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Tick Tock

tick tock.

It haunts me.

tick tock.

It softly lurks in the back of my mind. Weeks, months, and even years go by without thinking about it.

tick tock.

But it never goes away.

tick tock.

Every January it gains a louder voice. The 23rd day of the month glares at me. The calendar serves as an annual reminder.

tick tock.

A reminder that the time is coming.

tick tock.

She was 45 when breast cancer ended her life. She was 39 when she found that golf ball-sized lump that was the beginning of the end.

tick tock.

My mom was so young when her world crashed to the ground. She hadn't even begun to live her life when it happened. She had no idea that it was her destiny.

tick tock.

For as long as I can remember, I've thought of 39 as the age when I would begin to borrow time.

tick tock.

If I make it to 40 cancer-free, I'll consider it a miracle. A gift, if you will.

tick tock.

There is no rationale for the thoughts. They're ridiculous and cynical and pessimistic and so many things that I am not.

tick tock.

But they're still there.

tick tock.

It's what this whole thing is about, I'll admit. My mom died at the age of 45 and she left me with nothing. Nothing that tells me who she was or what she thought or how she felt. Nothing.

tick tock.

I can't do that to Alexis. I write as a gift to the future version of her.

tick tock.

Just in case I'm not around to tell her in person.

tick tock.

35 is just around the corner. With it, the shadow grows louder. 39 will be here in a blink.


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Reader Comments (40)

Wow. Just.....wow.

I've known your Mom passed away so young for a while. To say I am sorry seems so small. This post is haunting. In many, many ways.

January 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKellie

I'm not an amazing commenter, but I'm an amazing reader, and this, was good.
(I'm the reason facebook has the thumbs up LIKE!)

Alexis is a lucky girl.

January 13, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermoosh in indy.

Thank you for putting that into words. My grandmother died at 43 and even though my mom is still alive, I've watched her go through each birthday almost amazed that she's still alive. Losing a parent so young does something to the children left behind. I'm sorry you lost your mom so young. You're doing a wonderful thing for your own daughter, she has been blessed by your experiences (if that makes any sense.)

January 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMirth

love you....

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterthe planet of janet

I want to say huge hugs to you, but even that sounds silly after reading this post. Very emotional and very beautiful. Cancer is the scariest thing ever. It destroys so many lives. I worry all the time, too, about leaving my children too early. I can handle death on my own - I think. But thinking about how sad my kids would be, that just kills me. I keep private journals for them and leave little love notes in places where they'd find them, just in case...

I'm sorry you had to deal with the loss of your mother at such a young age. It's not something you will ever get over and I hope her memory is alive in you stilll. You're a wonderful mom.


January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLoukia

Wow, this post is amazing, scary, and very beautiful. No, question you are doing yourself and Alexis a service by writing this blog. Something like that would really weigh me down. No, need to answer these, but just curious if this is the type of cancer that you can detect early. Like checking DNA etc. for certain genes. You will be the one to prove everyone wrong.

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmy


my dad died in the age of 46 (brain tumor) and my mom age 58 (multiple myelom - a non hodgkin blood cancer ).
I hear the TICK TOCK very loud, but I have no kids (sad enough). My younger sister hears it even louder. Her daughter is 15 months old.

We are lucky - our parents left us with a zillion of memories and pictures, but I still agree that especially for my dad I was too young (17 when he died and 14 when he got sick) to REALLY know him. But I LOVED him so much. I was a daddy's girl. It broke my heart and still does. Don't get me wrong - I loved my mom a LOT as well. I was just much older and we had a different kind of relationship.

Both of them worked hard to keep the family running. They loved each other so much and had so many plans what to do together once my sister and I would be out of the house and they would retire like travelling, spending relaxing hours at sports and wellness ressorts (they were both great tennis players), just spending time with each other without being busy with something. It never happened.

This left deep cuts in my sister's and my life. We are very bad for example in saving money. We just do not feel like doing it for an infinite future and prefer spending it now. We see the doctors more often for check ups than normal people but we fight hard to make us go, because what you want to do is just bann the idea of cancer from your life. But we can't.

And it is everywhere, evey time. At the moment one of my best friends is fighting against it and I am standing there - AGAIN (I SO HATE IT) feeling helpless and angry and sad and all this.

We need cure. Stand up to cancer!

PS: As much as I love the Pens I alwas thought this Mario Mosaic was a bit over the top ... until Mario Lemieux and his foundation gave a couple of million $ for the research about hodgkin and non hodgkin blood cancer. That moment he had me. My pic will be in the revised Mario Mosaic next season. Some of the best 60$ I ever spent.

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChristina / CKapaun

I too lost my mom too young. She was older than yours and I do remember a lot about her, but am hurt by the lost opportunity. I wish daily that she could know my boys.

Keep up the blogging. Your daughter will cherish it one day.

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmo

I understand those feelings so much. When someone dies that is close to you, you look at the world differently than others. You think about death in a different way.
But, the good that comes from it, is that it makes you live your life differently, as you certainly are. Making each day count. Regardless of what age you make it to, you are living life with no regrets and what could be better than that?

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJen

oh friend. Hugs, lady.

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJen

(even though you hate hugs. This calls for one. Sorry! ;) heh)

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJen

So sorry about your mom. It's normal and common to feel the way you do, but please know even in the worst case scenario- that you did develop breast cancer- treatment is vastly improved. As one commenter mentioned, if you haven't already, you could talk with a genetic counselor about your risks and preventative strategies.

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpgher

Your mom was so proud of you, Michelle.

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

This is the best reason I've ever heard anyone give for blogging.

I'm planning to run the Race for the Cure in May - so that my daughters won't have to live in fear of the disease.

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThe Mommy

I adore you even more...as if it was possible. It isn't easy to face our demons, to put a face to them. You are doing it so much for your daughter...and she will see that. You've given her such a gift with your words and pictures...and you'll BOTH be sharing in them for years to come.

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

My Mom had cancer at 39 - she was lucky. Chemo/Radiation took a lot of memories. I write for that too. And hosting is paid through Lexi's 30th birthday - because I'm not crazy....

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCass

I have that too, those irrational thoughts... based on fear. Based on family history. Based on ________________. Certain i won't live past 35. I've thought that since I was a teen. Only then, 35 felt bearable because i was young. 35 felt old. but now, I feel young- and this march i turn 35...

your post comforted me. which sounds ridiculous since it was born out of hurt and fear for you... i guess, maybe by telling you my fear you'd feel that too... that your're not alone in fearing that.

I am so sorry for your hurt... SO sorry for your fear.

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermisty

such a powerful piece. thanks for the leaky eyes this fine friday.

my mom also died of breast cancer, but more recently (2006) at the age of 66. i don't hear the tick tock, but i have a sort of certainty in my head that i will get breast cancer like she did at the age of 64. after all, two of her sisters got it at that age. i guess i tell you this to say i wish i had writings such as you are gifting alexis with...i wish mom wrote her life story for me. silly perhaps, but she was such an incredible woman with grand adventures under her belt and i would love to be able to access them as easily as logging onto a website. it would have been incredible to read about her world when i was young.

i hope you and alexis are able to look back and read this site to your grandchildren when you are old and grey...when your memory is slipping and your breasts are healthy (even if they eventually sag a bit!).

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterhello haha narf

You're right. There is no rationale that can talk you out of that fear. I felt the same way but about my sister. She died when she was nine and when my ninth birthday finally came and went I let out a huge exhale. I know my sister felt the same way. You just can't help it.

I think of my blog as a wonderful story for my kids to read when I'm gone too. It calms me a bit (just a tiny bit) when I am having a moment of freak out worrying if I would ever tragically leave them too soon.

I can't imagine loosing my mother so young. I am so sorry for your loss. It is understandable that you would have this fear. Really.
Sending bloggy hugs and good thoughts to you.

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKat

My dad died a bit older -- 56 -- so I was more on my way in life, certainly. His brother, who is now 80 this year, was visiting, and I was struck by how much he can share about their lives and the lives of those who came before them. And how I never get to hear those stories. I had the horridly random thought of why couldn't he have died 10 years earlier in exchange for my dad living 10 years longer? Horrid.

I can't imagine losing a parent at such a young age, particularly, dare I say it, a mom when you're the daughter. I'm sorry, truly, that this happened and how it looms in front of you. I think your writing about your lives is such a gift to give your own.

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpatois

I have heard so many other children whose parents passed away young say the same thing. For no rational reason, they also believe they will not make it past the age that there parent was. But it seems to be a common fear. I have heard Rosie O'Donnel speak of it an Artie Lange.

I am really sorry about the fear that you live with but you can rest assured that this beautiful blog you are putting together for your daughter is a piece of you that will be there with her long after you are gone - even if you live to be 100.

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKathy

My dad died when the Toad was 3 months old. The Toad grew up "knowing" my dad, in a way. It was still fresh for all of us, and we talked about him a lot.

The Howler will never know my Dad like that. And I really really really wish I could hear his thoughts on her...he'd probably laugh himself breathless at who she is, and at me with her. And I miss that--knowing the joy he'd have watching her barrell through life. Even 22 years later, I sometimes cry (like right now) knowing that he's gone, and that I can't share with him all the stuff I've learned since then.

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermumple

I think you are awesome and this blog is the perfect thing for her. My best friend's mom died when she was a pre-teen and recently she received some journals by her mom. They were very brief and she would have loved to have more. She's always saying she wished she had more from her mom and wants to document herself very well in case anything were to happen.

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBecca

I have my mom. We went 14 years - from my wedding to my dad's death - with no relationship. I missed her terribly. I learned to live without her. Now that I live near, have access to my mom, now that's she's grandma to my kids - I don't know what to do with her. I keep thinking and feeling that I should be and do more. That I should be more open. That we should spend more time together. And I withdraw.

Thank you for this heart rending post. I know you loved your mom. And that Alexis loves you. You live. Truly live.

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFlea

Way to make me cry!

But don't worry - you have just the right combination of good and evil to stick around forever.

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGina

My cousin was 5 when he died almost a year ago from leukemia. I was 6 month pregnant at the time.

My son looks alot like my cousin. I am terrified if losing him.

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterElisabeth

I'm so sorry. <3

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJenny Grace

I cannot even imagine losing your mother at such a young age. I'm very sorry.

Your stories here, your photos, these will mean so much to Alexis when she is older. And that you will sit with her and tell her about each one, and tell her daughter too, will mean that much more.

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTara R

oh friend. You have said that I can lean on you, know you can lean on me.


January 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterdomestic extraordinaire

Very sad, but excellently written post. So sorry you lost your mom young. Because of it your passion for leaving something for Alexis is obvious. You are doing a great job, although I am certain you will be around long enough to tell her everything yourself. Prayers for you.

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterOtter

Powerful post. My dad died of pancreatic cancer 9 days before his 50th birthday. Luckily, my mom and dad started their family young and my brother and I were in our mid-20s when he died. I don't harbor fears that I will die at 50 but when looking at my life, I do often think "if I die at 50, will I be happy with the things I have chosen to do?"

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterShannon W.

My mom's mom died of breast cancer when she was 2. So my mom and her bro and sis moved in with her aunt & uncle and grandmother because, oh yeah, her dad ran off. A few years later, the aunt died. So my great-gram took care of all 7 of her grandkids and her (drunk) son-in-law, having now buried 2 of her daughters. My great-gram eventually buried two more children (only 1 of 5 outlived her). Her husband had died years ago on Christmas Eve and her son died on Christmas.

I always knew this growing up. I never knew how my mom learned to be such a great mom without any example, but I did know that in my family a lot of people went before their time. I grew up thinking it was normal, not the exception.

When I had my girls, part of me always believed that the curse had only skipped a generation. So I started making scrapbooks and writing them letters to be opened much later and writing journals about my own life for them to find if I went too soon too. I couldn't bear the thought of them not understanding how much I loved them, of not knowing anything about me the way my mom doesn't know a single thing about her mom.

I totally get it. It is the greatest gift you can give your daughter. I am so sorry for the ripples left by your mom's passing - but I love that you've created good from it in the way you both live in the moment AND plan for the future. Your daughter will not have the same questions you do.

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKatie in MA

Delurking on this post. Wow. Just remember we all have our own destiny.

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJulie P

Michelle, you are such an inspiration and such an amazing mother! When I read what you are doing for Alexis through your blog, I only hope I too can do this for my children too. You never know. Thank you, and a virtual non hug hug. :)

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermrsgregwillis

In case you missed everything you have done and created for that child of yours, there is no chance that she would ever be left with nothing. You? You are the type of mom that children wish they had. She won't always appreciate it; who appreciates rules while they're growing up. But she's lucky. She's blessed. And so are you.

I can't predict your future. I can't even say that when I go out to run errands in a bit that I'll return. But I can tell you that your daughter will always have the light of your motherhood with her.

And now enough of this sappy BS. Remind me to kick you in the butt when I see you next. You know you're strong enough to kick the snot out of whatever comes your way. Insert some joke about being older than me right here.

January 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFireMom

I was just barely 40 when I was diagnosed and here I am now at the ripe old age of 45. I was petrified not for myself, but my kids. It's natural.

We decided against genetic testing and went with the best prevention is early testing and vigilance. Get your mammogram and otherwise note any unusual stuff to your physician. The best gift you can give yourself & your daughter is knowledge.

January 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCarolineFB

*sniff* you reminded me of one reason I started my blog - to preserve some memories for my girls. I didn't know you lost your mom to cancer at such a young age. I am 42 so closer to that 45 yrs that you. I can't imagine leaving my girls behind at their age (10 and 8) but knowing they have the zillion pictures, video and not as frequent blog posts makes me feel like I've at least saved them something. Here's hoping you breeze by and more than double that 39 (I know you will) and continue to write share your life with us. Alexis is so lucky to have you for a mom!

January 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMomexperience

I don't know what to say to this, but I wanted to comment so you knew I was here. If you ever want to talk or anything, man that seems so useless and unhelpful, but I'm here.

My aunt passed away when she was 39. Both of my cousins are terrified and I'm terrified for them. They're on top of it, they're figuring out the best path but man I wish they didn't have to.

January 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMolly

i've been thinking a lot about this post since it went up. for some reason i keep coming back to the fact that we have TWO parents and get our genes from both of them. for both of our sakes, i hope our fathers throws some seriously healthy stuff our way.

January 18, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterhello haha narf

I worry about my husband. he lost his mom in her 40's due to a brain tumor and he lost his dad to cancer in his 50's. My husband is now 42 and I'm worried about him. My mom passed at 58 and my dad is living with us with COPD, Congestive heart failure ect and he will be 64 March 31. I hit the big 40 on Feb 2nd. So yeah I worry as well. I worry that I only had one child and who will he have when we go. It's not like I didn't want another child I just chould have one.

OK this is too deep. I'm going to read your other posts to make me happy again. Good topic of convo though. As you can see from the many comments you are not alone. But Thank God we are able to go to Dr's and be checked and know the signs. It doesn't mean it still will not happen but at least things are more advanced now.

Hang in there girlie!

January 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJackie
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