The Loss of a True Warrior: A Mother’s Perspective
A Sudden Diagnosis
Laura Morefield was bright, witty and beautiful. She was a daughter, wife, lifelong poet and in the words of her mother, she was insightful and compassionate. She would have made a wonderful teacher and counselor – which in many ways she was. She had a great talent for assessing a situation and making helpful suggestions for solutions. She got things done.
Laura was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer in November 2008. She was just 48 years old – two years shy of starting recommended screening. She was very athletic. In fact, just a few hours before being admitted to the emergency room for severe abdominal pain, she was playing golf with relatives at a course in San Diego.
“That morning, she came down to take me to and from my own colonoscopy,” recalls Charlene Baldridge, Laura’s mother. “We were having lunch and she complained about a pain in her lower abdomen, attributing it to a pulled muscle from golf.”
Hours later she was in such pain she wakened her husband of nearly 30 years, Dan Morefield, who took her to the hospital. After testing, the source of her pain was discovered: her liver was so full of tumors they could not be counted. The primary site was a colon tumor that was pressing on the appendix – the cause of her pain.
“She came home for the holidays and we gathered, all of us, to hear about her prognosis, her course of treatment and her determination to be triumphant,” says Charlene. Laura’s surgery came immediately after Christmas.
A Woman & Her Poetry
Like most people, Laura desired happiness. She also surrounded herself with as much beauty and serenity as possible, craving solitude in order to think and write. She wanted to please others and do the right thing and had an insatiable urge to travel. But most of all, Laura wanted to write.
Laura’s poetry transformed over the years. For the most part, her post-diagnosis poetry was full of praise and wonder, imagery that showed her faith, determination to prevail, her doubt and even her love of winged creatures.
Despite her fearless fight, Laura, a true warrior, ultimately lost her battle with colon cancer in July 2011. Toward the end of her life, she wrote a poem about a time when she was eight years old and she discovered body surfing and thought she’d invented it.
"The poem is an indication of the determined girl she was. And when she was diagnosed, she was still determined – she was going to beat all the odds, which she did, considering her diagnosis,” explains Charlene. “But the poems she wrote are not sad. They’re full of love, of life, of her husband, nature and determination to survive. They’re beautiful.”
The Warrior’s Stance
About two months before Laura passed away, on one of her long afternoons with her mother, she asked Mom to collect and edit her post-diagnosis poems, selecting the best and making a chapbook of them. And so it was born: The Warrior’s Stance, a 42-poem collection of Laura’s most precious writings.
“Immediately upon her death, I came home to San Diego and began writing. I haven’t stopped writing about Laura and living with her luminous works since. She thought these poems her best.” Once Charlene finished editing and compiling the book, she entered it into a competition and was thrilled when it received positive recognition.
Not only are the poems personal, but the design of the book encompasses Laura, too. It embraces her favorite colors and the tops of each page are laced with examples of her handwriting. “Every poem was first handwritten, then put through a meticulous process of development and self-editing,” Charlene adds.
Thanks to the time, efforts and generosity of Charlene and Dan, 100% of proceeds from The Warrior’s Stance will be donated to the Colon Cancer Alliance’s (CCA) critical mission. “I know that of all the cancer organizations, CCA was Laura and Dan’s favorite because of its scope. They also put on the “Bringing up the Rear” golf tournament benefiting the CCA for two years,” says Charlene.
On Colon Cancer & Caregiving
“Colon cancer took my most precious gift from me,” Charlene says, struggling to avoid getting emotional. “I was blessed to have had so forthright a daughter as Laura. We talked about everything and she made her needs known.”
It’s impossibly challenging to watch someone you love go through cancer, in this case, a daughter. How does a mother deal with this reality, supporting her daughter when needing support herself?
“Laura broached no negativity, so I was cast in the role of cheerleader even when I did not feel especially cheery or hopeful,” Charlene recalls. “I was understandably terrified of losing her and for the first few months I longed for my own death, so I would not have to witness hers.”
Charlene’s friends wound up being her true rocks throughout Laura’s illness. She didn’t lose sight of her own goals, maintaining her own creative endeavors and hard work. She was part of Team Laura, which was organized by a friend who arranged schedules so the family could provide whatever Laura needed during chemo week.
Now, nearly two years after her daughter’s passing, Charlene looks at this thief of a cancer, and offers this advice: Get regular checkups and diagnostic tests, and if cancer runs in the family, especially colon cancer, insist on a colonoscopy even before the ‘right’ time.
What’s To Come
Through this tragedy, Charlene has found a way to honor her daughter and allow her memory to live on for those she left behind: She wrote a theater piece based on the poems.
“I loved Laura’s poetry but I wanted to express my feelings, too. So I started writing and in a couple days, I had a script,” she explains of her creation. “It started with Laura’s birth and her father’s death and it went right until her death and my search for her after she died. At the end of the theater piece, the mother finds her daughter.”
The production, appropriately titled The Warriors’ Duet, will debut with three performances at the San Diego Fringe Festival in July.
“My theory is this: If you touch and encourage another human being, that is success. Laura has already done that. When The Warriors’ Duet was read in public last May, people spoke of its clarity, lyricism and truth. That’s what Laura and her poetry are all about.”
To purchase a copy of The Warrior’s Stance, visit www.ccalliance.org/laura.