Embracing the Angel I Lost to Childhood Cancer


In August of 1979, while I stroked Amber’s hair and lulled her to sleep, I discovered a small tumor that would transform our world. Since then, I have come to understand her “life task” on this earth: To live with cancer and through this journey, teach the world about love, courage, hope, the reality of “Heaven,” and the power we possess.

My “life task” was revealed to me slowly and oh, so painfully. God directed me. “Be at her side. Document her journey. Learn through your heartbreak. Bring Amber’s message to the world.”

It has not been easy to accept my fate. I have fought and resisted every step of the way. Though I have given up many times, God has not. He gently nudged me along, guiding each step and giving me the strength and fortitude to continue this mission. You may ask why.

There are four reasons why I didn’t let Amber simply die and become a statistic. First, she was an extraordinary little girl — perfect in every way — except for the large tumor that grew on and in her head. It was very graphic; not hidden somewhere inside her body and not easy to dismiss. I couldn’t forget the sight of cancer, the sound of Amber pleading with God to make the pain stop, or the smell of the necrotic tumor. My senses are still reeling as I search my soul and call up the experience.

Second, though my daughter was dead, I couldn’t ignore the millions of people who have cancer now, nor its future victims and their families who live with the anguish. What about them? Who will speak for them? They need a voice. What better than a child’s voice? I can’t let them become a statistic either.

Third, the “War on Cancer” that Nixon launched in 1971 has become a war amongst ourselves. The very people assigned to eradicating cancer are instead fighting with each other. As Dr. Samuel Epstein, a cancer expert and author of the “Politics of Cancer” says, “Winning the war on cancer means preventing cancer. Yet cancer is a multi-billion dollar business. Isn’t preventing cancer bad for business? It is for the pharmaceutical and mammography business. These industries have intricate ties to U.S. policymakers, directing research funds to ensure their continued profits in cancer diagnosis/treatment. It’s time for reform.”

We are all guilty, more or less, of “turning a blind eye” to the people (especially the children) who are suffering. It is so incredibly unbearable, the mere thought of cancer conjures up the most terrifying state we can imagine. It is a form of torture that no one would invite. Unless cancer is thrust upon us, we cannot invite it into our lives. As humans, this denial is a necessary tool to survive… a natural response to pain… a way to move on with our lives and truly live.

But we can’t simply accept cancer and the pain and profit it produces, can we? The research community, citizen action groups, the medical establishment, business, alternative cancer groups, government, you and me; we all have some responsibility in this argument… this issue… this controversy of cancer. Hopefully, we will stop fighting long enough to listen to Amber and come together as one to resolve our differences, work to heal the wounds, and finally, prevent cancer once and for all.

Fourth, I have no choice. I must complete my loving life task: to bring Amber’s message to the world and to give you hope in the face of despair. It is why I was chosen. It is why I was born in the Queen of Angels Hospital in Los Angeles, the City of Angels. It is why I am on this earth.

The past 37 years have been filled with every emotion, thought, and feeling that you can imagine, that you have probably experienced in your own life as well. For me, this time has been one of discovery, transition, challenge, and learning.

I am forever grateful to Amber and God for teaching me to keep my heart open to love, not closed from pain. Doing so has allowed me to “see the change” that Amber knew her death would bring. A prophecy from a soon-to-be-angel, her words continue to transform my life and the lives of millions of others: “Mom, when I die, I’ll still be Amber, I’ll just be different.”

She continues to teach me “the difference” as I travel along my path and share her message with others.

My journey with Amber transformed me from a young woman with no purpose in life to a woman with a mission to elevate others. From drifting without a destination to staying focused on the mark of my internal compass. From wondering why God chose me to know exactly why He put me on this earth.

My childhood prepared me to be the mother to my own children who I wanted from my mother. The trials and tribulations in my life gave me the tools, confidence, and persistence to keep going with grace and dignity, and taught me about what is really important in life: Sharing my life with loved ones, maintaining my health, spending my limited time on earth wisely, and using my “power within” for good.

As with any life story, mine is filled with people who touched me deeply — whether our time together was for a moment or for years. I crossed paths with thousands of people during my time here on earth. We were deliberately meant to meet and exchange our “life lessons.” Each one added a thread to my tapestry of life. All made me who I am today.

While you settle down to reflect — whether your life be filled with joy or sadness — know you have a purpose, you are part of somebody’s life tapestry. Search for the purpose in your pain and channel it to learn and move forward taking advantage of all life has to offer.

Grief, sadness, and the need to weep for our loved ones who have crossed The Threshold is a natural part of life. Our tears are like liquid love. We cry because we feel. And we feel because we care. Caring for someone you love is a miracle to savor —  a gift from the heart. This gift is Amber. Having her in my life was and is an incredible gift to share with the world.

Find your gifts. These gifts and your power for good are the legacy you leave to the world.

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Getty Images photo via camelt


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