On Twitter, shared stories of moms, cancer, and loss

Yesterday was Mother's Day in the US. I spent the day at home in Los Angeles, still recuperating from chemo, gearing up for the next phase of my cancer treatment. After I called my mom on the East Coast to wish her a happy Mother's Day and thank her for all she has done, I shared a few thoughts on Twitter about moms and cancer. I invited my followers to do the same.

One by one, 140-character-length tributes came in about moms who survived cancer, moms who helped their kids through cancer, and kids who lost their moms to cancer. I retweeted a few, then a few more, but—they did not stop. A flood of personal testimonies to the power of motherhood in relation to cancer followed. I read every single one, and tried to share every single one with my followers.

Josh Stearns kindly collected many of them into a Storify: Mother's Day Memories of Love, Loss and Living With Cancer. It's embedded below.

Above, a photograph of me and my mom, the day before one of my chemo infusions. I draw a lot of strength from my mom. And you need all the strength you can get to get through this thing.

She adds a tribute of her own today:

My Mom died of melanoma (skin cancer) at 54. Her doctor never knew it was cancer until the autopsy. All of us (3 girls, 3 boys) still carry her spirit in our hearts.

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  1. With the bald head and the shiny jacket,  you look great! At least to this sci-fi fan. I bet tons of chemo patients are jealous of you…. Thanks for keeping us informed of your cancer journey.

    1. I was going to say the same thing.  Clean shaven is a good look for you, Xeni.  Again, I’m a big sci-fi dork, too, but if I didn’t know better, it looks like you might have chosen the style.

  2. You Look great sans hair.  Keep up the fight Xeni!   My mother survived breast cancer 17 years ago and is currently battling an abdominal form of ovarian cancer.  She’s almost done with chemo and her doctor says her scans “look beautiful”!   There is good news!!  I hope the same for you!!

  3. I know it’s semi-orthogonal to the point you wanted to make, but like some of the others I can’t resist commenting on the photo…

    I’m reminded of Phil Klass’s story “Winthrop Was Stubborn”, in which he postulated a future in which — among many other bits of future shock for his time travelers —  many women had adopted shaving their heads as a style, noting that it emphasized facial expressions. I think the quote summing it up was “a woman’s Frowning Glory”.

    I’m also reminded of the public surprise at how attractive Persis Khambatta was when had her head shaved to play Ilia in Star Trek The Motion(less) Picture. Shouldn’t have surprised anyone, in retrospect, but it broke some assumptions.

    So:  Yeah, as others have said,  don’t let anyone make you self-conscous about it — you do look good even to someone like myself who is biased in favor of long hair. Impish, perhaps, might be the right word…

    (And I hope my face ages half as gracefully as your mom’s has.)

    The challenge with “cancer” is that it isn’t a single ailment — it’s a class of symptoms that can have many causes. We’ve gotten a lot better at treating those symptoms, but we won’t have anything resembling a complete “cure” until we can address the basic switches that cause the symptom to arise. And I suspect that’s going to come piecemeal, one cause at a time, until and unless we have the entire process mapped out. So I don’t expect to see The Cure For Cancer in my lifetime, and I’m not sure it’s a well-defined goal … but I would be delighted to be proven wrong, and in the meantime I’ll be pleased if we continue to find better ways to prevent and control it.

  4. I know it’s semi-orthogonal to the point you wanted to make, but like some of the others I can’t resist commenting on the photo…

    I’m reminded of Phil Klass’s story “Winthrop Was Stubborn”, in which he postulated a future in which — among many other bits of future shock for his time travelers —  many women had adopted shaving their heads as a style, noting that it emphasized facial expressions. I think the quote summing it up was “a woman’s Frowning Glory”.

    I’m also reminded of the public surprise at how attractive Persis Khambatta was when had her head shaved to play Ilia in Star Trek The Motion(less) Picture. Shouldn’t have surprised anyone, in retrospect, but it broke some assumptions.

    So:  Yeah, as others have said,  don’t let anyone make you self-conscous about it — you do look good even to someone like myself who is biased in favor of long hair. Impish, perhaps, might be the right word…

    (And I hope my face ages half as gracefully as your mom’s has.)

    The challenge with “cancer” is that it isn’t a single ailment — it’s a class of symptoms that can have many causes. We’ve gotten a lot better at treating those symptoms, but we won’t have anything resembling a complete “cure” until we can address the basic switches that cause the symptom to arise. And I suspect that’s going to come piecemeal, one cause at a time, until and unless we have the entire process mapped out. So I don’t expect to see The Cure For Cancer in my lifetime, and I’m not sure it’s a well-defined goal … but I would be delighted to be proven wrong, and in the meantime I’ll be pleased if we continue to find better ways to prevent and control it.

  5. Reading the  flood of Mother’s Day rememberances was a tough thing to deal with, and I almost temporarily de-followed Xeni’s feed . . . but witnessing it seemed the right thing to do.

  6. Sure is good to see your beautiful ugly mug again. May you vanquish  the monster now and all your antennae grow back more glorious than ever madame X.

  7. Love to Xeni who takes the worst that life has thrown at her and builds a community.  Strength in numbers!  And yeah, she reminded me of Persis Khambatta too!

  8. You know, even when the Chemo is over you may want to think about keeping the bald look. It’s  a wee bit hot.

  9. I just want to thank you for doing this tweetstream, Xeni. I was one of those who tweeted my mother’s recent cancer death, and reading all the others helped me feel not so alone with this.

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