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May 10th, 2009 - Joni Hutchinson

Ten years ago today, my youngest child was fighting for her life. At two years of age, Ava became a brain cancer warrior. Mother’s Day 2009 was the 485th day since diagnosis and I was clinging to every moment. I wanted nothing more than to be together and even better to be at HOME.

Exhaustion had settled into my bones after sixteen months of treatment, relapse, travel, and expenses. I was fighting to keep my child alive and my family intact. I was in way over my head, yet somehow I still counted my blessings.

Ava beat cancer just before her 4th birthday and we celebrated Mother’s Day and every day in between for the next eight years. Then at 11, Ava was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Mother’s Day 2017 was the last one with both my daughters.

As I look back on the last 10 years, there are times it felt like I was living in an hourglass. When Ava was initially in treatment, I wanted to push the sands aside and get back to “normal” life. Then she relapsed, and I clung to each grain of sand not knowing if there would be more. The sands fell faster during remission, but I was less aware of them as they slid by. When the terminal diagnosis came, I tried desperately to tip the hourglass over or dam the passageway. I raced to put the special sands away for safekeeping. No matter what I did or how hard I tried, time just slipped away.

I had 14 months with Ava after her final diagnosis and it was not enough time to tell her how much I loved her. No matter what, you cannot stop it, change it or turn it back, so make the most of every day, because someday the hourglass will be empty.

My oldest is 17 now and next May she will graduate. I will be an empty nester, four years too soon. Again, I find myself in the hourglass of life trying to tip it over or somehow dam it up. If only I could figure out how to hang on to those beautiful sands of time because there will never be enough granules for me to tell her how much I love her.

I do not know how the next ten years will look, just as I did not know how the last ten would turn out. All I know is that motherhood is the greatest honor. What a beautiful privilege it has been to watch my children grow. The pride that fills my heart when I think of my girls will always be my greatest achievement.

If I had to do it all over again, I would tell my younger self that even though it feels like you are drowning, someday you would miss the fullness of the hourglass.

If I could change anything, I would tell my thirty-something self to let go more often, because there is no controlling the passage of time.

If there were one superpower I could give to a new mother, it would be the ability to step out of the hourglass, see how important each moment is, and how quickly time slips away.

On this day, I celebrate motherhood with a grieving heart. My heart has experienced the greatest love and the deepest sadness. I will forever cherish the blessings from May 10, 2009, as treasured memories from the sands of time that slipped away far too quickly.


I am Joni Hutchinson, the author of I have a degree in Communications/Journalism. Writing is a passage way to healing. I am passionate about sharing my experiences with childhood cancer and grief.

My family has been and still is greatly impacted by the Children’s Cancer Connection. They have been with us step by step since Ava’s initial diagnosis in 2008. They are there for the entire family, the entire journey. From Camp to grief group they hold your hand, lend a shoulder to cry on and a funny story to make you smile. Visit


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