My mother, Diane Macchia Sufler, was a paralegal at Temple University. In November of 2016, she got invited to go to an Owls basketball game with the legal department. I was 23 and had been living in center city Philadelphia for eleven months. Naturally, she brought my father and I along.
My mom had lived in the Philadelphia for her entire life. She was born and raised in the Frankford section of northeast Philly, then moved downtown to South Philly to live with her girlfriends, all named Cathy. I think that she was living vicariously through me when I moved to town. Her and my dad would come down to have dinner at least three times a month and our lives were unequivocally good.
At the game, my mom complained of her right foot dragging. She had both of her hips replaced two years prior and had an extremely high pain tolerance. Therefore, she blamed any ache or pain in her lower half to the hips. This was no different. She even blamed her new shoes, so my dad and I wrote it off. The Owls won, we learned how beloved my mom was at work, and all was well.
A month later my dad called me at work on a Monday. He said that my mom had severe headaches and had gone to the Penn affiliate in Cherry Hill. They thought that she had suffered a small stroke but everything was okay. I visited her and she was scared, but comfortable. The next day, the MRI revealed a brain bleed, seemingly as a result of the stroke. She was transported to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, in West Philadelphia. She had a biopsy that Friday, which eventually revealed that she had a large, inoperable, Grade Four tumor on the right side of her brain. There would be no hope for surgery.
Over the next couple months, my mom underwent radiation, chemotherapy, and an Avastin drip every other week. 2017 was the most difficult year of all of our lives, but we rallied around my mother, and our friends rallied around us. The support for our family was breathtaking and people would bring dinner over, volunteer to take my mom to appointments, or even just sit with her so my dad and I could play golf on a Sunday. For that I am eternally grateful.
As the calendar turned to 2018, my mom’s condition worsened. She was still getting her Avastin and her PT, but her mobility and cognition deteriorated. Her foot dragged behind her as she walked, her emotions went in drastic extremes, and the chemo made her feel sluggish and tired at all times. She obviously lost her hair and she lost her appetite and sensation of taste. My mom was moved to a couple rehab facilities in New Jersey, with grim results. She was miserable at these facilities and wasn’t getting better. So my father and mother made the decision to move her to a hospice facility fifteen minutes from their home in NJ. She was happy there; the nurses were her age and a lot of them came from the same neighborhood. They talked about their kids, laughed, and reminisced about the old times when they were young and wild. She even told them the story about her and my dad’s first date. She gushed over my sister and I and when we walked in they acted like we were celebrities.
She was there with my dad when I left town on April 14, 2018. I was heading the Boston as I had qualified to run the Boston Marathon, the pinnacle for me as a racer. It was not meant to be. As we passed through Connecticut, my dad called and said that we had to turn around and my mom would not make it until Tuesday when we would return. So we picked up my sister at her apartment at Berklee College of Music and drove home. My mother was heavily sedated but still aware when we walked in the door. She tugged on my hands when I talked to her and her vitals rose when we spoke. But around midnight on April 16th, she passed peacefully.
If Philadelphia was her home, the beach was her first love. Every summer was spent in Wildwood Crest, New Jersey. In 2015, my parents accomplished a life milestone of theirs and purchased a home of their own in Wildwood. In months following her death, we tried our best to come up with something to honor her and decided the event had to take place at the shore. My mom always took pride in her kids and our accomplishments; she loved us fiercely. Her favorite activity of mine was my running. She loved tracking the times and being involved with the track boys on my high school team. It only seemed natural that we hold a beach run. The event is in its second year and the name personifies my mother’s love for life and good cocktail, the Margarita Mile. One of the Cathy’s said that it must be happy hour wherever she is and I agree.