It is Mother’s Day today and for my mom, her 47th one. She was very young when she had me and my brother. When she was 30, I was 12. So for those of you just starting their thirties, could you imagine having a pre-teen right now? So why do I cherish that she was so young? Well the list is long but I will share the obvious one. Many of my friends’ older parents have passed away so with my mom being so young I am blessed to have her still in my life. She’s a spring chicken compared to my friends’ parents, being 10-15 years younger than their moms.
Ok fast forward to school age and mom was taking care of us while also going back to school to finish her grade 12. The thing I love about this is that mom got our family on track and stable and then continued with her dreams. She didn’t give them up, she just put them on hold. Myself, Neil and Dad all went to her high school graduation, I was 8. 32 years later we would go to her University graduation, her other lifelong dream achieved.
Mom’s style of parenting was based on tolerance for as long as she could handle us misbehaving and we knew that until she had had enough. That’s when we knew we were in big trouble. For many of you who know my mom, she has a very soft voice and rarely ever swears. Neil and I could trigger some good swear words from Minnie Mouse every once in awhile. It was hysterical and terrifying at the same time. I don’t think we saw that side of her more than 10 times in our lives so far.
Now we have had quite the journey together right from birth. For 4 years my mom (and dad of course) had no idea what was wrong with me. Why was I so small?, why did my bowel movements smell sooo bad? Why didn’t I eat my food? She even questioned her own parenting being so young. For 4 years she peddled me back and forth between my paediatrician and specialists in Vancouver and the docs just kept sending me home with flu like symptoms. I think we should be in the Guinness Book of Records for “small child afflicted with the longest flu”! At the time CF was not on a local doctors radar. It existed yes, but not seen at all, considering that at the time only 70000 cases were found worldwide. That number is still the same today. So considering that Canada had 5% of those cases, break that down throughout the provinces and you might have 300 cases in the entire province. Finally in August 1976 I was diagnosed.
So how did this shape our journey? Well, it did and it didn’t. My parents vowed to not coddle me, basically out of blind faith and it was the best thing they did for me growing up. My mom had to design a treatment program for me with physiotherapy 2x a day, force feeding me enzymes after every meal, and making me eat copious amounts of food. It was difficult to go from being normal-ish to this extremely important routine that could never change and had to happen everyday. I give her big kudos for doing that, as I was a hellion. I know I was because I remember it. I was mad a lot of the time. I hated being forced into the treatments. I was four for cripes sake. I also had no idea why, so it was confusing for a really long time.
Through school mom was always there to pick up the pieces from break ups, a bad test score, a sports loss and of course navigating my disease in all that. In grade 7 or 8 I went to girl guide camp and had to take my enzymes every time I ate, but I hid it from my fellow guides by dropping the enzyme casing under the picnic table at every meal, which was outside. Side note: I couldn’t swallow my enzymes so I pulled them apart to take the tiny little spheres making them easier to swallow. Considering I didn’t quite understand what my enzymes were made of, I was surprised to see them expanding into these puddles of gooey synthetic rubber under my feet. We ate outside so the enzymes were dropped into the ground/grass. Anyway during Kangaroo Court I was charged with littering. When mom found out, she thought that was hysterical but most of all she was proud that I took my pills on my own. Compliance at that time was one of my weak points.
Now comes the one and only time in my life that my mom put her foot down in regards to one of my life decisions. It was July 1990, we were visiting the University of Calgary campus as I was going to start there in September. We were living in North Battleford, Sk. At the time. Mom made me apply to residence as a back up plan as I had planned on rooming with my physics teachers sister in an apartment. I was 17 and thinking that I could handle this big move on my own. Well mom had different ideas. We toured the residence and I hated every minute of it vowing to her that I will never stay there. She said otherwise. As we walked through MacHall on campus I was bawling my eyes out and telling her that I am not staying in residence! Now picture this, a teenager crying and yelling at her mom who is 25 feet ahead of her in a public space until said mom stops and waits for crying teen to catch up and says point blank: “You are staying in this residence or you are not going to university, thats’ it. Your choice”
I was shocked and scared into reality. I didn’t fight her on it, I knew she meant it. If I wanted to go to university this is how I’m going. I don’t blame her one bit for making that decision. I was being a total and complete brat. I was selfish and acting entitled. It took me years to understand why she put her foot down. She couldn’t let me go unless she felt comfortable enough that I had the tools to take care of myself. Residence meant that I was on campus, had 3 meals a day and a roof over my head, not to mention all the other good stuff, like making lifelong friends, access to a high class gymnasium, recreational sports and a great place to grow up. I thank her for this. It was a pivotal step into my success as an adult and she gets the credit. It was quite a few years later that i found out that the day they dropped me off to move into residence, that mom was inconsolable and dad had to get a hotel for them so she could process what just happened.
I have been a tough kid to parent, I know that. I have fought every step of the way trying to carve out my path my way. Mom and dad have watched me from the sidelines do this, ready to jump in if I get stuck in the ditch.
Since I was diagnosed with CF, both mom and dad have tried to support the cause in anyway. They joined kinsmen and kinettes, they sold raffle tickets, they pushed a bed from North Battleford to Saskatoon, they did whatever they could to help the cause. Before I started the foundation, mom was running a big gala our of Prince George. Now once I started the foundation here, she’s one of the reasons why we are so successful. Truthfully, if it a wasn’t for my family and friends, we would never have raised over $2.5million dollars to date. I am grateful that there was no gala this year. It would have failed with or without COVID. I want my mom to retire from fundraising and just enjoy a nice stress free life but I know that if an opportunity arises she will be back at it. This disease affects the whole family in good ways and bad ways but the good outweighs the bad because mom makes it beautiful.
I have to say that mom and I travel so well together and I look forward to our yearly trips somewhere. Wherever we go we leave our mark with gifts and money for staff, painted rocks hidden on the grounds and me teaching mom some Spanish. Our last trip was such a gift as it was a month before the virus launched into the world and we got upgraded to the greatest room we have ever gotten to stay in. It was a perfect holiday. We did FaceTime dad a sunset so we could ave him join us. I look forward to our next adventure whenever that may be.
Now fast forward to present day and mom having lung cancer. It was my turn to step in. It was my job to get her through that surgery and give her the tools she needed to recover. I gave her tough love and made her go for walks and do her exercises. She was in my territory now. I was so glad I could give her my oxygen and a nebulizer so she could recover even sooner having the added support that all other patients do not have access to. She is now doing so great and I can let out a tiny crappy breath knowing that she is going to be OK. If mom’s not OK then I’m not OK. That’s how it is in this family.
I will never ever be able to express all the gratitude and love I hold for my mom but I will always cherish her, thank her and keep her safe. And because we all grew up together as a young family we get to have our parents with us longer and that’s why I am glad she was a young mom.
To my amazing mother, I love and honour you. You have been such an amazing guide to my own life and I hope I have made you proud.
Love Nicole Marie
P.S. Dad you will get your own ode on fathers day!!
P.S.S. I can’t wait to start our summer camping project this year with you mom!