Even though my mom came out on the winning end of it, cancer still sucks. It changed our lives in dramatic and lasting ways. Ways that neither of us can entirely put into words, even now. Sometimes we think it was all a bad dream, a nightmare, really. These years later, the only visible reminder of this entire ordeal is the scar my mom bears.
Throughout the entire process, there were many things that I recall thinking, “I’ll never forget this” or “I will always remember these people” or even “Wow, I hope I never have to come here again.” One thing in particular that stands out is the time I called the Cancer Answer Line at the University of Michigan to ask questions regarding the clinical trials that we thought we might have to pursue for mom. These people were beyond friendly. These nurses reminded me of the nurse I wanted to be someday. I dare say these nurses inspired me to GO to nursing school.
I was so impressed by them, I went about sending them an email to thank them for everything they had shared with me in the course of one phone call. I praised them on their professionalism, their candor and their friendliness. All qualities I believe a great nurse should possess.
And that was that.
Or so I thought.
Months and months later, I received a phone call. The person on the other end of the line of the line said they had heard about my letter. They were wondering if my mom and I might be interested in doing a print advertisement for the University of Michigan Health Systems.
Well, sure. I guess. I suppose I should check with THE PATIENT.
Honestly, I wasn’t sure if mom would go for it. Since the cancer, mom had gone about her business, living a quiet life and quite honestly, she wasn’t interested in anything beyond that.
To my surprise, she went for it.
I agreed to coordinate the entire thing, and I had the people from the advertising agency call me, so we could move forward. The date was set, and mom and I waited at her place for the photographer.
Not just ANY photographer.
Our photographer was Karen Kuehn. Now if you’ve never heard of Karen Kuehn, I suggest you remedy that. Right now. It’s not like I didn’t provide you a link.
We were treated like royalty. Like movie stars. Like Hollywood starlets. We had our makeup done, our hair, and they even bought clothes for us to wear.
See, mom? Cancer has its advantages.
At this point in the game, we had resorted to telling really, really bad jokes with regard to mom’s cancer. If you can’t laugh about it, then you just shouldn’t leave the house, right? Mom loved using her cancer as an excuse to get out of anything from doing the dishes to taking a long trip to anything she could think of. I used to call her out on this constantly. I’d say to her, “Mom. Have you forgotten? YOU DON’T HAVE CANCER ANYMORE.”
We both would laugh.
So, Karen and her assistant took a ton of photos in all sorts of different rooms in mom’s house, let us provide input into what we wanted, and she wanted to hear mom’s story. She is more than a photographer. I like to think of Karen Kuehn as a biographer. With a camera. She made that day very special for us both. We are still in touch with her today and still thank her for all she did for us both.
The photo shoot was complete.
We both waited for the ad campaign that resulted from the photos.
When we finally were able to view the final result, it brought us to tears. Fresh tears that reminded us both of how far mom had come in such a short time. We were humbled. We were grateful. We were happy to tell others our story.
People like happy endings, right?
We still don’t feel like lending our images and our words are enough to thank all those who helped mom fight and ultimately win the battle over cancer, but it’s a start.
And honestly? We are happy to ride off into the sunset. Together. Mom. Daughter.