My mother Laura is strong and accomplished and admired and loved by the people around her--by me, first and foremost. So many things about her are inspiring that it is assumed she is immune to emotional frailty. Hardly anyone notices that she has plenty of insecurities that she is often afraid, that she can even, on occasion, luxuriate in fear.
It's not noticeable to most people, which is just as well, but of course most people are not me. Which is to say that most people are not Laura's daughter. It's different for me, because I know. I can see: She is quietly frantic and defeated just before she gets up to speak in public. She absolutely knows that a project at work is facing certain failure. She worries often that her cancer will not stay contained.
My mother is not fearless--she's something much more important and much more inspiring: My mother is vibrantly relentless. She uses her fear, not to close off, but to open herself up further to the world. To inspire people when she's speaking in public, to approach every problem at work with a solution and the attitude that no problem (however great) is unsolvable, to overcome the feeling of threat to her sense of self, to her life itself by tackling her own cancer with the same 'can do' attitude. She embraces the fears that come with any cancer diagnosis by turning the power of fear against its source. As we all joked when she was first diagnosed, "Cancer f***ed with the wrong person."
I'm always amazed at how she wills herself into the doctor's office for more tests, more treatments, more harrowing uncertainty... more life. She demands more life, for herself and for others. My Mom never subscribed to the idea that her cancer was "the best thing that ever happened to her," that there were blessings hidden behind the disease, or some indelible life lesson.
In spite of that attitude, her life has changed significantly. Most Importantly, she has applied her relentlessness to tackling not only her own cancer, but cancer itself, and the way it's treated in the country and the world. my mother is fighting to make everyone diagnosed with cancer, like her, a survivor. It's a monumental cause against an altogether unrelenting disease. But cancer's got nothing on Laura Ziskin, my visionary, warm, and wonderfully relentless Mom.
Today we stand up in memory of all those moms we've lost, and all those moms who are in the fight against this vicious disease. Launch a star in memory of someone you love here.