Saturday, September 5, 2015


This blog is about mothers in medicine, but most centrally it is about mothers.  I considered many times over the past few weeks telling KC that I was going to resign from writing.  But, I would stop myself because I so love this community of women.  I felt I didn't have much to give.  I'm drowning a bit right now.  To catch you up, I've started a new, amazing, super supportive fellowship.  I feel like I have my life back after 7 years of residency servitude.  I've passed the first part of my boards.  I have some exciting job prospects that may be materializing soon.  My daughter is in a wonderful school and thriving, and my husband just landed his dream job.  I get to hang out with my siblings on a regular basis.  I'm writing grants with my baby sis (so amazing).  But most importantly, and most poignantly, my mom has treatment resistant aggressive metastatic breast cancer.  On the bright side I get to see her nearly everyday, her doctors are my colleagues and we have far from exhausted every option.  But on the other side - I feel like I am drowning.

My mind is constantly thinking about my mom.  I constantly fight to push some medical knowledge out of my head while using other parts of my medical knowledge to help.  I feel quite ineffective at this.  I strive to bring her grandbaby to her side every day because my baby girl is a beacon of joy in the midst of this.  To busy myself I cook and clean and organize - thankful for my siblings and my dad as we all share these tasks together.  I yearn to just lay in bed and talk to my mom for hours, but I am so unstill.

At work I try to bury my constant thoughts so that I can excel, so that they see me as an asset.  Most days it seems to work okay, other days - like the day we realized it had spread to the liver on therapy - its hard for me to stand.

There is a centrality of mothers in a childs life.  This is the beauty of this blog and certain groups on facebook.  We realize that we have two awesomely important jobs.  Well now my mind is on the one who was so central in my life and how I can't envision a life without her.

So, I don't have lots of MiM specific insight or questions.  Just that this blog is about mothers.  So, I thought I'd talk about mine.

My mom quit her Economics PhD program when I was a baby.  My dad had to travel for work, so she chose her family.  She was a stay at home mom until I was about 12.  Then she started doing economics work for the state and selling real-estate.  It wasn't until I had my own child that I realize that she must never have slept or ate when we were little!  3 active kids in a million activities and she essentially worked two jobs.  Despite that she seemed just as present then as when she stayed at home.  She has always found a way to always make us feel that she is right there.  I never really had teenage angst with my mom.  She has always been my best friend and my cheerleader.  She never made me feel like I was anything short of the best and she is crazy proud of any and everything we do.  She told so many of her physicians that I was a surgeon that I'm pretty sure they flagged her chart.  She rescued me from my post partum depression.  She is the one who made it okay for me to get help.  She taught me that I could do anything, that I could be fierce and accomplished and made me feel like I deserve it.

So now, I can't bear the thought that my sweet baby girl (who wants to do everything with grandma) might forget her.  If I'm ever blessed to have another child I can't bear the thought of that child never meeting her.  My siblings are younger, they have weddings and pregnancies in future that she will likely never see.  I always thought that choosing oncology as a career was my calling, because with cancer people have time to prepare, unlike the immediate finality of trauma for example.  But, now that we're in the middle of this "time to prepare," I can tell you it sucks.  It is hard to make the most of it/treasure every minute/make happy laughing videos and everything you see on Hallmark movies.  My mom is tired and worn down from chemo right now.  She needs rest and pain medication - not a montage.  What we really want is the time before this all started.

Thats all for now.  Make life count.


  1. I will be thinking of you....this is as hard as it gets. Bringing your daughter to her is such a right thing to do.

    Thank you for sharing your mother with us. I hope she can get some relief and have some good time. Take photos. Make recordings. Get her handprint next to your daughter's, and tell stories. And cry. It's OK to cry.


    1. Thank you for these amazing ideas. We're doing handprints next weekend - I had never even thought of that! And thank you for reminding me that its okay to cry.

    2. Not just OK - necessary. Grieving is hard work, and it takes a physical toll. Be gentle with yourself.

      I came to hospice work after my father died. If I can be of any help - for anything you need. I have been thinking of you.

  2. But my dad died in an eyeblink. Poof! No warning, no goodbye. Healthy one minute, active and vital; dead the next. Just like that. So while it is heartbreaking to have to say goodbye please treasure the opportunity and the gift to be able to do so.

  3. Cutter, there is no map, algorithm, or pull down menu for this. As you know. There is no right or wrong way to say goodbye, to treasure or just experience this time. It sounds to me that you are being kind, brave, and sensitive. Try to lean on whoever you can, including us. I really have no advice, just empathy in spades. Sending love and strength from Canada.

  4. Well this totally sucks. I think you are doing everything exactly right, and I really really feel for you. I feel like with my own parents, we are in that stage of life riiiiight before everything goes to crap with their health, and I desperately want to take advantage of this time. But then residency gets in the way and they have their own lives, so I don't see nearly as much of them as I would like to.

  5. Have been thinking of you so much since I first read this post. Sending you prayers, hugs, and the strength to stand when you feel like you can't. I always knew you were an amazing, inspiring woman, Cutter. Now I know your mother is too. Makes sense.

    1. Thank you so much for inviting me to be a part of this awesome community. I am so grateful for this wonderful outlet and the amazing support.

  6. I'm so sorry that you're going through this. I speak as someone who just had a sister with lymphoma go through treatment. It sucks. It feels like the world is caving in.

    Your mom is lucky to have family like you and your daughter. She's lucky to have people to sit with her as she's tired, drained, and scared. She's lucky you are her advocate in the hospital.

    I would say take pictures of your daughter with her holding her hand. Pictures of when she's drained are okay because one day you can explain to the kids that grandma was so strong in spirit and loved being with them. You and your daughter can make a wish box and put little messages of hope for your mom.

    I don't know you but I'll pray for you and your family. One day at a time. Sometimes it's one hour at a time.


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