Our lives changed the day she got her diagnosis.

Our only family portrait.

I wasn’t so young that I wasn’t aware of what it meant, but I was quite certain she would beat it. A young girl of 16 doesn’t see death coming. I was more interested in boys, friends, and band. I wasn’t worried about my mom. She was a fighter, after all. Of course she would win this battle.

I still remember driving her to appointments. Taking days off from school to take her to scans and other tests. As clearly as if it were yesterday, I remember the day she told us the disease had spread.

She had several surgeries, trying in vain to get it out of her body. This monster, the thief. The one that stole my mother. The thief that scares me every day of my life. The thing that lurks in the back of my mind, and I wonder, is it waiting to rear its ugly head in my life? To take me away from my kids and husband?

When you’ve heard your whole life, “You’re just like your mother”, how can you not have anxiety about leaving your kids like she did?

It never even crossed my mind that she would be gone within 3 months. She fought for two years to beat it. How devastating it was when she was gone. Did she give up the fight, or had the fight given out? At some point, she decided she was sick of fighting, sick of being sick. Her belief was that she was going on to a better place, and go she did.

Like a cat burglar, it crept into our lives, stealthy and ready to take the thing that was much more precious than jewels. The darkness came with it and stayed for a while, like the worst calling card ever.

She was taken from us 22 years ago this week and while I’d like to say the pain has receded with time, it hasn’t. It’s just easier to do other things than to think about how much I miss her – how much she’s missing from our lives. Every damn day of my life I miss her.

Sometimes, when I’m out in public I’ll smell her perfume and it’s like it all happened yesterday. It’s still so fresh.

I’ve heard that the French say, “You are missing from me.” I think that’s the perfect way to describe how I feel about my mom being gone from this world. Gone from her family.

She never got to know her grandkids. And I can’t help but think, they’re the ones missing out. They’re all missing out on how wonderful she was. I’m not romanticizing her; I realize that it may seem that way. People tend to do that when they lose someone. She was truly amazing. I’m sure she had her demons, we all do. She’d had some crappy things happen in her life, and yet, she still chose to find the joy.

She was a tough lady, but so full of love for her family. Family was the most important thing to her. I just know she would’ve enjoyed all five of her grandkids and her three great grandkids. My husband, my sister’s husband – they’re all missing out on her laugh, her hugs, her way of telling you exactly what you didn’t want to hear – but needed to hear.

She was a mom, daughter, sister, friend. And none of our lives have been the same without her in it.

Joel and I have often said that perhaps Jamie’s life would be a bit easier if his Grandma Cathy was here with us. My sister and her kids have gone through some heavy stuff and I know our mom would’ve been by their sides and supported them. That’s what she did.

When the monster came and took her, it was one of the worst days of my life.

When you’ve heard your whole life, “You’re just like your mother,” how can you not try to live up to her memory? My family is the most important thing in my life, and I try to remember that my mom would be so proud of all of us.

I have felt her in my life in the trying times and in the good. I know that my son knows her, even though he’s never met her in person. He loves it when we talk about Grandma Cathy. He looks at her photos and smiles.

I’m here to tell you that the monster didn’t win. The thief wanted to take her from our lives, and while she may not be here physically, as long as she’s in my heart – she’s never really gone. She is with us every day.

The thief wasn’t able to take her memory.

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