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SHE HAD A BIG HEART

Daughter recalls mom’s valiant fight with cancer

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SHE HAD A BIG HEART

Participants listen to the opening speeches at the Ripon Relay for Life.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin/


POSTED May 18, 2014 10:51 p.m.

Editor’s note: The following are excerpts from Lauren Council’s speech Saturday during opening ceremonies for the Ripon Relay for Life at Ripon High staged to benefit the American Cancer Society.



By LAUREN COUNCIL

Ripon resident

My story starts in 1999, when I was only 7 years old. I will never forget was the day that my mother and father sat my younger brother and I down and explained to us that our mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

My most significant memories during those next couple years involved my mother being very sick due to surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, losing her beautiful blonde hair, and me acting as her little nurse when she had some of her most difficult days. Our mom loved being a mom and strived to prevent this dreaded disease from altering our childhood. I can honestly say we are two of the luckiest kids. Mom was unlike anyone you ever met, truly the kindest person to a fault, with the biggest heart. At times you would have never known my mother was battling breast cancer as she did not let it hinder her spirit.

In 1999 she had a mastectomy, which was the surgical removal of one of her breasts. Before getting reconstructive surgery in 2005, she had a prosthesis breast. The prosthesis even had a name, Betty Boob! I was once embarrassed when my mother shared this with the entire Ripon Community in 2008 when she was the keynote speaker at the Ripon Relay for Life, but as I have grown older, I am so grateful for those goofy times, because that is what got us through the tough times.

Fast forward to 2006, my mother had been in remission for a few years. Everything seemed as back to normal as it could be; she was doing what she loved, working with high school students with intellectual disabilities, and being a wife and mother. After a battle of pneumonia in March, the doctors found that my mother’s cancer had returned and spread to her lungs as stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. . .

A few months later after returning from a family dinner celebration for my 15th birthday, we received a dreaded phone call. The doctor called to inform us that the cancer also spread to her brain. In fact, it was everywhere in her brain. Her doctor told her she only had one shot at radiation on the brain. And for her the cancer in the lungs, surgery was not an option, chemotherapy had to work. Her cancer was not curable, but they hoped to control it. The brain radiation and chemo treatments were horrendous. . .

During my junior year she spoke at Relay for Life. By now her cancer had spread to her spine and it was clear that the brain radiation had not worked. Her passion for Relay for Life was endless, and that May of 2008 was her 7th year participating, and her 4th year as team-captain of the Ripon Dream Team. That year she even planned and implemented Ripon’s first ever Paint our Town Purple. Cancer was killing my mom, but instead of feeling sorry for herself, she only saw the good in everyone around her. At Relay she spoke about the angels in her life, the family, friends, and perfect strangers who she felt were placed in her life for a reason rather than as a coincidence. Angels that gave her comfort, hope, and closeness with God. She said “you gotta look for the positive in everything; I have to laugh at myself not to cry. Do I wish I didn’t have cancer, of course I do, is my life better because of it absolutely! I wouldn’t trade any part of the last nine years they are just part of the journey I will continue to take.”

The cancer continued to take a toll on my mother physically and emotionally. My mother did not let this stop her from going to concerts or playing hokey with me from school to do some day trips. I had never seen anyone throw up as much as my mom, but somehow she was able to jump right back up and be ready to visit or take on a new adventure.

Her treatments were continuing to become ineffective and the cancer was continuing to increase in size and spread now to her liver as well. Valentine’s Day 2009 was the last weekend my mom left the house other than for a doctor appointment. That weekend marked the calm before the storm, of a downward spiral. She continued to fight effortlessly but her body was becoming weaker and weaker. My father, like my mother, a selfless and remarkable individual, was able to take a leave of absence from work to take care of my mother. Her health declined rapidly. She went from being able to walk on her own, to using a walker, to eventually relying on a wheel chair in a matter of days. She did not want to give up on treatments as she had so much to live for. The tumors in her brain began to affect her mentally. We as a family had to eventually make the hardest decision of our lives, to no longer have our precious wife and mother go through treatments that were sucking the little bit of life she had left in her. I felt selfish for wanting her to continue to fight but as the days went on, I knew it was time for her to rest. Our family was surrounded by an indescribable amount of love from the community and family members. During those last few months we had meals brought every other night, cards, care packages, and flowers. Friends and family members paid for house cleaners and gardeners to lessen the load for our family. I honestly cannot imagine going through that time without the unbelievable amount of support we had. . ,.

Thursday, May 28, was the day my mom took her last breath. My father, brother, and I all happened to be out of the room at that moment, my uncle, her brother, and my grandma were sitting with her. Even though she had not spoken or opened her eyes in hours, I think she knew we were not with her at that moment as she would not have wanted. Saying goodbye to my mother was the hardest thing I have ever experienced. I still ask to this day why her? Why did such a remarkable individual who touched so many lives, have her life cut so short?

My mother dreamed that someday there would be a cure for cancer so that others would not have to endure a similar tragedy. Cancer took away my mother’s life, but with all of your support, we are continuing her dream and the dream we all share together — to eliminate cancer! With each step around this track and each step in communities across this wonderful country we are closing in on the cure for cancer. For all of you who are survivors, for all of you who have lost a cherished friend or family member, and for all of you who are the loving care givers, let us continue to embrace life, embrace love, and embrace God. I thank you all for making a difference by being here. I hope you will continue to relay for years to come until we find a cure! Together we will continue to celebrate survivors, remember loved ones, and fight back against cancer.

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