There was a picture on social media of an infant dangling out of a window attached to the outstretched arms of her mother.

Inside the room, it seemed the entire area was fully engulfed in fire and the mother, without regard for her safety, was holding her child out of the window to be saved. This typifies the love a mother has for her child that she risked her own survival for the well-being of her baby.

Over 40 years ago, I was witness to a similar situation.

My sister, who was 28 at the time, was pregnant with her third child. A few months into her pregnancy, she discovered a lump in one of her breasts and, after further testing, they found a spot on her uterus. Her physician reported that the lump and spot were suspicious and most probably hormone fueled by the pregnancy. He explained the normal course of action should be a lumpectomy — perhaps a mastectomy — and a hysterectomy.

The disappointing news, of course, was the termination of her four-month infant. It was a very complicated issue because she had to consider not only her personal health but the well being of her two other children if she didn't survive. After a few soul searching days, she said, “no,” and decided to carry her child to full term without any medical intervention.

Five or so months later she delivered a beautiful baby girl. Unfortunately, the lump and the spot were still present in her body and surgery revealed an aggressive Stage 4 cancer that had moved into and beyond her lymphatic system. It was the beginning of what became a brutal struggle with cancer that bit by bit consumed her body and, at the same time, attacked her psyche.

She fought valiantly against the disease, which seemed sometimes to go into remission with treatment (albeit primitive in those days) only to savagely return in her bones and lungs. Inch by ugly inch the cancer was unforgiving and the outcome was predictable only to be moderated by my sister's fierce will to survive and to mother her children.

She survived seven difficult years after her daughter's birth and was able to witness the child's First Communion seated in a wheelchair on Mother's Day. In fact, by force of will, she survived another 10 months and passed away the following March.

It was a sad set of circumstances for sure, and the results unpleasant to say the least, but, and this is a big factor, a wonderful child was the ultimate result of my sister's decision. The ripples of this decision have emerged with time and that child is now a 47-year-old nurse practitioner in physician's office near Pittsburgh.

I'd like to think she has made a positive difference in the lives of her patients. She also is the mother of two sons — one in college and another in high school — and their futures seem to be bright and promising. All three children, sadly, had issues with their mother's passing, but they seem to be now leading productive and satisfying lives with another set of hopeful children also.

This case study clearly indicates the power of motherly love and the consequences of that love. This love transcends the biological imperative to produce and protect offspring, although that may very well be a component of the emotion.

When exercised, that love enriches the child and the mother herself with a sense of well-being beyond description. For all mothers who happen to read this and for you who have sacrificed in all matters large and small, have a blessed and happy Mother's Day. Thank you, by the way.

Gary DeSantis is a Meadville resident and author of a book titled “The 6th Floor.” 

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