Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

One mother’s remarkable love December 3, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo December 2017.


HER WORDS LEFT ME near tears. They are words of a mother who loves her 22-year-old daughter beyond measure.

She wishes, she told me, that she could trade places with Brittany*, that she would be the one battling ovarian cancer. Not her girl.

I saw the pain in Ellen’s* eyes, heard it during our brief exchange outside Walmart as I rang bells for the Salvation Army on Saturday morning. Ellen and I are acquaintances, two of our children once classmates. I haven’t seen her in years, thus greeted her with “How are you?”

When Ellen looked away and responded with a subdued OK, I picked up immediately that she was not alright. So I asked. And then she told me about the discovery of a large tumor on one of Brittany’s ovaries, the eight months getting care at a metro hospital, the seemingly successful treatment…until abnormal blood work results last week.

I reached out and hugged her.

We didn’t talk stages or treatment or about other medical details. I focused instead on how Ellen was coping, knowing how difficult this must be for her. How it would be for any mother. As moms we want to make everything better for our children, no matter their ages. Ellen didn’t disagree. But her response went beyond that. “I wish I was the one with cancer,” she said.

For the second time, I instinctively wrapped her in a hug.

Ellen spoke with the authenticity of a mother who’d thought often about her desire to trade places, to be the one fighting cancer. I admire the strength of her love for Brittany.

During the two hours I greeted folks while ringing bells, my time with Ellen proved an emotionally pivotal moment. I’d seen so much of humanity. Smiling faces. Scowling faces. Faces that exuded joy. Faces that showed nothing but despair. Mouths that spoke gratitude. Mouths that complained (about the winter storm—”It’s too early for this s**t”). I thought I’d heard it all. But I hadn’t until I heard the profound words of love from an incredible mother—”I wish I was the one with cancer.”

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

*Not their real names.


14 Responses to “One mother’s remarkable love”

  1. My heart goes out to them. It’s hard to fathom the pain watching a child battle that kind of fight, but I imagine I’d feel the same. A mother’s love is fierce and strong. They are in my prayers.

  2. Any mother understands the desire to protect her child and keep them from harm. Your encounter with Ellen was probably a very timely one for her and just what she needed at the time. A hug, a listening ear and warm and sincere words shared with compassion. I am glad you were there.

  3. Valerie Says:

    As mothers, I think we can understand her sentiment…we’d do anything for our children, no matter how old they are. I’m sure you were a great encouragement to her with your warm heart and hugs.

  4. Littlesundog Says:

    I think just about any of us would have that wish, even those of us who are not mothers. It has to be the most difficult thing to watch a young person or loved one struggle so in life. I believe Ellen’s role in her daughter’s battle with cancer is enormous and probably more than she thinks she can deal with at times. You are such a good friend, Audrey. I love that you forewent the medical questions and instead, offered love and compassion for your friend. All of us need to be upheld and embraced simply in love.

  5. Mama’s are our greatest protectors, supporters, etc. (((((((((((Sending prayers))))))))) I am blessed in having grandma’s, Auntie’s, my mom’s close personal friends step into that role as well during good and not so good times. Just being there to support and listen.

  6. Jackie Says:

    sigh….That mama probably so needed that hug. Glad you were there to hear her and show her love in your hug. By ringing that bell you are serving in so many ways…..

  7. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    How heartbreaking! Prayers for the entire family

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