Colleen's Journey


Hi Friends and Family –

As Michelle mentioned in a previous blog, our Mom has asked us to blog about our experiences through this chapter of our lives. It has been 5 years and 4 months since our mother was diagnosed, and this is the first blog that I have written.

I was starting my sophomore year at Drake University when I received the call of the impossible. Our unbreakable mom had been diagnosed with Stage 3C ovarian cancer and would be undergoing life-threatening surgery to remove the football-sized tumor in her abdomen. I was 1,200 miles and 3 years of college away from feeling like I had any control. I flew back to Phoenix that night. I was determined to be there for her and with my family. Knowing that ovarian cancer is a force to be reckoned with, I decided that I would leave Drake and transfer back to ASU. My mom did not accept transferring as an option and instead, offered a compromise. Throughout my last 3 years of college I flew home every 4-6 weeks. What an incredible compromise this was. It was important to my mom that I did not give up my college experience, and I could not be more thankful for her persistence. She gave me the sun and the moon; my family and one the greatest experiences of my life. Still, I felt helpless and lonely. I missed doctor appointments, chemo rounds, family dinners, family pictures and more. I missed three years of her story, three years of memories, three years of laughs.

Fast forward to 2010. When deciding what I would do after college, there was no other option than to come home. I knew that this time was my time to be there for her. My sisters had each assumed a role in the treatment and healing process and mine was yet to be established. My mom and I moved into a condo next door to Nicole and Billy. Our time in the condo was the start of another chapter. We became roommates; companions. It was the first time I really began to understand the severity of my mom’s disease. For the first time in three years, I was living it.

In January of 2012, my mom and I moved into “our” home. A warm, three-bedroom sanctuary equipped with my mom’s #1 criteria – a picture perfect view of Camelback Mountain. In May of 2012, my mom insisted on holding a graduation/birthday party that I will never forget. Like the superwoman she is, two days out of chemo, her main focus was not on sleep and rest, but to prepare the house for one of the most memorable parties we have ever had. In the presence of friends and family, we ate, drank, and laughed. It was the true meaning of house warming.

There were many signs over the summer months, from all angles of the universe, that it was time for our family to make our way back together. If you have stayed up to date on the blog over the last few months, you are up to date on our mom’s prognosis. You have been riding the emotional roller coaster with us. You have read about the good, the bad. You have read about doctors appointments – some of which I was there, some of which I wasn’t. I truly believe that the last five years have been “easy” compared to the last 4 months…and frankly, the last 4 days. I now sleep with my mom 3-4 nights a week. I sleep, or don’t sleep, with one eye open and one ear perked. Maybe it was for my benefit more than hers at first. Either way, we are there. Every night I remain half asleep in anticipation for a bathroom break or a cry for help. We hear and experience the things that you all don’t see in pictures. We are having the critical conversations…the ones you hope and pray you never have to have.

My sisters and I have each heard concerns from friends and strangers. They don’t understand why we are saying the things we are. They don’t understand what is happening with our mom. How could they? She still looks so beautiful. My only answer for them is that it is because she is beautiful. Inside and out.

Our mom’s bravery and grace is inconceivable. It is her courage and strength that makes us strong. My sadness and fear for what is to come is beyond words. I am afraid of losing my companion. I am afraid of responsibility, of feeling lost, of life without her. I am afraid of the major milestones in my life that she will not be there for…my wedding and the births of my future children. However, I am at peace knowing that my sisters and I are all each a product of her. Between the four us, we will strive to achieve the strength, bravery, intelligence, sincerity, grace, and beauty that she exudes on a daily basis.

I will continue to love and appreciate my mom more and more every day for the rest of my life. If I can be half the mother and friend as our very own superwoman, I will consider my life a success.

Lastly, I want to thank everyone for your incredible outpour of support. Your prayers, thoughts, and words have meant more than you all can ever imagine. Your love for our mom validates everything that we know to be true about her kindred and compassionate being. There are countless families who have not had the luxury to share their story the way our family has. Thanks for listening. While it may be difficult to find the words, I encourage you all to never underestimate the value in a few kind and supportive words.

Love to you all,


  • Kathy Peterson

    What a beautiful journal entry Billie. I cried as I read it. I’m thinking of all of you every day. Love and hugs. 🙂

  • jenny scott

    You are such a brave girl! You will be so proud of your mom, yourself and your family through this journey. The outpouring of love and support you are and will continue to receive from each other and your friends will help you get through, rough as it will be. Embrace that energy. As difficult as it is, and believe me, I know all too well that it is the hardest thing ever, you will find the courage to see it through. I am sure your mom is so proud of you and your sisters, just as you are in awe of her. You sound like such beautiful girls, what every parent dreams of! I will keep all of you in my prayers.
    ~Jenny Scott~

  • Carol Romano

    That was so beautiful.

  • Trish Moran

    Beautifully written. Your mom sounds like a wonderful lady. She is fortunate to have you and your sisters to care for her. You are all so lucky to have each other. Your mom did something magical upon raising all of you to be so wonderful! She inspires me to be a better mother! Prayers coming your way to find the strength to endure all that is in the coming future.

  • Hillary Burks

    Beautifully written,my friend. Sending all of you all my love xxx

  • Sherry Coltman

    Beautifully written ms.Billy. You and your sisters received the love, support, strength and kindness that is your Mom….sweet Coleen. Blessings and love to you all.

  • Brittany Brockman

    My heart breaks for you. Thank you for sharing.

  • Mary Edrington

    Thank you for sharing this journey. You know I am proud of you on so many levels. You are giving your mom the best gift she could imagine–showing her that you are indeed her legacy. Please know I will always be a champion for you. You are in my prayers. Like is hard, but God is good.
    Mary aka Prof. E

  • Imelda

    I praise you B, you are moms ROCK! God Bless you, and cover you with peace and comfort. Thank you for opening your heart to us. Your mom, and her journey has undoubtedly change the lives of so many of us. I thank God everyday for bringing Colleen into my life. During my toughest times, your mom’s charismatic grace, hugs, and kind words always put me back together. You, Michelle, Nicole, Danielle, and your Mom inspires me in many ways. We look forward to hearing from you all often. ~ P.S. What special little blessings it is to watch the grand babies grow so quickly, Thank you guys for sharing so much of them. And I truly enjoy the ones that show Grandma surrounded by with them 🙂

  • Susan Rose

    You are so courageous. You have been a godsend to your mother. I think of you often. Draw strength that you and your sisters have that indomitable spirit passed from your Mom, and will always have each other. Hugs

  • Brittany Wright

    Each blog I read makes me feel closer to you all. I am friends with Danielle, but I want to know all of you. Your mother did an OUTSTANDING job raising such great women. My thoughts are with you guys in this difficult time. XoXoXo

  • jennifer hanhila

    Hi Billie, I was on the India trip with your mom. We talked a lot about ovarian cancer because I , too, have had it. Your blog is wonderful. It’s easy to say nice things about your mom because she is a special and brave lady. Please send my love. jen

  • Karen Cooney

    Dearest Billie, Colleen and your family,

    I want you to know that, although I have not written to you on your blog, you have been in my thoughts and prayers throughout this difficult journey. I have tremendous admiration for you both. You are truly amazing for your strength and courage. Billie, thank you for your beautiful blog. It was very inspiring, just like your mom. I don’t know how best to express my sorrow, but I do know a lifetime of wonderful memories and each other will carry you through the days ahead. With love to you all,

    Karen Cooney ( Stephanie’s mom)

  • Mona Smith

    Billie: You and your sisters are true testaments to a mother’s love. Your mother knows how much you all love her, as is evidenced by your amazing commitment to her and her every need. You will all gain strength as she has demonstrated strength. What a tribute to her and your relationship with her. Prayers surround all of you at this very difficult time.

  • Aunt Kay

    When we are born each is given a treasure chest to fill throughout our lives. Colleen carried hers next to her heart filling it every day with the love of and from her beautiful daughters. Don’t we all wish ours could be like hers. Love to you girls

  • Connie and Les

    That was an awesome entry Billy… are so special and have given your momma such perfect care. Les and I are here for you anytime you need us..thank you for letting me give you a hug yesterday. Stregth is sent your way sweet girl.