Mary Jo Flanagan, North Tonawanda, NY

Mary Jo Flanagan

My mother was a young and vibrant 59 years old when she was diagnosed with stage 2c Ovarian Cancer. No family history, otherwise healthy, and only 59. It almost seemed unbelievable; things like this didn’t happen in our family. But when life hands you the big C, it doesn’t matter whatever you thought possible, or impossible, you just go with it. 6 rounds of chemo, losing her hair, the “normal” everyday of having cancer and the woman took it with a smile on her face. Laughter was always the best medicine in my family, and that’s what carried us through those 6 rounds of chemo to a clean bill of health.

Six months later, the cancer reared its ugly head again. Bigger, nastier and ready for battle. There was no denying that this time around would be a fight for her life, but once again we were all on board and ready to laugh our way through it. Major surgery and 12 more rounds of chemo separated us from a healthy Mom again. But this time was different. Her recovery time after each chemo seemed a little more difficult, and double the chemo meant an even longer wait to the finish line. Her 11th chemo started the countdown. One more month and we would celebrate. Instead, we got the worst news none of us could have possibly imagined. Not only was the chemo not working, there was nothing else that could be done. Two weeks spent in the hospital doing blood transfusions and iv’s, and we were told to take her home and make her comfortable.

We would spend the next six weeks constantly by her side, trying to smile through tears as we tried to wrap our heads around what was happening. Six weeks later, rather than celebrating her clean bill of health, we held her hand and stroked her back as she took her last breath. Six weeks, and that was it.

I think about those six weeks every day. What I didn’t ask her…was she scared, what was she hoping Heaven would be like, what do I do when I have my own kids? I won’t have her here when I get married in 5 months or hold my children when they are born. But I will smile and keep laughing, because that’s all she asked for in those six weeks. That my family never stop laughing and we always remember to smile.

I love you Mom and miss you every day