of all her pain killers. She also told us that she had started to do yoga again because her bones were stronger and her muscles were back. This week, she went to the doctor to confirm what progress she was making. The doctors were astounded by how well she was doing. They say that she's a miracle. They say she will walk again and be healthy again. They say she will live.

After everything that has happened, I'm convinced that she may not be a superhero, but that she is much more. She's my Mom. She's my miracle. She's my inspiration. She's my everything.

"I spent several months at the edge of something that I

thought was despair and death, and it became joy and life.

That is why I say that human beings are capable of choosing

joy under any circumstance, and when we do, it creates

life affirming change all around us and in us. "


-The wise words of my Mother



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