Mother’s Day: Honoring Moms in the Fight Against Cancer

By: Melissa Allen

UPMC CancerCenter asked staff to submit stories about what they learned from their mother’s battle with cancer. Here are some of the stories and photos they received. To read more, visit the UPMC CancerCenter Facebook page.
“I remember the day my mother was diagnosed with cancer. We sat on the floor of her living room, arms wrapped around each other while she cried. She kept saying over and over again, ‘I’m not going to get to see my grandchildren grow up.’ I will never forget that moment; it was the worst moment and day of my life. My mother was faced with the fact that she wasn’t going to live. She was diagnosed in July 2000 with adenocarcinoma and had tumors on her lung, spleen, colon, uterus and liver. My mother fought her hardest, and I remember taking her to UPMC Shadyside for her appointments and treatments. She was excited for Hillman Cancer Center to open, because then they could help and cure her. She lost her battle on November 25, 2000. I learned a lot from my mother over the years, but the most important lesson was to enjoy the time we have together, love and help each other, and don’t sweat the small stuff. 

– Jeannine Bell, R.N.
“My mother was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 57. This was 29 years ago, and I can still remember how it all came about. My husband and I were going to the World’s Fair in Nashville, and Mom volunteered to watch our two children, ages 3 and 2. The day before we left, Mom called to say she was having some bleeding and of course, I panicked and said we would cancel our trip. Well, Mom wouldn’t have it and she promised to have it checked as soon as we got back in a week (this shows how giving and self-sacrificing she always is). Her sister was staying with her at our house to help with the children so I felt a little better about leaving her. She had a colonoscopy as soon as we got back and they found a polyp with a tumor growing at its base. The biopsy came back positive for cancer, so she was scheduled for surgery soon after and had a bowel resection by a great surgeon in McKeesport. He saved her life. She is a survivor and just had her 86th birthday this month and is still cancer free. She always has her follow-up colonoscopies on time. Knowing how family history of this disease is so important, I have gone regularly for my colonoscopy since age 50. Unfortunately, my brother was also found to have colon cancer at age 54, but he ignored the signs and was ‘just too busy’ to get it checked. He waited a long time and with much encouragement from me, he finally had a colonoscopy, but his cancer was already at Stage 4 with liver metastasis. He died very soon after. Lesson learned: Early detection is key and don’t ignore the signs. Now Mom and I are working on my other brother to get checked – wish us luck!”

– Kathryn McMichael, RN, MSN, program manager, Epidemiology of Dementia

“My mom was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2005, and she battled this stupid disease for two years. During those two years, I got to spend many hours with her at UPMC CancerCenter, the Gamma knife center, and various other appointments. We would always have lunch afterwards. The last time we were at UPMC CancerCenter, we were told Mom had only a short time left. I remember my sister and I crying our eyes out, but there was Mom, waiting to go out to lunch. Nothing was going to change for her and she believed this until the end. She was my best friend, my hero, and now she is my angel. I wish my son could have known her longer than four short years.”

– Brenda Leone, office manager, UPMC Northshore Neurology