In February 1995, I was 20 years old and attending college at Samford University in Birmingham. My mama was 45 and would have celebrated her 46th birthday that June. But after a lingering cough brought on by what we thought was bronchitis (our family all had it during Thanksgiving 1994), Mama began to feel much worse. By January, she was dealing with a worsening cough, persistent fatigue, and the feeling she had that she shared with me: that something wasn't "quite right." If you knew her, you know that lack of energy and loss of joy were not words you could have used to describe her life. She worked full time and loved her job at a local plant nursery, served alongside my Dad at church, including planning children's ministry events, going on youth choir tours, singing in the adult choir, and more. She was an involved mother, and was mine and my sister's constant encourager and best cheerleader. She was involved in her community, and often gave blood, helped volunteer with my school's first musical review show now called "Blast", helped my sister and her school's band, and generally loved and made everyone around her feel important and special. At home, she was always singing, reading, cooking, and quoting Shakespeare, Scripture, or Emily Dickinson. She had always had dreams of being a writer, and before I came along was a beloved young teacher at Maplesville High School. She loved Jesus, and loved deeply and earnestly everyone she knew. Ask those who knew her. She wasn't a saint, but she was one of those rare people who bring light and beauty everywhere they go, even when she was struggling.
So, when the sickness continued to get worse, we knew it wasn't bronchitis. She was admitted to our local hospital at the time and diagnosed with pneumonia. But after a few days of treatment and chest x-rays that looked like a cloud was covering her lungs, she was intubated, put on a Med Life helicopter, and flown to Brookwood Hospital in Birmingham on February 10. Thanks to a friend who was a nurse at our local hospital at the time, my Dad arrived as they were about to intubate her. She was struggling to breathe, but mouthed "I love you" to my Daddy, her husband of 25 years. Those were the last words she would speak. Hours after arriving at Brookwood, Dad was asked to approve testing for leukemia. A little over an hour later, we were given her diagnosis: Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL). ALL is more common and can often be treated in children. It is rare in adults, and much more difficult to treat. That night, the doctors began chemotherapy immediately, but told us that mama had a 3% chance of even surviving the night. Her lungs were filled with fluid and she was breathing with the help of a ventilator. As usual, Mama fought it and defied the doctors' odds. She lived for 10 more days, and we were able to spend a little time with her (although she was sedated the entire time).
During those days, the waiting rooms for MICU at Brookwood were flooded with students from Samford, friends and family from far and near, our church family, and everyone who loved Mama. One of the MICU nurses wrote the kindest note to us to tell us that she was amazed at the people who came and could see that Mama was so very loved by so many. On February 20, Mama went to be with Jesus, and I lost my best friend. More that, the world lost a bright light. I told her "good-night", not "goodbye", because when my life here is over, I will wake to see Jesus and she'll be there.
I am doing this fundraiser for LLS because they fund research, treatments, and assistance for those affected by blood cancers, like my Mama and our family. They have demonstrated their integrity in how they wisely use funds so that what you give makes a real impact, and isn't mostly spent on administrative costs. After being diagnosed with Covid in January and dealing with bouts of fatigue, I want to challenge myself to begin walk/running in memory of my Mama and her incredible love and strength. I begin today, and will walk and run 100 miles by March 20. I ask that if you knew my Mama or were ever touched by her life, you will give; that if you love or know someone impacted by blood cancers, you will give; that if you are a runner or walker, that you will give; or that if our story moved you, you will give. I have set my fundraiser goal at $2600, which is $100 for every year since she died. I will post updates on my progress on Instagram @ctmom23. If you would like to add some miles to my 100 and ask your family & friends to join in the giving, that would be even better! Email ctatum.support @gmail.com if you plan to walk or run in her memory, or in memory or honor of someone you love! Any donation amount is helpful and so appreciated..$1, $2 $5. If you want to give to cover one mile the suggested donation is $26. Thank you for helping me honor my Mama and for helping people who are fighting blood cancers!