Kelsey and Me

imageAcross the table I look into her blue grey eyes as she gazes at me skeptically. She thinks I am holding back, not telling her everything. Trust me, I am. I try to live openly, she knows this, secrets are toxic. Daddy and I have told her everything that Dr. Rachel has said. My recent improvement and better appearance should be proof of that. Everywhere I go people are mysteriously surprised that I look “so good” for someone 20 months into a death sentence. Still, she is at that hard intersection of her own comprehensive medical knowledge while still being a child looking at a parent. Those eyes have seen a lot.

She was the first person to see me all those years ago on the day I was diagnosed, running into the house, crying, an ice pack taped to my chest from an unexpected biopsy. The night of my lumpectomy she climbed into bed with me and her sister to watch the first season of American Idol. She tentatively visited me in the hospital after my bilateral mastectomies and reconstruction, drains everywhere. It feels like yesterday.

When I look at her I don’t picture changing her diapers or the time she fell while pushing her doll stroller and cut open her forehead or the mint green sweater she wore home as a newborn on a blistering hot August day. I don’t really think about all the soccer games and team dinners and rides to practices or the time she scored her first varsity goal or went to the prom. I don’t think about the vacations, the summer in Spain.

Now, I picture her knitting and painting her nails, laughing, in the infusion room and climbing into bed with me, yakking about her dog. She has gone to every chemo infusion with me this time around. We have been through a lot. image

The night I sent her a snap of my swollen port, she told me I had to call Dr. Rachel immediately and she met me at the ER with a bag of clothes. She knew there was something very wrong. Later that week when I was hospitalized she sat at my bedside through my delirious, not so funny, fever. She was there to make the anguished, last hope decision with Dad to put me in a coma. She analyzed the telemetry, read the oxygen levels and drop in blood pressure, and listened to the myriad of doctors,  hoping to tease out something, some morsel of information that might save me. She anguished as she held my hand and climbed, once again, into bed with me as her sister put up photos of us in the ICU and Dad remained stoic. He asked her to leave once, she was so distraught. Her medical knowledge overwhelming her, she composed herself to return. It is all too much sometimes.

Worse still, when I finally woke up I looked at her through accusing eyes. I thought she was an imposter, a phony–how could she be so smiley and bouncy when I was so sick. How could she have let Dad do this to me. After conscious sedation for a procedure to repair a bleed around my central line, I “woke up” and was “me” again. I begged forgiveness. Daily she visited me and sat vigil. She accompanied the ambulance when I was transferred to acute rehab and signed me in. So much responsibility, so young. She rubbed lotion into my dry skin, brought milk shakes, helped me to become well again. It was a long slog, some disappointments, and then, excitement, as I took my first baby steps. The child becomes the mother. We spent Mother’s Day in the closed hospital cafeteria. It was wonderful.


Across the table on her birthday as she reads my card out loud, she lets out a whelp followed by a shriek and sobs as she realizes I am taking her to the Caribbean, just me and her, to express my love and gratitude for all that she has had to bear all these years. (Don’t worry, the little coconut will get her day).

Now my girl worries that I won’t last this current medical honeymoon. She fears I won’t be at her wedding some day, that I won’t be around for the next big things in our lives. I can’t make promises that I may not be able to keep. As I gaze across the table into her blue grey eyes I know one thing. I will always be with her.


  1. It’s not the first time that you’ve brought me to tears reading your blog. But tonight I feel moved to tell you that I had a similar (thankfully brief) conversation with my 4-year-old tonight. As I put him to bed, he told me he doesn’t want me to die. I, of course, reassured his overactively imaginative brain with “I’m going to live a long time”. Once I was able to compose myself, I quickly said “ok, now go to sleep!” Enjoy your time away!! And now I’m going to go book a trip myself. Thanks for the inspiration!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My experience with my mom is not nearly as difficult as yours and Kelsey’s. It is heartbreaking for me to see the woman who has always loved and supported me with enthusiasm struggle with this insidious disease. So yes, ironically, the child does become the parent. And even at 50 years old, that scares me sometimes. But I do believe that there is evidence of her everywhere in my life: my marriage, children, career, friendships. And I am so grateful for that. The way that your daughters have cared for you is a testament to their upbringing. You’re in my prayers always ❤️

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  3. As I sit here with my morning coffee, with tears running down my face- you have reminded me of many things. The difficult journey, so similar to your “coconut”. My mom and her battle with melanoma, then my dad 5 months after her. I never left their side- as painful as it was to do- I am left with incredible memories that I hang on to – I would do it all over again and so would your girls. Every day is a gift, every moment a treasure. Grab each and every day and try not to look back💕💕

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  4. Wow Barbara- you are so “right” to be writing this blog. Not only are you capable of knowing where you are at in this adventure with truth and dignity but you can write about it with elegance.
    You rock!
    Love ,

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Barbara, What a loving tribute to your beautiful & intelligent daughter who has been such a stellar support to you throughout your cancer, How wonderful for you both to spend some time together on a fabulous tropical vacation….priceless .Enjoy……………………. Laura

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Absolutely riveting. Thank you Barbara for sharing this journey with us. Your words and impact are immeasurable. I love this song you chose. I was that daughter that crawled in my moms bed after her rounds of chemo – wanting the make everything right for her as she has done for me for my life. And then 7 years later – she was crawling into my bed as I was waking up from a bilateral mastectomy with drains and skin graphs. Just beautiful – your blog is incredible.

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