Almost Over That Hill

I am months away from my 40th birthday, and I have been thinking about turning the big 4 0 for awhile. Gird your loins, I’m about to word vomit up some feelings.

My mom died at the age of 40, and for the longest time, I thought I would be dead by 40 just like her. When I was in the throes of cancer treatment at the beginning of my 30s, I truly believed that  I was going to end up just like her – just minus the husband and 3 young kids.

My inner monologue would not shut the eff up about this. The thought would just bury itself in my brain, and my inner monologue would not let it quiet. I panicked a lot and felt doomed. All my life, I had been told I look like this woman I have barely any memories of, plus not only that. I talk like her and I walk like her.

Throughout my 20s and then 30s, I had basically all the same medical problems she did. Why wouldn’t I think I’d die just like her? When you are already an anxious person, adding cancer to the mix that was like adding gasoline. It took a lot of years and a lot of therapy to get this fatalist belief out of my head. It’s been almost 9.5 years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer, so that definitely helps too.

My mom’s life and death has been my medical road map. She’s been my answer to so many questions – why I got cancer and why I can’t have kids. For 33 years, I have felt like I have been walking with her by my side. With every surgery or treatment, I can say, “That’s not really a surprise. Mom also had that, or Mom dealt with that.”

So hooray, I am not going to die just like her. Now, I get to wrestle with the fact that I am about to live longer than my mother was able to do. My road map, it’s coming to an end, and it’s scary. How am I going to navigate the shit show that is my medical history without my road map?

This is the part about turning 40 that is scaring me and sends panicky waves washing over me. I have honest to God felt like I’ve been 40 for a good year already, probably because most of my coworkers are so much younger than me. Given the pretty large age difference and my illness, I have felt like I have zero in common with them, who all get along great. I just feel like the weird old lady.

Now that I am turning 40, I am grateful I never had any age goals set because I certainly would be disappointed come April, lol. I have never thought, “I am going to be married with 2 kids by the time I’m 40.” I just want to be happy, and boy oh boy, I do feel that way. It took 36 years for me to reach this stage but here I am, and I never want to leave it.

I enjoy my job, which actually feels like a career to me. I love my boyfriend, and I have a great group of friends. I snipped snipped snipped the awful pieces from my life, and I have filled it with calm happiness. I no longer deal with a cheating boyfriend or crazy stalker ex, or “friends” who try to one-up all your medical problems, like we’re in some competition for who has the worst life.

The older I have gotten, the people I have let in my inner circle are quality, not quantity. I am working out at the gym, and I am the strongest I have ever been. I’m heading into my 40s in good shape, both physically and mentally (knock on wood).  Now I have to wrap my head around what it really means and feels like to live a longer life than your own parent.

 Good thing for therapists, huh?

30 years

This month, it’ll be 30 years since my mother died. Gotta say, it feels surreal that she’s been gone for this long. My mom, she missed pretty much everything in my life, minus my birth. She was definitely there for that one. After that, my mother missed my First Communion, Confirmation, high school graduation, college graduation, first job, first heartbreak, buying my first house, so on and so on.

She wasn’t there when I had breast cancer. More than anything, I missed her while I was going through treatment. I wanted my parent there so badly. Just because I don’t remember doesn’t mean I don’t miss her and have a mom-shaped hole in my heart, which will never go away.


This is what she just missed in my life. My two brothers, each of whom have kids, also missed out having our mother in their lives.

Metastatic breast cancer is a thief. It’s a dirty dirty thief. It stole my mother, and I’m doing something about it. Once again, I’m raising money for Metavivor. Every dollar you donate will go toward researching metastatic breast cancer. This year, I decided to run 30 miles this year – one mile for every year she has been gone.

That’s right – 30 freaking miles. I’m doing a marathon and then 3.8 miles before.  The date will be November 18 – be there or be square, and watch me hobble toward this bonkers goal of mine.

If you can donate, then you can do so here:

If you cannot, I understand and would be very appreciative of anyone who can share my story and my link.

Don’t disappear from the pictures

Whenever I talk about why research for metastatic breast cancer is so important for me, I typically post this picture, which was obviously taken when I was just a wee one.


When I have mentioned that my mom died of breast cancer and then I post that picture, it recently dawned on me: “Huh, I wonder if anyone seeing this picture thinks that she died when I was a baby, not when I was in the second grade.”  That’s what got me wondering and subsequently asking my dad, “Hey, are there any pictures of just me and mom?”

My dad could only find two pictures, and it wasn’t any posed pictures of mother and daughter, it was two stolen moments that my father, an amateur photographer, caught.   He tried to explain why and how this happened, “Well, she didn’t like to have her picture taken.”  For the first time in a very long time, I felt really mad at my mother.

Someone reading this might think, “Well, the 80s were different.  It’s not like nowadays where everyone has a camera phone and it’s selfies 24-7.”  My dad has been an amateur photographer since his 20s, and he usually had his camera nearby.  My dad is the guy with the camera.  He sure as heck brought it to family events.  My mother dodged the camera.  She scowled and protested at my dad when he tried to take more pictures.   My mother was well known for her camera avoidance.


Ever the peace keeper, my dad’s response when I expressed disappointment via email regarding the lack of pictures of mother and daughter: “Memories can be sharper than images.”  She died when I was 7 years old.   I do not have memories of her – they are more like snippets.   Plus, the snippets I have of my mother are from when she was sick from cancer treatment, not as the mother she probably wished I remembered her as.  Oxygen tubing, hospital visits, wigs.

As a 33 year old woman, the thought of being mad at my mother is so foreign to me.   Like, real, justified adult anger at a very deceased woman.  I feel pissed at her for not getting over her hatred of being photographed and just sucked it up.  I wished she would have said to my dad, “Hey, grab the camera.  Take a picture of Lara and me.”  Nope, she didn’t do that.  She ducked and dodged my dad’s camera like he was a landmine she didn’t want to step on.

In her defense, she was sick for a long period of my life from ages 2 to 7, but I would have still cherished a picture of my mom hugging me, showing some sort of maternal affectionate for her only daughter.  Some tangible proof that she was here and she loved her daughter, a daughter she worried (according to a friend of hers) would also have breast cancer.  I wouldn’t have cared in the slightest if I had pictures of my mother when she was sick if I was in the picture, too.  Her illness was a part of our lives, but I imagine that’s not something she wanted my dad to capture.

When she disappeared from the pictures, she disappeared from the events that took place.   One of the snippets I remember from a family vacation we took the summer before she died took place at a go-kart place in Panama City Beach, Fla.  My brothers were each driving their own go-kart, and I was in a go-kart with my dad (since seven years old aren’t allowed to drive those things).  My mother stood off to the side, watching us and hanging out by the railing.  She wasn’t participating, just watching.  When I think about that memory, it makes me sad because I have wondered if she was just disappearing right then and there.  My mother disappeared from my memory, and now she’s been this abstract figure in my life, as tangible as a dream.

My plea to parents, and this goes to anyone really, don’t disappear from the pictures.  Who cares if you think your hair is frizzy or you have a “weird” smile or whatever hangup or lie that we tell ourselves, and don’t want to be in the pictures?  When you have children, forget all that and just get into that picture.  Smile.   If you are the one usually taking the picture, because as the photographer at events I know how easy that can happen, then hand the camera off to someone!  Strangers are usually cool if you ask them, “Hey, can  you take a picture?”

I’m not 100 percent sure why my mother avoided having pictures taken while she was sick.  Maybe given her hatred of the camera before cancer just meant that the hatred multiplied by 100 after her diagnosis?  Maybe she thought if she didn’t let my dad take pictures of her bald or with a horrible wig on or other hospital-related scenarios, that we wouldn’t have to remember a horrible time in our lives.  Guess what, we still do.  Whatever it was, she did a disservice to me, her youngest child.  I was robbed of my mother, and then my mother robbed me of the ability to have a precious keepsake of just her and me.