November 25

Meet my mama.

Teresa Amada Rodriguez Cockerell (Or Teresa Rene’ as my daddy called her) She was born December 24, 1955 in Fort Worth, Texas. She had 3 Sisters and 1 Brother. She was always very shy and insecure, she felt singled out being one of the few Mexican kids in her neighborhood. She ran track and did gymnastics in high school. One day a lady came in to the school looking for dance instructors. She taught mom to dance and to teach, which is what she did for the rest of her life. She was known as Miss Terry to her kids…her students were all her kids.

She went to TCJC after high school which is where she met my Dad. They were both in the gym doing gymnastics when they saw each other. Dad always told the story, that he saw this beautiful girl on the balance beam and had to meet her. After she died he learned from an old friend of his, that it wasn’t purely by chance.
This friend said he was walking her to class, trying to chat her up,
when they¬† got to the gym he realized he didn’t stand a chance. Mom
had seen this tall, muscular guy on the rings. (And if I know my dad,
he was probably wearing no shirt and very small shorts haha he still
wears that to go run!) So when dad saw her on the balance beam, she
was showing off!

They got married after she graduated from North Texas. A year later they had my brother. My dad always thought that their little family was perfect, but mom thought better, and 6 years later they had me. Dad agrees that it’s better now. haha.
Mom continued teaching at recreation centers, where she taught both me and my brother dance and gymnastics. Sadly for her we did not quite have her grace, though I do love and miss both.

A year after I graduated high school she started feeling a little ill. I didn’t really know what she was going through, I was 18 and didn’t have time. July 4th weekend she went to the ER and they found a large mass pressing on her liver. She had to stay in the hospital 2 nights because the doctor they wanted to see her was on vacation for the holiday. On July 5, 2006 we found out it was a LeiomyoSarcoma tumor attached to her large intestine. It should be an easy fix because they could just cut and reattach. Plenty of intestine where that came from. Unfortunately they didn’t realize until they were in, that it was also attached to her spinal chord. They couldn’t safely remove those cells.
I have always felt that the oncologist that was assigned to her was in over his head. LMSarcoma is very rare and aggressive, and I don’t think he really understood. He told my parents that they had plenty of time to decide what treatments to do and when. I learned from a nursing student a year later that with soft tissue cancers, you act immediately after you’ve disturbed a tumor, because they spread so fast. And that’s exactly what it did.
By August she had 2 more tumors. They didn’t seem to affect her too much, she’d get sick every now and then but she seemed fine for a while.
By Halloween she was so weak she could hardly move without help.
The next day they made the long 5hr drive to MD Anderson where they had an appointment. When they got there they were told that their appointment was actually for November 21st, and besides, she was too sick, they wouldn’t be able to help her. This devastated my mom, and infuriated my dad. He told them so later when MD Anderson sent things in the mail asking for donations.
She went to the hospital a few days later, this time it was Baylor All Saints, where my brother & I were born. She got a new Oncologist, who we all liked and my aunts thought was cute. He went ahead and started her on chemotherapy, but I think it was mostly for show. He knew what we couldn’t accept yet, and what I was oblivious to. She went into a coma after one round of treatment and stayed in through the weekend. I will always remember when she woke up, I was sitting on the bed next to her singing along to Josh Groban’s O Holy Night. I don’t know if that is what woke her up, but I hold on to it anyway.
She never really came all the way out of it though, she was foggy for the next couple of weeks. My cousin brought her brand new baby, Dominic, in to meet her, and she cried. Dad always thought it was because she was confused, I believe she knew she wasn’t going to get to watch him grow up.
The day before Thanksgiving is when the truth came out for me and my brother. We had been blind to it, and shielded from it by our family. She was not going to be coming home. I was 19 but I was still so naive, it should have been clear to me…but I didn’t know what cancer did to someone and they still survive. I was clueless. If I had known I would have never left her side in those 5 months.
Friday night I had some friends over for a sleep over, at 1am the phone rang, it was the hospital. I ran and gave it to dad and sat silently in the living room until I heard the phone beep. He said they didn’t they she would make it through the night. I told him we had to call at least one of her sisters to call everyone else, or else there would be hell to pay. We did the Mexican thing and filled the waiting room, for hours. She died at 11:12 am November 25, 2006. We were all in there, except my dad and brother, they had gone back to work that day, their leave was up. I was the first to leave the room when I realized she was gone, there was no dramatic beep like on TV, and no one reacted when the monitor flat lined…so I stood there for what felt like forever, waiting for her chest to heave again with breath. I called my bubba and told him she was gone.
Nothing hurt me the way my dad reacted when he got back to the hospital. This giant of a man, my daddy, the Marine, the man that worked with his hands and was fearless of heights. This man broke. He touched her little feet and he crumbled. I had never seen him cry and I thought I might die. It is a memory that both tears me apart, and that I cherish. Love is so amazing.


Now if you made it through that introduction this part should be easy.
I have decided to start a new tradition. Every year on Thanksgiving I am going to go for a run, and run as far as I can. For each mile I will donate $10 (so $1 for every 1/10) to LMSarcoma Research. I found a foundation that will set up a donation page in someone’s name. I didn’t get mom’s set up in time but I am going to make my donation as soon as it is.
Today I did not do so well because I’ve been busy/lazy and fat for the last 3 weeks. I hope that this tradition might spread to my family, if they don’t run, walk or cycle, maybe they’ll donate along side my miles. We’ll see!

EDIT : here is the link.

Slay the Dragon is the slogan for LMS because it is one of the most rare and aggressive cancers. It makes me a little sad because I like dragons, but it also makes me think of The Hobbit which was the inspiration for this shirt I did for Relay For Life.

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