Remembering My Daughter While Being a Cancer Survivor Myself

Remembering My Daughter While Being a Cancer Survivor Myself Dottie Monroe

by Dottie Monroe

Her name was Jill, my daughter. She was a beautiful, sensitive woman who loved animals and the joys of nature.

I am a cancer survivor. Mine is a story of remembrance of my daughter and the sarcoma cancer that took her life. Emotionally bittersweet, as stories often are, the end is a mystery because my story isn’t over yet.

Can you imagine that there is any parent in the world who wouldn’t give up their own life to save their child? Or question why my child and not me because that seems so wrong? Sometimes there is no explaining the why of things, although I gave it thought for a long time. Then one day I was done with “why.

Caring for Jill as she fought for her life was the sorrowful mother-daughter bonding experience of a lifetime. We cried, we reminisced about her life, we acknowledged and healed some emotional wounds that had at times strained our relationship, we laughed as we watched movies and hours of HGTV. Never looking too far ahead, we lived each day as it came.

When she was hospitalized, I slept in her room and did everything I could to lift her spirits. There were pretty good days and some horrible days when we both felt completely overwhelmed by her illness and all that it entailed.

Sometimes the emotional pain of this terrible disease was almost too much to bear. On the day her right leg was amputated, I thought my heart would break into pieces and it was one of the worst days of my life.

Jill needed me to be emotionally strong, yet it was she who was courageous when there was nothing more to be done and her doctor said the time had come for hospice. My brave girl accepted her fate with dignity, choosing to spend the last days of her life at home with her family and beloved cat, Blue.

During the weeks of hospice care, her sister, Dawn, and I took turns as caregivers. Together, we did our best to love and comfort her and each other. Two tender memories of that time of heartache and tears have stayed with me.

One day when I was with Jill, she surprised me by asking:

“Mom, will you be alright?”

In a simple question, the gift of love from my daughter.

Weeks later, as she became less responsive, I left her room, walked into the arms of her hospice nurse, and sobbed:

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“This is so hard.”  

Her wonderful nurse hugged me close and replied: “This is the hardest thing you will ever do in your life.” 

Yes, it was.

Five years later, am I alright? Yes, I am. 

My cancer story began 40 years ago with a preventive bi-lateral mastectomy and continued fifteen years later with a second surgery to remove my defective implants. Fast forward 25 years and, although diagnosed with mycosis fungoides cancer, I’m thriving. 

MF is a slow progressing cutaneous T-cell lymphoma that affects the skin with painful patches or plaques. Thankfully, never having progressed beyond stage 1A in the past 20 years, the disease can be controlled topically. In the grand scheme of things, coping with MF isn’t asking too much of me and I know it.

Being diagnosed with cancer is a personal experience for each of us, except perhaps in the sense that having cancer pulls us all into the power of NOW.

Oh, joy, I’m alive!  So, there is no better time than NOW to be living an adventurous, purposeful life. Jilly, my forever daughter, would want me to.         


Dottie Monroe is a retired early childhood educator, a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for children in foster care, and a community volunteer. She and her husband, Don, live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

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