Base Camp: The Mountain Climb Onto The On-Ramp Begins.

by Christina Michael


It all began 6 years ago. I was juggling my full time job as a lawyer with raising my first son, Nicholas, in San Francisco. You can imagine how excited I was to have my dear mom (Nicholas’s “Yiayia”) come and visit. I knew that, for at least a few days, she would relieve my guilt of having to drop my toddler at daycare and would have my house spotless with dinner (Greek chicken with roasted potatoes was her specialty) ready for my family when we got home from work.


As I expected, her visit was wonderful for a few days except that Mom was feeling so cold all of the time. Trying to comfort her (and myself), I said: “Oh, Mom, San Francisco is always so cold and our apartment is not well-insulated like your house in Chicago. Don’t worry, Mom, I am sure that’s all it is”. “Ok, honey,” she said. And, when Mom said that her neck was swollen (“Can’t you see, Christina?”), I brushed it off as her just fighting off a flu bug. I wondered what was truly happening…. Mom had no energy, was freezing cold during the day, and was sweating profusely each night (we women can sure blame anything on hormones or lack thereof, can’t we?).


Two weeks later, sitting at my desk at work, the phone rings. My eldest sister, Alex, was on the phone. “Mom’s doctor took a biopsy of the lymph node on her neck, and he’s sending it to the Mayo Clinic for testing. He says it could be lymphoma, but it might just be ‘cat scratch fever.”’ Oh, I am sure that’s what it is, I thought. No big deal, right? Back to my countless cases and heavy workload, needing to rush and pick up Nicholas.


Then, the dreaded phone call a few days later, at my desk again (of course). It was my sister again. “Mom has lymphoma. It’s Stage 4 out of 4. It’s in her organs, too." WHAT? No, please, no. She’s so healthy…. She just went on a big bike trip in Morocco…. She never smoked, never drank, and was never overweight. How could this have happened to the nicest, most loving, healthiest sixty-two year old person I had ever known? I could not, would not, and did not believe this.


After countless phone calls to my sisters and my parents, after my employer wouldn’t let me go “part time” (80%), in tears (yes I cried to my male boss), I resigned. I needed to take care of my sick mom and be in Chicago as much as possible. We’d just go into (more) debt, if necessary, to let me be with my mom for as many moments as possible.


For the next year, I traveled from San Francisco to Chicago with my son (and sometimes my husband) every month. I watched Mom deteriorate, literally shrink before my eyes. Twelve rounds of intense chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant almost killed her trying to save her. And then, on July 13, 2002, when my son was 2 1/2 years old and I was six months pregnant with my second son, Mom died. She was gone forever. I crumbled.



You are not alone. I pray that you feel your mother with you in each of these challenges, celebrations and transitions. Thank goodness you had that time with her, even when it was the hardest thing to do and see.

Very Tired

Maybe if you post the kind of position you are looking for, a Mommy Track'd reader will be able to find you something. Sisterhood is a powerful thing!


Wow- what an incredible story. I cannot wait to follow!


How heartbreaking! Grown up or not, that is still your Mommy. I bet you see life in a more clear way now - moments with your children, your connection to others, etc. Good luck on your new road!


What an incredible story! You have been through so much. Keep telling us all the details of what you are doing and how you are feeling about it.


Do you want to go back to work as an attorney? Full time? Because you need the money? Because you need fulfillment? Can't wait to find out.


Your story made me cry! I feel for you and can't wait to hear about your journey to find the right job (if that's possible?) as you struggle as a do-it-all mom! I know you can do it!! Cheers to you!


I know so many people in just this boat. I will tell all of them to check this column. How often will it be updated? Weekly? It is like a serial column mirroring all our lives.


Oh my goodness. Your story is almost exactly the same as my best friend from college. She lost her mother, quit her job and now as her daughter heads to kindergarten, she is trying to find a job. She has gone through so many struggles and has been so brave and willing to totally reinvent herself. She is an attorney by trade too. I can't wait to hear how the story unfolds. Good Luck!