By Mara Sandler – When I was a little girl I used to say to my cigarette smoking mother,“When you get lung cancer from putting poison in your body I will never speak to you again”. She quit smoking the day she found out she had stage IIIc ovarian cancer in May of 1996. She was 52 years old.
My mom, Janet Burros, was my best friend. We spoke 2-4 times a day, every day. She was my first call in the morning and the last call at end of the day. When I married my college boyfriend at 23 years old, he would say, “You know this is not normal.” Well, it was normal for us.
At the time, I was getting my master’s degree in counseling psychology at Columbia’s Teachers College in New York, and every night she would call me to get a play-by-play of my day. I’d tell her, “Mom you are suffocating me.” She would respond by telling me, “I promised myself when you were born that you were going to be the most loved little girl in the world.” My mother lost her mother when she was 14 years old and she wanted me to feel the love she had missed out on – it’s safe to say she lived up to her promise and loved me like no one’s business.
Like so many other families facing a cancer diagnosis, when we found out she had ovarian cancer, it turned our world upside down.
My mom hadn’t been feeling well for some time. She was experiencing symptoms of stomach aches, nausea, diarrhea and the feeling of fullness, even after a light meal, which turned out to be fluid on her abdomen. Doctors kept telling her it was “just her changes”, but clearly it was more.