We talk a lot about the parents of children with cancer, but they’re not the only ones whose roles take on new meaning when their child is diagnosed. Ambassador Chase’s mom, Ellie, gives thanks to her mom, Chase’s “Grammie,” for the way she’s loved and supported their whole family through childhood cancer and all of life’s ups and downs.
As a mother, from the first moment you hold your child — no, from the first moments you know they’re expected — you seek to protect them. You carry them and love them and do everything you can from first breath to stand between them and the hurt and pain in the world.
My own mother watched over my three sisters and me. She taught us to read and then to love it simply because she hadn’t when she was a child. She put a career away to stay with us, cook for us, kiss our aches and pains, and model life and love for us.
As we grew, we had to come to her and confess that we’d made huge mistakes and done stupid and crazy things, and she would go on loving us anyway. She never held it against us, but would bend out with love and grace and ask us how we could do things differently next time and what we’d learned in our experience.And when other parents would ask her advice, she’d flash a smile full of warmth and experience and say, “We are parents, not saviors.”
You see, my mom had learned this great and amazing thing that you can line every duck in a row and lay everything out in perfect order and life still happens in ways you never plan. Practice and years had forged in her the tender balance — that her job as a mother was to protect us, but that there would be times and seasons where, despite her best efforts, she would not be able to save us.
I often write about how my life changed when Chase was diagnosed, but the truth is, it wasn’t just my heart that broke for my baby; it was the heart of my mother as she watched her baby break for her grandbaby.
“She always tried to protect us and bless us and in the face of a brain tumor, she stood powerless.”
She always tried to protect us and bless us and in the face of a brain tumor, she stood powerless. And in truth, that first day, she stood nearly an hour away, her arms wrapped around my other children while I put my baby into surgery — a moment that still hurts her to speak about because she wanted to be there with us when the operating room doors closed after Chase.
She’s been in the delivery room with each of my children, and while the doctors have seen to my needs, she would stand by the table as the nurses weighed, measured, and examined. And as each child cried in those first moments as the peace of the womb was ripped away and the harsh realities of a cruel world were breathed in, she’d stand at that table and place her small hand over the baby for warmth and security and she’d breathe words of love to them. She’d whisper words about our family, and how each baby was beautifully made for good life and love and that she would be their grandmother and love them always.
“She’d stand at that table and place her small hand over the baby for warmth and security and she’d breathe words of love to them.”
When Chase was diagnosed, she gave of her home, her time, all she had, stretching thin to protect us in a huge moment from which we could not be saved. She sat in clinic rooms and hospital rooms and surgery waiting rooms and she requested, shaking and terrified, to be trained to flush a central line, just because she wanted to know in case she ever needed to help us.
She’d wake early in the mornings to prepare things to tempt an appetite wrecked with chemo, and though Chase was often so weak he could barely walk, he’d drag his blanket and IV bag into the kitchen to lie on the floor and be near her. And more than once, I walked in to find them both lying there, her in her matched pajamas and bathrobe, him in whatever didn’t hurt his skin, staring up at the skylight and speaking in whisper voices.
“…I walked in to find them both lying there, her in her matched pajamas and bathrobe, him in whatever didn’t hurt his skin, staring up at the skylight and speaking in whisper voices.”
And she’d hug the others close when I, her once-upon-a-time baby, would pick up my own baby at 10:30 on the dark nights with fear in my eyes and say “we need to go to the hospital” because sometimes, this is what being a mother looks like — being strong in the face of circumstances far beyond your control.
And when Chase was in treatment and would have to be restrained, terrified and screaming, for a dressing change each week, she’d meet my eyes with a look that wished she could protect, and then she’d do the same thing again. She’d hold his feet and stroke his legs while he lay, immobile and chest exposed with tubes and tape, and while the nurse worked, she quietly spoke the words that first came in the delivery room — that he was beautifully made for good life and love and that he was so brave and that she’d love him always — because sometimes being a mom means encouraging bravery when you wish you could fold them in your arms and take it all away.
“When Chase was diagnosed, she gave of her home, her time, all she had, stretching thin to protect us …”
Right now, my mother is sitting under only days-old knowledge that cancer is growing in her own body. And there are mothers around us all day and every day who stand by their children in clinic rooms and hospital rooms and surgery waiting rooms and hospice rooms and yet other rooms that come with empty and aching arms.
And the thing is, they have stood and pledged protection when they wished they could save, and they do it because we were made for a beautifully good life and love.
And Mom, I’ll love you always. Thank you.
Say “thank you” to a mom in your life with a special Mother’s Day ecard that gives back to families like Chase’s everywhere.
Read more from Ellie Ewoldt:
- ‘Now I Am a Little Like Chase’: Aidan Gears Up to Go Bald for His Brother
- Chase’s Latest MRI
- Chase’s Good News