An estimated 213 people will be diagnosed with a brain tumor in the next 24 hours alone. In 2010, my mother was one of the 78,000 diagnosed annually. Three centimeters almost took my mother away. Three. Smaller than the diameter of a golf ball. Smaller than the human eye. The diameter of the hole in the photo above on your laptop screen. That's what almost took the woman who gave me everything in life away from me.
She woke up that crisp January morning and went through her daily routine, as if nothing was wrong. And to the best of her knowledge, nothing could possibly be wrong. But something was going horribly awry. The sun was shining and she hopped on the back of her horse as she had done a thousand times before. But this day was different. An hour into her lesson, she was bucked into the air by her thousand pound pet and suffered from a major concussion. A blessing in disguise. The hospital was able to get her into an MRI machine immediately and that's when her life took a complete turn. She walked out of the doctors office now fully aware of the mass beneath her skull. It had begun wrapping around a vital nerve in the brain and would have killed her in a matter of months.
That night, she and my father sat my brother and I down. Honestly, I thought they were going to tell me they were pregnant. Instead, they explained in lame terms what was happening inside my mother's brain. I was shocked. Hearing something like that is practically impossible to take lightly. But she stayed strong. She smiled and said everything was going to be fine. She seemed so sure about it too. And I wondered how that could be. She had a mass in her brain. She had to have brain surgery. How can one just smile about all of that? But she did, for the sake of her children.
Days later, she was rushed into surgery and had the complicated four hour procedure done at the UCSF Medical Center and was taken home the next day. I was only 12, and it was difficult for me to see the woman who had raised me in such a crippling form. Suddenly, the strongest woman I had ever met was now struggling to comprehend how to use the toilet.
Over the next few months, my mother was schooled on how to brush her teeth, how to dress herself, and how to walk. I spoon fed her every night at dinner time and told her about my day when all she could do was nod back at me because talking was too much. I couldn't comprehend that three centimeters had done this to my mother. I cried every night, praying to something in the sky, that she would be okay again. She was an infant all over again.
The doctors told her she would be in bed for six months. She was walking in three weeks. The doctors told her she would not be able to drive for a year. She was driving in two months. She defied all odds.
And I couldn't be prouder to call her my mom. I am 50 percent of this incredible woman and if I become half the human she is, I'll be pretty damn awesome.
Before I conclude, I want you all to do one simple thing. Hug your mothers. Or if you can't, call her. Tell her you love her. I do every day, regardless of the argument we might have had just a few short hours ago. Because you never know when she will be taken from you. Something as small as three centimeters can take the woman who gave you everything away. And the scariest part is, you never know when that train’s coming. Just. Like. That.