Saturday, May 25, 2013

It All Began With A Little Lump...

 When Heather’s cancer journey began 5 years ago it was my hope that someday we would write a book together. We decided from day one to take photos to document all that we could about her incredible journey. Most of the photos were taken by me from first cut of the ponytail to her final days in ICU. Bill and Jenn managed to get 3 of the most impactful photos of our journey. Of course Bill took all the beautiful photos at the ball. It was my hope that Heather and I would write a book together and then publish it to the world. She was supposed to be with me on the book signing tours that would launch our story to the best seller list…ha ha ha 

As I started the CaringBridge blog in the early hours of April 11, 2008 I began writing about Heather’s journey through my eyes and emotions of being her Momy. I feel it is the most telling story about a real struggle through cancer. I feel this is Heather’s story and began my own blog-Confessions Of A Grieving Mother not long after her death. I felt I needed to leave her story alone and begin my own journey alone.

I am excited, thrilled, saddened and shocked to announce that on Friday May 24, 2013, I signed a contract with Archway a division of Simon & Schuster Publishing. For the time being right now, I am self –publishing. However, my editor, read my first few chapters, feels that this is a remarkable story. He also thought that my writing was very well done to tell the story in vivid detail without being gross. His thought is that there is a great need for this book and will be picked up by the parent publishing company Simon & Schuster.

Regardless, My Porcelain Doll-A Mother’s Walk beside Her Daughter Through Cancer, is being worked on currently and should be available in 38,000 bookstores around mid-late October of 2013. This will be Heather’s story through my eyes from suspicion to a few days after her funeral. It will be available in soft and hard cover as well as ebook.

My gut feeling is that this is right and supposed to happen this way. Right now I have all final say about the cover, contents and distribution. Once it is picked up they cannot change what I have already published. When this ordeal began I took a very powerful photo just moments after Heather had her head shaved. She came home wearing a bandana and was looking at herself in the bathroom mirror. I wanted that photo on the book cover with the title My Porcelain Doll. I have it the exact way I want it and everyone that has seen it says it is an amazing book cover.

I also feel I got confirmation with something that I received in the mail the same day as I signed to publish. It was a check from the State Of Colorado for money I didn’t know I had and was a substantial amount. I do not believe this was by accident. I feel it was a Heavenly and Heather confirmation that I made the right decision.

I hope all of you are as excited about my new book as I am. I will be updating and letting everyone know how it is coming along. I also will be having book signing parties and be honored to sign anyone’s book.

(Back Cover of the Book)
“Then came a bunch of words like aggressive and really bad and tumor and spinal taps and on and on and on. Of course it still didn’t sink in how bad he thought it was until he started talking about transplant team and City Of Hope. I knew then I was really a sick lil gal. I think that was the first time I was really, truly scared that it might be too late.” 
 ~Heather Coombe

You are about to meet a remarkable young woman, Heather Coombe. No, she is not a famous actress or music star, but her gentle spirit and giving nature won the hearts of everyone she met.  Heather was a normal 20 year old on the verge of her life when a devastating diagnosis of two forms of blood cancer would change her world and that of her mother’s forever. 

My Porcelain Doll is Sherry Coombe’s, poignant tribute to her late daughter and is a moving memoir about walking side by side through Heather’s struggles and triumphs during cancer. Sherry traces the journey she and Heather shared through some of the toughest challenges and sweetest moments of fighting cancer. Genuine, intimate and unconditional love, My Porcelain Doll is a story of hope, joy and sadness that only a mother could write.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

When God Created Grieving Mothers...

 I wasn't going to post again so soon but I had something hit me last night that I felt needed to be shared today, Mother's Day. I have never considered myself to be a writer, but the past 5 years has taught me that maybe I am good at expressing my thought and feelings. I have been writing my journey in a public setting for quite some time now. I am still amazed that anyone reads my ramblings at all.

When we first began our journey thought cancer, we all thought that maybe a book about how to handle cancer might come out of all of the trials we endured. We took photos and I tried to document the ups and downs of just what we were going through. Then my journey changed into that of grieving mother. I have tried the best I can to share my thoughts and feeling along this most difficult journey. 

I have looked for true stories about cancer with your child and the death of a child. Honestly there is not much out there. At least not written by someone having experienced the actual journey. Lost of books written by doctors and therapists but most of them have not actually lived the journey. 

I am pleased to announce that last weekend (with the computer help from Bill to create the covers) I began working on the first of two books. I am going to submit to several publishers and just see if anyone is interested. But if not I will be self publishing these two books.

The first book is entitled My Porcelain Doll and is the story of Heather's cancer journey till her death. Most all of this is written in the form of the CaringBridge journal I wrote during this chapter of our lives. Currently I have the title, dedication, acknowledgements, table of contents and have completed the first six chapters. At the current moment there are 6 parts with 30 chapters in this book. It seems to be coming together very well.

The second book is called Confessions Of A Grieving Mother. This will begin with a slight overview of Heather's death and funeral and then focus on how to survive day to day without your child. I was brutally honest with my posts and now looking back I think it is just what needs to be said for the world to read. I will keep you posted as to how these books are coming, but so far so good and I am really pleased with my two new projects.

I am not sure what prompted me to write this but it just seemed to come and felt good when I finished it. I hope you enjoy reading my original writing on When God Created Grieving Mothers.    

When God Created Grieving Mothers

One day God looked at His heaven while walking with a sad look on His face. He turned to an angel and said “there were too many adults in heaven. It is too serious and stuffy here.”

The angel replied "what do you mean?"

God told the angel "there was no laughter at the simple things, no child like faith in things unseen or childlike wonder as to why butterflies fly."
The angel replied "how do you fix a problem like this?"

God hung His head and sadly announced "that babies, children and teens as well as young adult just in the prime of life needed to join everyone in heaven."

The angel stood there shocked and finally asked, “how will you choose the ones to come home early?”

God said it was simple, "the ones who seem to be an angel on earth, the ones with gentle spirits with true love towards everyone they meet, the ones with a pure heart and absolute faith in God."

The angel frowned when he asked "how will they be brought back to heaven again so quickly?"

God replied there are accidents, illnesses, just not able to survive for a long time and cancer; that can be the big one to take out kids of all ages.”

The angel feeling very sad asks “which mothers would get the special loaner children? Shouldn't she know she will only have that child for a short time?”

“No,” God replied, “these mothers need to treat these kids like any other kids. Love and play with them but also discipline them, no different than normal kids. These kids don’t want to be wrapped in a bubble and kept safe, they want to experience life. But if a mom is looking with her heart, she might be able to see a hint of angels wings when her child is around.”

The angel asked "how do we choose what mothers to give up their babies?”

God said “I will choose this mother, that mother and these mothers over here. Once the shock and resentment wears off, she’ll handle it the best way she knows how. She will also have to have determination.”

“Determination?” questioned the angel, “is that a virtue?”

“Yes,” God said, “she will need it to survive the first few days after her child dies. The strength to continue each day in the light of her new changed life as ignorance, cruelty and prejudice comes raging all around her. Her will and determination will allow her to rise above such ignorant people. She will need the strength to stand alone, with a small group of mothers that understand. The loss of friends will be hard but the true long standing friends will understand and not try to change her.”

The angel beginning to understand smiles silently as God, hearing the unsaid statement assures the angel “yes I will be with her side by side every step of the way. Someday her reward will be rich for the ultimate sacrifice she gave…a beloved child.”

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Forever Missing...

The missing Mother’s Day card,
The empty seat at the table,
The cemetery visit...
Mother's Day dinner at IHOP-my choice
The longer I live, the more convinced I become that surviving changes us.  After the bitterness, the anger, the guilt, and the despair are tempered by time, we look at life differently.

While I was writing my book, I Want to Grow Hair, I Want to Grow Up, I Want to Go to Boise, I talked with mothers who had lost a child to cancer.  Every single one said death gave their lives new meaning and purpose.  And who do you think prepared them for the rough, lonely road they had to travel?  Their dying child.  They pointed their mothers toward the future and told them to keep going.  The children had already accepted what their mothers were fighting to reject.
Not too bad for nearly 48
This may seem like a strange Mother's Day column on a day when joy and life abound for the millions of mothers throughout the country.  But it's also a day of appreciation and respect.  I can think of no mothers who deserve it more than those who had to give a child back.

In the face of adversity, we are not permitted to ask, "Why me?"  You can ask, but you won’t get an answer.  Maybe you are the instrument who is left behind to perpetuate the life that was lost and appreciate the time you had with it.
The late Gilda Radner sums it up well:  "I wanted a perfect ending.  Now I've learned the hard way that some poems don't rhyme and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle and end.  Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what is going to happen next.  Delicious ambiguity."
~Erma Bombeck~

Happy Mother’s Day to all my friends with children here and also with wings.

Friday, May 10, 2013

When God Created Mothers...

Photo taken by me,at dinner-Mesa, Az
When the Good Lord was creating mothers, He was into His sixth day of "overtime" when the angel appeared and said. "You're doing a lot of fiddling around on this one."

And God said, "Have you read the specs on this order?" 
She has to be completely washable, but not plastic. 
Have 180 moveable parts...all replaceable. 
Run on black coffee and leftovers. 
Have a lap that disappears when she stands up. 
A kiss that can cure anything from a broken leg to a disappointed love affair. And six pairs of hands."

The angel shook her head slowly and said. "Six pairs of hands.... no way."

It's not the hands that are causing me problems," God remarked, "it's the three pairs of eyes that mothers have to have."

That's on the standard model?" asked the angel. God nodded.

One pair that sees through closed doors when she asks, 'What are you kids doing in there?' when she already knows. Another here in the back of her head that sees what she shouldn't but what she has to know, and of course the ones here in front that can look at a child when he goofs up and say. 'I understand and I love you' without so much as uttering a word."

God," said the angel touching his sleeve gently, "Get some rest tomorrow...."

I can't," said God, "I'm so close to creating something so close to myself. Already I have one who heals herself when she is sick...can feed a family of six on one pound of hamburger...and can get a nine year old to stand under a shower."

The angel circled the model of a mother very slowly. "It's too soft," she sighed.

But tough!" said God excitedly. "You can imagine what this mother can do or endure."

Can it think?"

Not only can it think, but it can reason and compromise," said the Creator.

Finally, the angel bent over and ran her finger across the cheek.

There's a leak," she pronounced. "I told You that You were trying to put too much into this model."

It's not a leak," said the Lord, "It's a tear."

What's it for?"

It's for joy, sadness, disappointment, pain, loneliness, and pride."

You are a genius, " said the angel.

Somberly, God said, "I didn't put it there.”
~Erma Bombeck-When God Created Mothers~

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Tragedy In The News...

No mother should outlive her child,
That’s not how things were meant to be…
They’re supposed to grow and marry,
And bring grandchildren to my knee…
Some things I just don’t understand,
My heart has been ripped out…
Is it wrong to feel so angry,
I just want to scream and shout…
My throat feels like I’ve swallowed glass,
Such a deep ache always there…
Life seems to go on in slow motion
But I’m just too numb to care…
My mind’s finely tuned to special things,
Times we spent together…
You’ll always be my treasured child,
And stay in my heart forever…
~Mary G~

The news this week has been heartbreaking, unlike any other week of the year. But it seems that two stories stand out to me that should not be happening right before Mother’s Day. The first story is about the 3 women held for a decade captive in a house. While this is a horrible story, I was moved by a side story about this tragedy Amanda Berry’s mother, Louwanna Miller. Psychic Sylvia Browne, who has made a career of televised psychic readings, told Louwanna Miller on a 2004 episode of the show that her daughter was dead, causing Miller to break down in tears on the show's set. "She's not alive, honey," Browne told Miller on the show, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper. "Your daughter's not the kind who wouldn't call. Miller told the newspaper that she believed "98 percent" in what Browne told her. Miller died a year later from heart failure. This poor mom never got to see the day this week when her daughter and now granddaughter have been found alive. I can’t imagine her shock when she arrived in heaven (hopefully) and Amanda was not there.

The second story is not to bring any more attention to Jody Arias, but to her mother and to Travis’s mother. How can you not be heartbroken that your child may die? I do believe that Jody is guilty; I also believe she should never ever be released and should possibly be put to death for her awful, evil crime. We will never know what happened to Travis and what Jody’s motive was. Two mothers this week are involved in this case. Travis’s mother has wanted someone to pay for her son’s death, while another mother’s child could be put to death because of it.

I am thankful to say that I do not know how it feels to have a child kill someone, or act out in some other horrible way towards society. My three girls were not perfect and I never believed them to be. But they have been for the most part law abiding people in society. This is not to say that the girls and I have always seen eye to eye about everything. We have had our spats, but never anything that could question my love for them. One of my girls took the hard road to find her way to adulthood. While I did not support her actions of some things she did, my love and support was never in question. That never wavered.

My girls have known from the day they could understand it, that I was their biggest supporter and cheerleader. I have never ever stopped loving and supporting them. I always told them I don’t like your actions but I always love you. I don’t believe there is anything that can stop a mother’s love. Oh wait, giving up for adoption means you never want to see that child again. I forgot. Well, the good news for my girls is that I am NOT my gestational unit. I wasn’t raised that way. I stand by the words, “there is nothing they could ever do to make me stop loving them. PERIOD!

As Mother’s Day gets closer I have mixed feelings like always. My childhood was never one of celebrating my mother, any of them. I am in a way jealous of my girls…they have a great mother. I don’t mean that to be funny. I mean that statement. I have never had the support and love of a mother. No matter what, Jenn and Wendy and quickly snookie know they can call me and I am here.

If you know a mom that has had a child die don’t forget her this Mother’s Day. Don’t act like this day doesn’t exist. It does exist and it is a very difficult day to spend without your child. Here are some hints as to what you might be able to do or give to make her day just a bit easier.

1. Recognize that they are a mother: Offer a hug and a "Happy Mother's Day". Send a card to let them know you remember they are a mother even though their child is not with them physically.

2. Acknowledge they have had a loss: Express the message, "I know this might be a difficult day for you. I want you to know that I am thinking about you.”

3. Use their child's name in conversation: One mother responded, "People rarely speak his name anymore, but when they do it’s like music to my ears".

4. Plant a living memorial: A tree or rose bush, like memories, will grow in beauty as the years pass.

5. Visit the grave site: Many mothers felt that it was "extremely thoughtful" when others visited their child's grave site and left flowers or a small pebble near the headstone.

6. Light a candle: Let the mother know you will light a candle in memory of their child on Mother's Day.

7. Share a memory or pictures of the child: Give the gift of a memory. One mother wrote that the "greatest gift you can give is a heartfelt letter about my child and a favorite memory with them".

8. Send a gift of remembrance: Many mothers felt a small gift would be comforting. Suggestions included: an angel statue, jewelry, a picture frame, a library book or toy donation in the child’s name or anything personalized.

9. Don't try to minimize the loss: Avoid using any clich├ęs that attempt to explain the death of a child. ("God needed another angel.") Secondly, don't try to find anything positive about the loss ("You still have two healthy children").

10. Encourage Self-Care: Self-care is an important aspect of the "healing the mind and spirit effort" according to several mothers. Encourage a grieving mother to take care of herself. Give a gift certificate to a day spa or any place where she can be pampered.
~The Comfort Company~