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A Dozen Years – Marking Time Again

Every year when March rolls around, actually, way before March rolls around, I start to wonder how to mark time. What should I do with the anniversary of my mother’s death? Should I do anything? How could I not do something? What do I say? Who do I say it to? (Thank you for being out there, Dear Readers.)

And so, I’m marking time again. This is year twelve.

Twelve years have passed since my mother died from metastatic breast cancer on March 6, 2008. Twelve years. An even dozen.

I got the call telling me she had died while driving back to Minnesota from my home in Wisconsin. You see, I had left her bedside so I could go to my annual physical (she had urged me to go) during which my primary doctor and I discussed, among other things, my next mammogram.

Oh, the irony. Cancer is f***ing cruel.

The last words I whispered in her ear were, wait for me.

But she wasn’t able to wait.

Twelve years feels different. Twelve years is a decent chunk of time.

Life has carried on. My family has carried on. I have carried on. But the void remains.

I still think about my mother every day. I miss her still. Yes, of course, I do. Though I can still clearly picture her face, it makes me sad to admit I struggle now to remember the sound of her voice.

Why didn’t I make more recordings?

Twelve years muddles my memory. But only parts of it are muddled. There is much to remember.

Grief is an ongoing experience. It isn’t something with an expiration date or something you need to get over. My grief doesn’t need fixing. Nor does yours. I grieve still. I always will.

Perhaps you grieve still for someone too.

My grief is one reason why I keep blogging about breast cancer and loss. It’s a way to keep my mother close. It’s a way to honor her. It’s a way to try to honor all the dear ones stolen by this wretched disease. It’s a way to hopefully make a difference, in some small way, to one day help prevent other families from experiencing this particular kind of grief – the kind caused by metastatic breast cancer.

So once again, I mark time by sharing what should be shocking statistics.

And yet, why aren’t more people shocked?

Since my mother died that day in March a dozen years ago, roughly 480,000 more women and men have died from metastatic breast cancer. 480,000 more families, as well as their friends, are missing dear ones too.

In 2020, it’s estimated that 42,000 more will die from MBC. That’s roughly 115 per day.

And those are just US statistics.

Again, why aren’t more people shocked?

Once again, I mark time.

A dozen years.

I remember. Oh yes, I remember.

So many other families remember too.

And #WeWillNotForget.

Featured image above is my mother’s high school or perhaps college graduation photo. We’re not sure which.

Pretty sure this is the last family photo of my siblings, my parents and me (far right). It was taken in November right before my mother’s MBC diagnosis was officially confirmed, hence the worn-down look on our faces.
A Dozen Years. Marking Time. Again. #family #MBC #metastaticbreastcancer #cancer #memories

Happy memories. Oh, the stories in this photo! There’s even one in that purse. Maybe I’ll write about it sometime. Looks like my mother is wearing a referee outfit. She probably needed one heading out with four kids. Can you guess which one is me? (Guess the purse gives it away.)

Tell me who you mark time for.

Why do you think more people aren’t shocked by those stats I mentioned above?

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Saturday 11th of April 2020

I love you Nancy, you give me so much support. And you placed before us and others a reminder of what a real global tragedy metastatic cancer is. It’s a pandemic that no one understands the meaning of, no funding can touch, not enough medical professionals to go around and a massive money maker for the research and pharmaceutical companies.

We mark time together. I wish I could hold you and let you mark a little time with me and I wish I could make the mourning a little easier for you. The whisper to your mother may not have been her ability to hold out but not to see you in pain. Mothers, the good kind that you had, protect their children no matter how old, from hurting. She’d probably from how you describe her in your books and your blog - I feel like I know her a little more than someone I never met because you are her beautiful daughter and legacy who also created an ongoing legacy for her and for yourself.

Mourning is so individual to every relationship. I mourn my dad -I keep a little of him in a box that was made from a beautiful walnut wood by a friend of mine who’s also a Luther of guitars abc basses. My dad would’ve loved that. I keep him on a sunny place in my kitchen and I talk to him every day. I hug the little box. I miss him. It hurts that brain cancer stole him at 71. Too young in my family. I fantasize that he gave up some years for me - silly right? But he was in a coma and only woke up on time in a month when I got to the hospital in Miami and moved him from a horrible ICU to a hospice where I stayed with him until he died two weeks later - after he opened his eyes held out his arm said my name and I went to him abc he said I love you and I said I love you daddy. And he never woke again. But he wakes up in my heart each day. And that’s all I can have now but it’s got to be enough. Cancer still robs us of years of life. You mark time of course but it’s away from a death and I hope never towards one. ❤️❤️❤️❤️


Friday 17th of April 2020

Ilene, Thank you so much for your kind words. And I loved hearing about your dad. xo


Tuesday 10th of March 2020

Nancy, Your words were such a lovely tribute to your Mother. They hit me right in the old ticker. My mother passed 23 years ago from MBC and I miss her every day. She only lived two years, with them taking 21 nodes that had 20 of them cancerous. My sister also has BC and is doing great. I am a two year newbie to MBC. Yes, why isn't there more outrage over statistics? Is it environmental? the food we eat? the water we drink? So, we will live on forever with our mothers looking down on us and being our guardian angels. This thought keeps me going.


Friday 13th of March 2020

Joanne, I'm sorry to hear about your mother. And I'm sorry your sister has had a breast cancer diagnosis and that you have too. I do often wonder where the outrage is. Thank you for reading and for sharing about your dear mother. My best to you and to your sister too.

Marie Ennis-O'Connor

Sunday 8th of March 2020

Dearest Nancy, 12 years sounds like a long time, but as those of us who belong to the motherless daughters club know, the years feel like nothing since we lost our precious Moms. March 22 is my Mom's birthday and this year will mark the 9th year since I got to celebrate it with her. March is also Mother's Day here in Ireland - another painful reminder of loss. The pain of loss has eased but as we know it never goes away. I turn often to the words of the author, Anna Quindlen, when it comes to putting words on my grief. She describes it as a sort of homesickness. "It was not really the home my mother had made that I yearned for. But I was sick in my soul for that greater meaning of home that we understand most purely when we are children, when it is a metaphor for all possible feelings of security, of safety, of what is predictable, gentle, and good in life." It is one of the best descriptions I've read of what it feels like to miss our Moms when they are gone.


Friday 13th of March 2020

Marie, I know you understand. Thank you for sharing that lovely quote. Hoping March isn't too terribly hard for you. Thanks so much for taking time to comment. Hugs.

Betty Nelso

Thursday 5th of March 2020

Loved the picture with Mother and Dad in it.


Friday 6th of March 2020

Betty, It's good to hear from you. I love that photo too. So much. Hope all is well with you. xx


Wednesday 4th of March 2020

Dear Nancy, What was your Moms first name? I love your Moms sunglasses! Very chic.........and I had the exact same shorts you were wearing, or we called them pedal pushers, I think........such long ago memories when things seemed so much simpler..................… so innocent...... So, did I ever tell you about the time....................... My little brother died of bladder cancer gone to his bones at the age of 49 September 28, 2018. On September 27, 2018, at around 9:15 a.m. I was leaving the cottage rental I came to every year. It was located on a bluff overlooking a sand spit on the rocky coast of northern Maine. It had always been the perfect getaway and I could hardly wait to return again. My cell phone rang as I came to the end of the dirt road and was about to take a right onto the tarred road back to civilization and be homeward bound. It was my brothers wife, crying and telling me Randy was in the hospital and it was looking bad.......................... I had to call my Dad and tell him over the phone................. Then my Mom called me, she had been taking him to the doctor when he said he felt dizzy and collapsed in the parking lot My world was......................I was hours and hours away from home and ................. I was driving all by myself...... under duress........................ with nothing but horrible thoughts and regrets........ and tears............ for miles and miles...............down the Maine Turnpike.......... I let the same Jimmy Buffet cd play over and over and over....... you know the one...changes in latitudes and fortunately, I can still listen to that same cd, no matter what So time passed and suddenly it was going to be a year since he died, and it was also the same time of year I always, always go on my vacation. I struggled with what to do, where to go and when. I always stayed at a couple different places for a night or two on my way to the cottage to stretch out my time away, I always did the same returning home afterwards But, I realized that I couldn't go back to my favorite little cottage by the sea I realized I couldn't drive down that tarred road and take that left onto the dirt road that always made my heart leap with anticipation I realized I couldn't stop crying everytime I even thought about it I had to find a new thang, a new adventure, a new way to recharge, just something new.... anything............. And I knew I had to be some place new on September 28, 2019..... So I did just that. I found a new, even more incredible place to stay and had a splendid time I left September 27 and stayed in lower Maine at a motel on the beach and had a splendid time. On September 28, I left the beach and headed west to the Mohawk Trail in the mountains of Massachussetts where I hoped to try out a new place that had renovated a few tiny little cabins that hung off of the top of a mountain overlooking the valley and North Adams I did not have a reservation and I arrived just after 6 pm hungry and exhausted And gratefully, they had the exact cabin I wanted and would make me a sandwich in their cafe The view from the cafe was splendid with big picture windows and you felt like you were hoovering in the sky and watching the sun go down The view from the tiny little porch on my tiny little cabin was splendid I put the tiny little urn of my brothers ashes on the railing and sat in the little chair at the tiny little table and woofed down the delicious sandwich Then I finished off the half a bottle of wine and was bummed I didn't have any more I rummaged around in the lukecold cooler and pulled out a couple luke cold beers and settled for them with gusto....sort of.......ech..... It would soon be 8:39 p.m. and I was ready to see the clock tick past it to mark time...... It was something I just had to do. What was left of the sunset became obscured by a quickly forming storm that crept closer and closer rumbling and flashing and the wind picked up intensely The rains began and furiously lashed the tiny little cabin and forced me to grab little Randy and get inside where it was safe and dry. I was soaked and I wasn't crying......... I didn't cry as 8:39 went by..........It was way too exciting to be in the middle of such a storm which lingered a bit then slipped quietly away............leaving the darkness of night behind.

Okay, so Little Randy, in the tiny little urn, rides around with me in my truck.. I know what you are thinking...................she's come undone............... I let his wife take him on her short vacation with her sister which she appreciated so much They had a splendid time................. So, I am not sure where I will be on September 28, 2020, but I will try to be somewhere special with Little Randy looking on and maybe he will send me a storm again................. ( We use to love to jump in the car when we were young and go sit in the beach parking lot and watch the thunderstorms rage over Long Island Sound in the summertime) Randy loved photographing storms and clouds.....................… Thank you for letting me share...………. you and your blog have been a big help for me in dealing with all my cancer crap and the grief of his death from a metastatic disease...….Thank you...……….


Thursday 5th of March 2020

Tarzangela, My mom's first name was Jual. Sweet of you to ask. Thank you for sharing more about Randy. Love your stories. It sounds like you two were very close and had a very special relationship. You still do! Hope you find some place special to visit when September 20 rolls around. I appreciate your kind words about the blog too. x

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