Skip to nav Skip to content

Danni Gallagher (right) battled colorectal cancer in 2020. Two years later, her mom (center) died from the disease.

My mom and I have a unique story. It didn’t really start out as anything different than one would expect. I would say that we had a typical mother/daughter relationship through the years. We weren’t overly close as I was growing up, mostly because I was a strong, willful child who wanted to do things my way and was probably a bit stubborn.  Despite all that, my mom was always there for me. Even when I was testing her limits, she was supporting me in whatever way she could. I didn’t necessarily appreciate all her efforts back then, but I never doubted her love for her family, for me.

I went to college and never really returned home, eventually ending up in Florida chasing my career. It was when my children were born, when I became a mother, that my mom moved to Florida and once again became a daily part of my life.  She helped with raising our children, allowing both my husband and I the opportunity to hold corporate positions that required travel, always finding a way to be there to help with the kids. She loved being part of their every day. She wasn’t just Nana, but also an amazing nanny, reading buddy, school volunteer and stand-in for me when I was working. My mom enabled me to have the flexibility to follow my career path and raise two awesome children. That is one of the things that I always thanked her for through the years and am still so grateful for.

In 2020, I was diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer and telling my mom about my diagnosis was one of the hardest discussions I have ever had. I watched my mom go through so many emotions during my treatment, from angry to scared, but always supportive, always pushing me to fight. I realized along the way that hearing your child has a disease that can be terminal and knowing you are powerless to do anything to reverse it was so frightening for her. 

As a mom, I never want to know that one of my children must face something that I can’t make better for them. It’s ingrained in us as mothers to protect our children at all costs, and I know she felt the same. So once again my mom stepped in to do what she could, not just with the kids, but also preparing foods that I could tolerate, helping me keep my medications straight, helping my husband with household chores, keeping things as normal as she could while we all dealt with the effects of my treatment. She held my hand more times that I can recall, such a small gesture, but one that I carry in my heart because it was her way of physically protecting me. She believed that there would be no other acceptable outcome but for me to get to a no evidence of disease state. She celebrated that outcome with a mother’s sincere “I told you so” attitude. 

Two short years after my diagnosis, right on the heals of completing my treatment, my mom was diagnosed with the same disease, same staging, same everything.  While she was holding me up through so much, she was letting her own symptoms go unchecked.  When we finally found out that she had cancer it was so much more advanced. It had ruptured part of her colon and spread to other organs. She was starting her fight from a very different spot and in a much more deteriorated condition. It was the doctors who explained to me the situation she was facing, and many who commented on the unique position of a mother/daughter diagnosis with such similarities. While it was my turn to lean in with all the love, support and positivity I could find to help her fight the disease that she refused to see her daughter give in to, we just weren’t meant to share the same outcome. 

My mom’s battle ended just four months after her diagnosis, and my last thank you to her was not on Mother’s Day, but on a Wednesday at the end of January, with all her family surrounding her and me holding her hand. She didn’t really give up, or give in, but ran out of strength to battle it. I think the toughest part for her was knowing she wouldn’t be here to take care of everyone. Being a mother was her joy and her brightest accomplishment.  She truly loved being a caregiver and would do anything for anyone who needed her. 

Sharing our disease, our doctors, our symptoms, our treatment didn’t allow us to share in the same outcome. As I think about my mom on this Mother’s Day, I am so thankful for all we shared, even the tough stuff. Mother’s Day is the perfect time to thank your mom for all that she has done for you through the last year and throughout your lifetime. It’s the perfect excuse to celebrate her, cherish her, remember her. I will always be thankful to my mom for everything we shared.

This story was written by Danni Gallagher.