My mom, who's currently washing all our windows

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My mom is my nice thing o’ the week. She’s here visiting us from Minnesota. Presently, she’s indeed insisting on washing all the windows in our house, but in a pleasant, non-judgy way. (She claims she honestly loves washing windows. It’s true that her own windows are always spotless.)

My mom has lung cancer. She was diagnosed more than five years ago, and her cancer appears to be the kind that will never go away completely. Over the years, she’s been through surgery, chemo, and radiation. For the foreseeable future, she daily takes a pill that helps to keep her cancer at bay. A pill a day that helps her stay alive.

Her tumor marker is rising. It has been rising all year. That means her cancer pill is less effective than it used to be. It’s still working, but not very well.

For the past several months, we’ve been instructed by her oncologist that we need to take a wait-and-see approach as we “hope for her tumors to grow.” As you might guess, it’s a hard thing to hope.

My mom’s tumors need to grow sufficiently large so that they can be biopsied. With a biopsy, they hope to identify a new course of medication that will be more effective in helping her fight her cancer. (She’s already had blood tests that failed to identify a better option.)

My mom isn’t slowing down. She doesn’t let her cancer keep her from smiling, from spending time with her grandkids, from enjoying life, from finding new adventures. This week, we’re working on planning her very first trip to Europe (Italy and Austria), which she and I will embark on next fall, shortly after she turns 70. We’re enjoying nightly hot tubs under the Denver stars, walks through the neighborhood, and long conversations about everything and nothing. This afternoon, we’re going to pick up my stepson from school and take him to IKEA to buy a stool for his new desk. Tomorrow, I’m going to take her for the fanciest afternoon tea experience of her life.

My mom is my nice thing for many of my weeks. Against the odds, she has become one of the most positive, look-on-the-bright-side people I know. She has cancer and she’s washing all our windows, enjoying the sun on her shoulders and the knowledge that she gets to spend several more days enjoying the company of her daughter, her new son-in-law, and her 11-year-old grandson. She has cancer and she spends most of her time trying to figure out how she can do more nice things for her friends and family. (Nearly everyone she meets becomes her friend.) She has cancer and she loves her life.

It’s not about the windows. Of course it’s not. It’s about her being here, period.

 My mom and my stepdad came with us to Mexico in January. We were also celebrating the fact that she FINALLY retired. (She applied for her last job the week she was first diagnosed with cancer. Yes, we thought she was crazy. She is crazy, but in a nice way.)

My mom and my stepdad came with us to Mexico in January. We were also celebrating the fact that she FINALLY retired. (She applied for her last job the week she was first diagnosed with cancer. Yes, we thought she was crazy. She is crazy, but in a nice way.)

 This was my mom in the hospital preparing to have one of the lobes of her lung removed. Smiling before surgery. She made up a song about her tumor. It was to the tune of “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini.”

This was my mom in the hospital preparing to have one of the lobes of her lung removed. Smiling before surgery. She made up a song about her tumor. It was to the tune of “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini.”

 Mom with her oldest grandson, Gage. She now has nine total grandkids. She would do pretty much anything for any of them.

Mom with her oldest grandson, Gage. She now has nine total grandkids. She would do pretty much anything for any of them.

 This is my mom with her granddaughter, Sydney. This photo was taken less than a week after she had lung surgery, and shortly after Syd was born. She was in a ton of pain and still smiling. If you asked her, she’d say, “Of course I’m smiling. I’m holding my new granddaughter.”

This is my mom with her granddaughter, Sydney. This photo was taken less than a week after she had lung surgery, and shortly after Syd was born. She was in a ton of pain and still smiling. If you asked her, she’d say, “Of course I’m smiling. I’m holding my new granddaughter.”