To Martina McBride
Last week while I was waiting at the laboratory to get my blood drawn for my weekly blood test, The Today show was on the television in the waiting room. Katie was talking about Martina McBride and the “In My Daughter’s Eyes” contest. I made a mental note to check it out online when I got home. But the mental note must have been on sticky paper that lost it’s stickiness, because I forgot all about it until this evening, when a stroll through the internet jolted my memory. But now it is the eve of January 9th, and there is no way I can get my entry from California to Connecticut in less than 24 hours. I thought about typing something up and sending it anyway- if nothing else it is an exercise in catharsis (something I seem to need a lot these days). But then I dismissed that idea- my late entry would probably end up in some collective trash bin, never opened. My story is too valuable to me for that to happen. It isn’t that I expect to gain anything from sharing it, but I have to believe that it hasn’t all been in vain……….
In May of 2003, sadly on my daughter’s 11th birthday, I was diagnosed with Stage IIIb Inflammatory Breast Cancer- a rare and particularly aggressive form of breast cancer that kills more than 50% of affected women. I was 30 years old. I’m no stranger to crisis- I survived a nine year long abusive marriage to the father of my three children. I’ve definitely learned how to roll up my shirt sleeves and get my hands dirty in the midst of a crisis! But even though I was anticipating that my nice, little, self-insulating bubble would eventually pop, I never imagined it would be cancer that would be the weapon to deflate it.
So I got busy and began chemotherapy. Seven treatments of chemotherapy, five surgeries, over four dozen blood draws, numerous tests and exams, and I am beginning the downhill part of my mountainous climb. I had a bilateral mastectomy on November 12, 2003, and start radiation this month. Seven weeks of daily (five days a week) radiation treatments, and then I will have two more chemotherapy treatments, and I will officially be done (providing the cancer does not come back). Unfortunately, Inflammatory Breast Cancer has the highest recurrence rate of all breast cancer.
I truly am blessed that my body withstood the treatments, because many women are betrayed by their body’s rejection of the treatment, and that is our only hope of survival. I also am blessed to have been able to breast feed all three of my children, and that the cancer is not present in any of the major organs that my life depends on. But even though I know these things, this hasn’t been a cake walk……..
Martina’s song, “In My Daughter’s Eyes”, truly does touch my heart in the deepest places, because my daughter has been my inspiration through all of this (my other two children are sons). So many nights I cried as I laid in total fear for my daughter and faced the possibility that she might lose her mother too. Who would be there when she started her period? Who could she talk to about her first dating experiences? Who’s shoulder will she cry on when her heart is broken for the first time? Who would be there to cry for her when she walked down the aisle? Who would she call in excitement after the pregnancy test confirms it? Or give her advise on her career or major in college? Who would be there to remind her of what a strong, independent, and beautiful woman she is? I poured out these thoughts and feelings into a journal that I began writing for my daughter- whether I lived or died, it would be her gift from me when she becomes her own woman. And my days……they were filled with all the daily musings that come with cancer. There came a point late in my treatment when my body was so tired, and I was so emotionally drained and spiritually parched, that the painful thoughts of quitting washed over me. I really had enough- no more chemotherapy drugs, no more doctors, no more blood tests. I just wanted to be left alone. And I fully understood that these things were keeping me alive, but I had reached that point when I truly did not care if the cancer killed me. If it wasn’t for my daughter (and my sons), I know I would have given up. Being a woman of faith, I know that admitting this reveals my weakness. But God tells us that when we are weak, He is strong. And I believe that God works through people. So in my moment of weakness I could not see my purpose in relation to God, but I saw it in my daughter’s eyes. I believe that she is the strength that God gave to me in my moment of weakness.
I’ve always appreciated Martina’s messages in her songs. In fact, when I remarried in 1999, my husband and I seriously considered “Valentine” as one of our wedding songs (we met on Valentine’s Day). Having experienced domestic violence, I was particularly thankful to Martina for having the courage and heart to use her talents to address the issue. My own Mother gave me the ‘Heart of Strength’ necklace for my 30th birthday- something I really wanted, but would never spend the money for myself. Putting that necklace on, I am not only reminded of Martina, but feel very connected, and am encouraged by it. When it was released, I copied Martina’s GH CD for my daughter, as she had just started getting into music then. I know that she really likes Martina’s songs too, and we sometimes sing them together in the van. I would hope to just be able to make Martina aware of how thankful I am that she shares not just her phenomenal voice, but her heart.
In my daughter’s eyes I am a hero
I am strong and wise and I know no fear
But the truth is plain to see
She was sent to rescue me
I see who I wanna be
In my daughter’s eyes
In my daughter’s eyes everyone is equal
Darkness turns to light and the
world is at peace
This miracle God gave to me gives me
strength when I am weak
I find reason to believe
In my daughter’s eyes
And when she wraps her hand
around my finger
Oh it puts a smile in my heart
Everything becomes a little clearer
I realize what life is all about
It’s hangin’ on when your heart
has had enough
It’s giving more when you feel like giving up
I’ve seen the light
It’s in my daughter’s eyes
In my daughter’s eyes I can see the future
A reflection of who I am and what will be
Though she’ll grow and someday leave
Maybe raise a family
When I’m gone I hope you see how happy
she made me
For I’ll be there
In my daughter’s eyes