...on beginning competing
My husband highly encouraged me to start competing years ago. I attended a couple of NPC figure shows back in 2003 to see if this was something I wanted to do. After thinking that this was something I think I could train for the following year I found out I was pregnant in February 2004.
A couple of months later my mother (who lived in Illinois) told me that she had breast cancer and had not yet been to a doctor. After we encouraged her to go, we found out that it was stage 4 and was also in her bone, stomach and liver. As surgery was not even an option at this stage, she started chemotherapy, which helped only a little. Both the cancer and the chemotherapy wiped out most of her energy. Regardless, she always kept a positive attitude and ate extremely clean for the last several months.
In October 2004, I gave birth to my mother’s only grandchild. Samantha Kay Francis carried both my and my mother’s middle name. My mother was a proud grandmother and took every chance she could (when I couldn’t come to Illinois) between chemo treatments to drive herself to Michigan to see Samantha.
She eventually volunteered herself off of chemotherapy. As her energy and health deteriorated, I started making more trips to Illinois. It was hard to see her in the shape she was in. She moved slower than my 90 year old grandmother and was in horrific pain, yet she wouldn’t complain.
Eventually she finally admitted that the pain (in her back – cancer in the bone) was too much for her to handle and ended up in the hospital. That prompted another trip to Illinois for us to see her. The morphine had things somewhat under control for her, but she had a long way to go before considering any type of recovery.
After about a week in the hospital, she was then transferred to a nursing home. She could no longer care for herself, let alone her mother whom she’d been living with to take care of. After a couple of days in the nursing home, my sister called, letting me know that we’d better make another trip to see her because she was getting worse. In my heart I knew that this was probably close to the end, which was very difficult for me.
We drove through the night and arrived in Illinois around 2am on a Monday morning. It was hard seeing my mother, who had sacrificed so much in her life for others, especially for my sister and I, in such poor shape. At this point she couldn’t really talk and she couldn’t swallow, so any chance of nourishment or water was out. We lived in that room in the nursing home next to my mother for the next 5 days, scared to leave her alone for her last moments on earth. By the time Tuesday came around her breathing was about the equivalent of a very short gasp every 20 seconds or so. We were all telling her that it was okay to let go. We each had our private talk with her and said our goodbyes. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were carbon copies of Tuesday and the days lasted forever. Finally, at 4pm on that Friday, September 30th, 2005 after I kissed her forehead and told her to “go be with God, we love you”, she took her last breath.
Months prior, she had purchased some gifts for Samantha’s first birthday. I made her promise that she would come to her birthday party. Unfortunately she didn’t stick around long enough to make the party and it was hard giving Samantha the gifts from her grandmother that day. I was also training for the Detroit Marathon (same day as Samantha’s birthday party) all summer, but had to cut back to the half-marathon due to not training for the last month. Crossing that finish line with my husband was really hard, as all I could think about was that my mom was supposed to be there – as she always was for me.
Though my mother never knew of my intentions of competing on stage, I do this in honor of her. I know that she had many unfulfilled dreams of her own. She had given me a book a couple years prior to all of this called “The Dream Giver” by Bruce Wilkinson. I had read it and didn’t think it really applied to me. At the time I was working in management at a local bank. Well, I found that book again when looking through some things and forgot that my mother had written a note on the inside cover saying: “You’re never too old to follow your dream”. After reading the book again prior to competing in my first FAME show, it made perfect sense. Now, I’m not quitting until I reach my dream.Incidentally, I placed 5th at the 2006 FAME Halloween Mayhem (fitness model tall). At that show, I wore an angel pin on my 2-piece that used to be attached to my mother’s bible. Even after her death, I’m still learning from my mother.