My Mom did all the great ‘Mom’ things and was also instrumental in my career choice. After I started grade school, she started feeling out a career in nursing by working as a secretary in the emergency room department of a local hospital. She decided to go to nursing school when I was between 9 and 11 and I remember that her medical books – texts on physiology and pharmacology – began to pique my interest in this field.
Her dinnertime recollections of the previous night’s ER happenings engrossed me, but simply grossed out my father. As I grew to have a family of my own, I became even more impressed at the effort it must’ve taken her to start a new career while my sister and I were growing up. We were very fortunate to have my grandmother living nearby to help Mom with childcare and my Dad was extremely supportive of my Mom’s desire to make a difference.
Mom’s battle with breast cancer when I was in college was the defining event in my decision to pursue a career in cancer research. Her courage and fortitude were amazing. She braved chemotherapy and radiation treatments and still went to work the same day. She is now a 23-year breast cancer survivor.
But Mom was more than an influence. She encouraged us to be whatever we wanted even when she might’ve wished we took a different path – I think she still had hope that I’d become a “real’ doctor. Yet she encouraged my foray into laboratory science and supported me through the poverty of graduate school.
With my Dad long gone but with a not-so-new husband, she is off today somewhere away from an internet connection in the Caribbean, enjoying the fruits of a well-deserved retirement. Still, I wanted to post a brief recollection of her influence on me, mostly as a scientist but now as a model in parenting. I doubt that I am as responsible and selfless as she, but I can always try to do better – I’ve seen it done.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.