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Self-diagnosis: Women of will power

Feb. 10, 2011 at midnight
Updated Feb. 9, 2011 at 8:10 p.m.


Editor's note: Beginning this month, health reporter J.R. Ortega will write a monthly health column to go on the new health-focus page in Your Life. The page and column will appear on the second Sunday of the month.

My mother has always been there for me, from the life-changing decisions, to how to make a home remedy for a cold that works so well.

However, now my closest interaction with her is through our nightly "how was your day" phone calls.

She's a disabled, single mother with a slew of diseases that could baffle medical experts at the most prestigious Ivy League university. But more important is the empowerment she emits, despite the chronic illnesses that eat away at her daily.

So when I talk to women who have defied the medical odds and have lived for their family and have not let a disease bring them down, I smile.

Most recently, I interviewed Kelley Drastata, a 36-year-old waiting for a heart transplant.

I was completely captivated by Kelley's medical story.

A few times she cried, and I somehow managed to keep my composure.

Then, she would talk about her three sons, and her voice would liven up and suddenly, nothing else in the world mattered.

Her true heart beats stronger than ever for her three children, her pride and joy.

Then, there is the women who have beaten breast and cervical cancer, diseases that affect more than 200,000 women every year.

I've interviewed several survivors and even several who are still undergoing chemotherapy.

Their message is loud and clear - personal determination is the best medicine at the end of the day.

It's survival of the fittest, sometimes not for themselves, but for their families.

Come to think of it, I'm sure the remedies my mom has for the common cold or upset stomach don't work.

Perhaps it's a bunch of mumbo-jumbo; maybe the true remedy is her strong sense of being and the comfort of her surety.

Those phone calls always make me feel so much better, even if it's just small talk.

Really, the holidays are the only time I really see and spend time with my mother. Those trips are always so nice and never taken for granted.

But when I can't make the three-and-a-half hour trek, I have these strong women to idolize and smile with.

Leaving these interviews, I always have a better understanding of myself and my own relationship with my mother. Not to mention a better medical understanding.

Truth is, as much as I'd love to be there to take care of my mother around the clock, we both know that's not an option - she won't let it be.

Like the women I've interviewed, my mother is strong, and my success fuels her willpower.

And, after all, mother knows best.

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