Wednesday, May 21, 2008

In Memory of Mom...

I wanted to take the time today to recognize a very special person in my life. Today marks the sixth year of my mother's loss with her battle against Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. As sad as that may seem, what I want to emphasize is that my mother was diagnosed with the cancer in 1992 when it was in Stage 4, or the most wide-spread in her body, and she defied it for 10 years! That is pretty darn amazing.

I always used to comment that I looked nothing like her, but as I get older and look at pictures, it startles me how much I do look like her. We all say that we want to avoid becoming our parents, but I hope that I can at least live up to what my mother did and who she was. Even though we may look the same, we really were different and I know she struggled as a mother to keep me as "her little girl" when I went off and did some crazy things. She was a bit over protective and she had every right to be that way because I was the runt in all my classes. Not only was I the youngest one in my grade level because I started school a year early, but I was a tiny little kid because I had not grown much in height because my body was busily repairing and strengthening itself on the inside after having open heart surgery when I was only three months old.

I would roll my eyes when she asked me to say within sight when I played outside and that I had to "check-in" every 15 minutes if I went down a few houses. I was a little upset when she would not let me join the neighborhood swim team and instead signed me up for piano lessons. Today, I think that I am a darn good swimmer and I don't know how to play anything on the piano. How's that for rebellion? She would put me in frilly dresses and give me expensive dolls that had to sit on a shelve for my birthdays and Christmas. She would not let me cut my hair and insisted that I always behave like a young lady and that I always had a healthy fear for my life that was instilled into me if I thought about misbehaving. So when it came time to stretch my wings a bit, I joined the school swim team and water polo team. I hung out with some interesting kids. I got really involved with competitive sailing. And then I left home and went off to school. I had a hard time cutting loose at school because I thought my mother was always watching. And she did try her hardest by always calling and checking in with me every day. Looking back now, I know she did it because she missed me and wanted to know what my life was like up at school.

When she was diagnosed with the cancer, she did not tell me for weeks. My family was angry with me for not checking in, but I had no idea anything was wrong. My mother did not want to burden me during my last semester of school. I was angry. She had done this the year before when she did not tell me that my dad had had a heart attack and needed angioplasty surgery until he was in ICU a few days later. The excuse was that it was my birthday and she did not want me to miss the big football game at school.

Well, I had to get over that anger and I had to do something to help. I could not donate blood or platelets because I had the open heart surgery, so I drove her back and forth to M.D. Anderson for her treatments and waited while she had chemotherapy or bone marrow aspirations. I spent as much time with her as I could but I wanted to be able to do more. It was not until 2001 that I found the answer to what I could do. I joined Team in Training.

I hated to run and I did not own a bike, but I was determined to raise $4000.00 and pedal a bike 100 miles around Lake Tahoe. My mom thought I was a little crazy, but I know she was really proud that I had gotten back into sports and exercise. I was lucky enough to have her come out to some of the training events when she was feeling good and the possibility of being around too many germs was low. The only thing that I regret is that she did not get to live long enough for me to finish my first triathlon in 2002. She knew that I had signed up for the Walt Disney World Triathlon through Team in Training, but at the time she was very sick and in Hospice care. I was still finishing my training for my second Century Ride around Lake Tahoe and she insisted that I keep up my training and I could come back and check in on her later that day. When she passed away, I was 12 days out from my Century Ride. All of my teammates were there at her funeral and they were surprised the next day when I showed up to load my bike on the trailer to travel out to Lake Tahoe. I told them that my mother would have given me one hell of a lecture if I had decided to not go and finish that Century Ride after putting in all the training and raising over $4,500.00 to go towards patient aid and research. It was the most incredible ride I have ever done. I poured my emotions out on the bike and the road and finished the 100 miles and went over the three mountain passes in just 6 hours.

Today I set up my web page for fundraising for my 15th Team in Training event. My goal is to raise another $5,000.00 dollars and run some little road race called the San Antonio Rock n' Roll Marathon. I have been asked on a few occasions to race for both cycling and triathlon teams in the area where I live, but I have had to politely turn them down. It would mean that I could not wear my purple and green Team in Training racing gear. Everywhere I travel to for a race I always hear, "GO TEAM!" and I would not get that if I was wearing another team's kit. I heard "GO TEAM" in Cancun last year and I am waiting to see if I will hear it in Switzerland next week.

All I ask that you do today is call your mom, if you are lucky enough to still have her with you, and tell her how much you love her and thank her for putting up with your some of your goofy antics. I miss those phone calls that used to come like clock work every day at 2 pm. I miss that red velvet and white checker-board birthday cake with the vanilla frosting. I miss getting a cutting of some plant out of her garden. I miss my number one cheerleader and cow bell ringer.

Thank you for stopping by on my day of remembrance and if you feel compelled, forward this on to a few people who you think might like to read it.



Anonymous said...

Wow - beautiful post and tribute to your mom.

It will be 7 years this July since my mom passed away. She never got to see me do triathlon/running. Like your mom, she would have been my biggest fan!

That century ride around Lake Tahoe must have been very memorable. Your mom was very proud of you, I'm sure :) mom never let me cut my hair short when I was young either.

Sally Parrott Ashbrook said...

Beautiful and inspiring post, Liz.

Greyt Times said...

What a great tribute!!! In honor of your mother, I sent my own mother a note and included the link to your post. Her reply was "I’m still teary and it has been 10 minutes since I read Liz’s tribute to her mother. How proud her mother would be (still is)!"

Amen to that!!!

Viv said...

Liz, what a beautiful post in honor of your Mom.

I see where you get all your fighting skills when you are out there racing and training.

I really don't find the words to express how much this has touched me.

I know your Mom is in your heart every mile you go and she smiles with pride down at you with every finish line you cross.

Rainmaker said...

Great post. It's amazing what a part of our lives they make up.

Thanks for sharing some of your life with us.

Spokane Al said...

That was a very nice, very touching story. The older we get the more appreciative we tend to become.

Thank you for sharing.

KCWoodhead said...

Crying in cube...they are used to it by now though! That is a wonderful tribute to your mom and good for you for having such an awesome attitude about it all. Some are bitter and never seem to forgive God for taking their loved ones away. I'm not sure I could be as strong as you have been.

Jeff said...

What a great tribute, Liz. Thank you so much for sharing.

You are truly a Team In Training hero!

Ryan said...

It's good that you have such great memories.

Paul said...

Thanks for sharing! Best of luck in Switzerland!!! I'll be thinking about you.

Jen said...

What a great post. It is awesome that you do TNT to honor your mom.

My mom died 5 yrs ago of a cancerous brain tumor. I did my IM race in her honor and as a fundraiser for the National Brain Tumor Foundation.

Keep up the good work. Your mom would be proud!