Metastasized. After the word Cancer, this has to be one of the ugliest words you pray never to hear in your lifetime.

My Mom was diagnosed with Leiomyosarcoma on November 9, 2009. She took it as she had every other difficulty she had faced in her life, with a bubbly, smiling, “I have fun things planned! This can’t stop me!” attitude.  After all, she wasn’t ill. She didn’t feel bad. Her diagnosis came only after a visit to her chiropractor drew attention to a strange little lump in her neck. My Mom was not sick…

 It did not take long for the team of doctors to determine and deliver the terrible had metastasized.  Everywhere. I remember distinctly sitting in the oncologist’s office with my pen and little yellow post-it pad, ready to jot down the results of the latest PET scan after she had undergone chemo. I also remember my Mom sitting there with a big smile, talking about going to eat lunch afterwards, absolutely sure the chemo had done its trick, that her loss of hair, loss of appetite, loss of energy, were all for the greater good.

And then he started talking. It seemed surreal as I slowly realized my post-it pad was not going to hold all of this information. All the areas that this terrible, awful, no-good, very bad disease had not only ceased to retreat, but instead had inexplicably multiplied, were too numerous to list on my itty bitty pad of paper and they rang in my ears like some God awful anatomy lesson. Kidneys! Liver! Bones! Colon! Stomach!  I remember looking down at the paper afraid to look up. Afraid that the tears welled up in my eyes would match those of my Aunt, and my Mom, and together we would flood the room with our grief. But I did look up, holding back my tears to appear strong for her sake, only to see that my Mom was not crying. She sat there calmly listening, not even asking any questions, just with a somewhat faraway look on her face. The Doctor finished, looked around at us, and asked if we had any questions, as he said, “I’m sorry.” My mom did not have questions. I had too many to formulate a rational, coherent sentence. As my Mom put her shoes on, ready for her Stroud’s lunch, I followed the Doctor down the hall. What does this mean? We have plans. We have things to do as a family. I’m not finished needing my Mom yet. Stop. Please.

All he could say was Now. If you have things to do with your Mom, do them Now.


I rode home in a state of disbelief that day. Knowing I was powerless to stop whatever evil threat was lurking in my Mom’s body. I could not shake the image of her calm, smiling face. I knew that no matter what, I did not want to lose that picture of her in my head. I wanted to my children to have their Grandma “Bubble” as long as possible.

We decided as a family to make a determined effort to keep her spirits up, to keep that “joyful” smile as long as we possibly could. I asked for her dreams and promised I would make them happen. Looking back, this could have gone terribly wrong…and almost did.  After thinking it over, she decided her dreams were to go on a cruise with her family, swim with the dolphins, and to go to an Oprah Show taping. Cruise-done! I knew we could get that put together. Dolphins-done! We could arrange that in a cruise port. But Oprah?! Anyone who is an Oprah fan knows that in that last season of taping it was impossible to get tickets. On the site, there were numerous pleas from fans who had been trying for 10+ years. I emailed, I called every number I could find on their website, but I knew it was a long shot. My Mom, thankfully oblivious to what a task it was to go to the show, would send me emails about upcoming shows. One day in desperation, as I sat on Facebook avoiding the next hurdle, I decided to create a group called, ‘Help get my Mom on the Oprah Show’ as my last ditch, cry for help. I invited every family member and friend I knew, and begged them to invite their friends, as I spelled out exactly what I was trying to do for my Mom. Within hours, there were responses of comfort, compassion, and well wishes. Lynn, an old friend from junior high responded and said she lived in Chicago and knew somebody who knew a producer on Oprah. She would send a message and we would see…

One day, just a few days later I open my email to find a note from Sally Lou Loveman, a producer on Oprah. Through Lynn’s connection (there will never be enough thanks in this world for Lynn), she had heard of our request and said she would love to help. I cried, I screamed, I laughed, I felt relief that I had not felt in such a long time. This was going to happen! My first email from Sally Lou was on March 22, and on April 28, my Mom was on a plane to Chicago.  The look on her face as we waited in line at the studio, the huge smile as they put us in the VIP section will remain with me for the rest of my life. At one point, they asked us to stand up and tell the audience the story of how we came to be there. There were tears in many eyes that day and I cannot even tell you the number of women that leaned in to tell my Mom their stories of battling cancer and to wish her well. For that day, for that moment, she was beyond happy and cancer was forgotten as she sat mere yards from Oprah. The audience gift that day was a beautiful bottle of expensive perfume. It seemed perfect and meant to be, since my Mom had been an avid perfume lover and collector her whole life.

We know how this story ends. There is no cure for grief, but there is a coping mechanism, and for me it was trying to recreate the joy on my Mom’s face as she lived out her dreams. Spread A Little Joy was born from the desire to pass along the happy, hopeful moments my Mom got to experience in her last months.  I cannot bring her back; I cannot reverse the disease that robbed her of the chance to see my youngest daughter graduate, to meet my brother’s first child, or to see any of her grandchildren get married. However, through Spread A Little Joy, a piece of her joyful, loving spirit lives on in each dream that we fulfill.  Thank you for allowing us to share a piece of that with you.