Monday, September 11, 2017

My Mother, Breast Cancer and the Mets

At the opening of Citi Field in 2009.  (Ed Leyro/Studious Metsimus)

In the spring of 1979, two years before I became a Mets fan and four years before I attended my first game at Shea Stadium, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.  I was six years old at the time and didn't understand much about the dreaded C-word, other than it was making my mother very sick.  Fearing the worst, my parents bought me my own color television to serve two purposes: to distract me from my mother's pain and to give me something to remember my mother by in the event she lost her battle.

After several hospital stays and too many rounds of chemotherapy to count, my mother kicked breast cancer to the curb.  Eleven years later, she conquered colon cancer.  Since then, she has been cancer-free and is now just two months shy of her 79th birthday.

Because the cancer was detected early enough, she was able to watch me enjoy the television she got me - that TV still works and is in my parents' home in Puerto Rico - and most importantly, she was given the opportunity to live a full, healthy life; one that involved going to many Mets games with me.

My mother moved to New York from Puerto Rico in 1967, soon after her father passed away.  When she first came here, she lived with her aunt, who was a die-hard Yankees fan.  But after meeting and marrying my father later that year, she stopped being exposed to the Yankees on a nightly basis.  Five years later, I made my first appearance.

Since my mother had no other children before or after I was born, I was quite spoiled as a child.  If I wanted something, I got it.  If I asked my mother to do something for me, she would do it.  So when I saw my first Mets game in 1981 on the TV my parents bought me as a cancer-related gift, she noticed how quickly I became passionate about the team.  I asked her to watch the game with me.  She did.

It didn't take long for her to become a Mets fan as well.

As the timestamp on the photo says, this was taken on Shea Stadium's final Opening Day in 2008 (EL/SM)

My mother was with me when I watched the Mets come back in Game Six of the 1986 World Series.  She attended more than a dozen Opening Day games with me and joined me for the final game at Shea Stadium in 2008.  Prior to the Shea Goodbye sobfest, the two of us were in attendance for the 2006 division-clinching game and for a postseason game a few weeks later.  Mind you, by then she had moved back to Puerto Rico with my father after he retired from his job as a New York City bus driver.  That didn't stop her from making several trips back to New York just to attend Mets games with me.

In 2009, she and I were at Citi Field's first game.  Four months later, I met the woman who would become my wife and the Opening Day torch was passed.  I now attend more than 20 games a year with my wife, as my mother rarely comes to New York for games these days.  But she still watches the Mets play whenever their games are broadcast in Puerto Rico.  And she watches them on the TV she bought me in 1979, when she thought breast cancer would prevent her from giving me any other gifts in the future.

This year, it'll be my turn to give my mother a gift.  On October 14 and 15, I'll be walking in the Avon 39 Walk to End Breast Cancer, hoping to raise a minimum of $1,800.00 so that other children don't have to watch their mothers go through the pain and suffering mine did as she attempted to beat the disease that tried to separate us.   To make things even more special, my 39.3-mile walk will take place over the same weekend in which my parents are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, as they exchanged their vows on October 13, 1967.

My mother has lived nearly four decades since defeating breast cancer.  Let's make sure all women can have the opportunity to live their lives without the specter of breast cancer looming over them.  You can help make that a reality by donating to my fundraising page by clicking here and following the simple instructions.  Together, we can strike out breast cancer once and for all.

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