My Mom is Tough as F*ck!

…But she’s also been sick for as long as I can remember.

Let’s start chronologically, and this does not include the appendix bursting and poisoning her, the viral meningitis-gone-wrong, the multiple miscarriages, or numerous other childhood feats she went through before I was born.

1. When I was about 8 years old…

This one was the worst.
My mom had a brain aneurysm and subsequent brain surgery. The aneurysm burst on the operating table. Doctors came out and told my Dad and Stepmom she had a 0% (not 1%, 0%) chance of surviving. In fact, they were told to start planning a funeral. Then my Mom died. Well, she flat-lined, but then she came back to life (white light stories for another blog). My mom made it through the surgery with only some short and long term memory loss, and a few migraines here and there.

2. When I was about 11 years old…

We found out my mom was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) — a 5-stage lung disease that includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. We were told she had 5 years to live. My younger sister and I cried on my Dad and Stepmom’s shoulders when we figured she wouldn’t make it to our high school graduations or anything thereafter. We also knew a family friend further along in this disease and it was not looking good. Spoiler alert: she’s made it well beyond both my graduations.

My university graduation day from the RTA School of Media at Ryerson University.

3. When I was about 15 years old…

My mom went in for what should have been a routine hysterectomy. During the procedure, something went wrong. It turned out the diverticulitis my Mom has been diagnosed with three years prior was worse than previously thought leaving bubbles that burst on her intestines. She had to go back in for an emergency intestinal surgery. She was in the hospital for just over a month. My Dad, Stepmom, or Stepdad would pick me and my younger sister up from high school and take us to the hospital to visit her most days. Since then, my mom has been convinced they put her intestines back wrong due to the constant and painful bloating up like she is pregnant ever since.

My mom is a cat with 9 lives. But, why am I sharing these sad tales? Because they are not sad for my family anymore. For my mom, my 3 other parents, and my 5 sisters, these moments have helped shape the people we have become. They are parts of our shared story that make us who we are. The good news in all of this is that very young, my sisters and I learned invaluable lessons:

  • Cherish every moment and appreciate the people in your life because everything could change in an instant.
  • Our family is strong because we stick together with an unshakeable love.
  • Sometimes, you just have to pick yourself up by the bootstraps and push forward.
  • Perspective. It could always be worse. Many things are inconsequential in the grand scheme.

My Mom has shown us what it means to persevere and fight for what you want. She is the embodiment of resilience and bouncing back from hardship. She has shown us what unconditional love and zest for life looks life. She has encouraged us to take ownership of our lives and go after what we want. And, she has empowered six daughters to be the strong, independent, incredibly confident women we are today.

I see her imprint on my personality all the time. For better or worse, I am a solutions-focused person. I do not like dwelling on personal or professional issues at all (even though I’ve read the benefits of “sitting with things.”) How do we fix this? What are the next steps? Let’s make it happen. That is more my style. For better or worse, “toughen up” crosses my mind a lot in response to myself and others. But perhaps my Mom’s response to this next one will help you understand why I am this way…

4. This week… May 10th, 2017

After a 20-minute phone call of me updating my mom on the absurdity that is my calendar this month, she tells she was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer. It is invasive and fast-growing.

Me: “Are you okay? How are you feeling?”

Mom: “Well kid, you just have to move forward. It’s life, and this is just another hurdle.”

Very quickly, my calendar seemed less important, the sister phone-train started, and we were all united in support with and for my mom.

My mom’s mastectomy is this coming week. We are hoping the tumor hasn’t spread, but regardless of the outcome, we will all persevere together.

Don’t be sad. This story is not over, and I feel in my core that it will have a happy ending.

I wanted to share this just before Mother’s Day to remind you to hug your mom tight because you just never know when you could get that life-changing call.

[Before you worry, my mom approved this blog and encouraged me to share her story.]

We know, we’re twins.

Bailey Parnell
Bailey Parnell is the Founder & CEO of SkillsCamp and was named one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women in 2016. Bailey is a 2x TED speaker with over 3.5 million views, an award-winning internationally-recognized entrepreneur, active humanitarian, and one with a talent for helping people develop the skills they need for success. Her work and expertise have been featured in Forbes, Good Morning America, CBC, FOX, and more.

For speaking, media, or a quick chat, reach out to Bailey today.

Back to top