Mom, Music, & Cancer

05/06/09 - Roxette in Amsterdam
05/06/09 - Roxette in Amsterdam

I was perusing my Google Reader this morning when I found that one of my all-time favorite pop bands, Roxette, had reunited onstage in Amsterdam recently.  I had two immediate thoughts:

1. I didn’t know Roxette had split, much less had reunited.

2. Why was this appearance even news-worthy?

As soon as I read that this was their first on-stage performance together since Marie Fredriksson was diagnosed with a brain tumor back in 2002, I immediately thought of my mom and how much this Mother’s Day…and every single one going forward…means the world to me.

I’m 36 (going on 50 it seems some days), and I’m at the point where my parents…my heroes, my idols…are displaying their mortality.  It’s something that most don’t think about as they’re growing up, but for me the past two years have helped me realize the power of living for today…

…not taking ANYTHING for granted.



Marie Fredriksson is 1/2 of one of the most popular pop-rock bands in music history.  Roxette is an international phenomenon, selling over 45 million albums worldwide.  And no…I am not ashamed to say that I absolutely love this band.  While a far cry from the AC/DC and KISS and Def Leppard and Guns’n’Roses that I normally listen to, I have almost all of Roxette’s cd’s and was saddened when they drifted away from the chart  scene.

Both Marie and her partner, Per Gessle, have had extremely successful careers both inside and outside of the music industry.  Gessle is co-owner of a Swedish publishing company and is worth over $50 million from that alone.  Marie has had a successful singing career as a solo artist in Europe and is the mother of two children.  So needless to say, both have been doing quite well through the years.

On September 11, 2002 Fredriksson fainted in her bathroom, hitting her head in the process and ended up receiving a concussion.  It was soon after that she was diagnosed with having a brain tumor.  The tumor was found to be malignant and by September 30th she underwent a four-hour surgery to have it removed.  This was followed by months of radiation AND chemotherapy.

Fredrikkson appearance, 2003
Fredriksson appearance, 2003

Her first post-diagnosis appearance was when she attended a Paul McCartney concert in 2003.  The initial stir was that she didn’t have any hair…but people quickly realized just how beautiful she looked with or without hair.

While currently cancer-free (and has been since 2005), she received some permanent damage to her brain, lost the ability to read and count, lost the vision in her right eye, and even had some loss of movement in her right side.

2005 - cancer free
2005 - cancer free

But she is a survivor.

She’s not in the public eye much these days.  She sings occasionally, doing small tours…has become an artist…but spends most of her time with her husband and two children.  

But on May 6th, just a few days ago, she walked out on stage to join Gessle for a couple of songs for the first time since battling her disease.  She’s 50 now and looks absolutely incredible.  

Knowing her backstory…I think watching this live performance of “It Must Have Been Love” is as moving as it gets:


Mom & the Ankle Biter, 10/13/09
Mom & the Ankle Biter, 10/13/07

My mom was diagnosed with a brain tumor in November, 2007.

She had been having balance problems…memory problems…things just didn’t seem right.  The initial diagnosis seemed quite positive, in an odd type of way.

Mom’s tumor was so large and so deep into her brain that surgery wasn’t an option.  How is that good?  Well, the doctors didn’t think normal chemotherapy or radiation would be that good for her, either.  They thought she would need so many treatments that her body would be wrecked and ravaged by the time the tumor began to shrink.


She was told that there was a new radiation treatment…some kind of special laser treatment called stereotactic radiation therapy…that would focus ONLY on the tumor.  A “tattoo” would be set on my mom’s head in the exact shape of the tumor, she would then be placed in a halo, and the radiation would be specifically directed towards that spot only for eight straight hours.

This new treatment is not used often due to cost.  What it does is focus everything on the tumor itself, leaving the rest of the body relatively unscathed.  Sure…she lost her hair. Sure…she was sick from time to time.  But the side effects would not be NEARLY as bad using this therapy as they would be using regular chemo and radiation treatments.  And at 60-something, this really was the best situation for her.

Here are the cell phone pictures both her and dad emailed me the day after it happened:

My angel in a halo -- 12/13/07
My angel in a halo -- 12/12/07
Stereotactic radiation treatment - 12/13/07
Stereotactic radiation treatment - 12/12/07

I haven’t seen these pictures since December 13th, the day after her treatment.  When I initially received them, they shocked me to the core and I had to leave work (my folks could have at least warned me about what I was opening in my email).  I had never seen my mom in any kind of situation like that before…and it tore me apart.  

But now?  Now I can see those pictures and view them as a new beginning for her and for my family.  Almost like a badge of honor for a cancer survivor.

And while I can go on about the horrific 911 call that I had to make only a couple of weeks later on New Year’s Eve ’07 and my subsequent near-nervous breakdown in ’08 as a result…well, I’ll spare you all the details.  

For now.

But it’s 2009.  She’s lost the weight that she gained from the steroids that she took to decrease the swelling around the tumor in her brain.  The swelling has finally subsided.  The tumor is shrinking.  She’s driving.  She’s singing in the church choir.

She’s a survivor.


Y’see, reading about Marie Fredriksson’s onstage reunion just helped me realize how important Mother’s Day is for me.  I almost took it for granted this year.  


So as I get ready to travel the 60-minute journey to see her tomorrow, I will proudly pop in my Roxette cd for the ride and be thankful that my mom…my beautiful, courageous, inspirational mom…is around one more year and that my two children are able to know her and love her for the unbelievable woman that she is.

My angel with a halo, 10-11-08
My angel with a halo, 10-11-08

 Happy Mother’s Day, mom.  I think you look better today than you did before the tumor.  I love you more than I can ever truly express in words.


And a Happy Mother’s Day to ALL of the online moms out there.  You are inspirational…each and every one of you.


11 thoughts on “Mom, Music, & Cancer

  1. Your mom and her journey are inspirational. And your retelling of her story and your feelings really shows how much you love her. I hope beyond hope that I mean as much to my boys over the years as your mom means to you.

    Your mom is beautiful, by the way! And she’s damn lucky to have you 🙂

  2. Oh my goodness this made me cry.

    I’m not sure why. Maybe because I always enjoy hearing how a man appreciates a woman. Be it his mom, sister, wife, or whatever.

    Maybe its because you’re a beautiful storyteller?

    Maybe because my own father died of cancer and I remember that same feeling… that same sense of loss and of my parents’ mortality.

    Either way, just wow, CBG. What a wonderful tribute to a beautiful lady.

    From a wonderful son.

    Thank you for sharing.

  3. The Maven — I appreciate the very kind words, Maven. Thank you. Everything happens for a reason, so if her going through a horrible disease has ended up helping our family come closer together, then maybe that’s the silver lining to it all.

    junctionmama — Thanks, D. And I also appreciate the re-tweet on Twitter. 🙂

    mommasunshine — Kelly, having you say that means a lot to me. Thank you.

    T — Well I certainly didn’t expect anybody to tear-up reading my story. But I’m glad my words were felt as they were intended…with love.

    Monica — Wow…I don’t think I deserve such an amazing statement as that, but thank you very much. I’m sure your son will turn out to be an amazing man.

  4. QTMama — Nah…I’m just a loving son, is all. No more, no less.

    dadshouse — We were extremely fortunate that the treatment was an option. I can’t imagine her going through full chemo/radiation treatments in the condition that she was already in. It’s been a blessing.

    Mindy — No, I wouldn’t in a million years tell my mom about my blog (lol). But I wrote a nice note on my Facebook page and wrote a nice note in her Mother’s Day card, so I think she was pretty satisfied with that. She knows how much I love her. 🙂

  5. Awww that me cry. It reminded me how much I take my parents for granted and need to stop doing that because tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. Your mom looks great!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s