It’s said there’s nothing stronger than the love between a mother and son.
It’s the cancer that can rip that bond from our physical embrace that Antonio McCarver loathes.
“I’ve been affected by six different forms of cancer in my family or among friends,” said McCarver, 36, listing cancer of the colon, breast, prostate, liver, lungs and pancreas. It was the pancreatic cancer that took his grandmother, Elnora Simpson, who helped her teenage daughter raise McCarver.
“I hate cancer,” McCarver said. “I’m tired of sitting on the sidelines.”
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In an early honor of Mother’s Day, McCarver hosted A Mother’s Love: Mother and Son Dance and Cancer Benefit at the North Raleigh Hilton last weekend.
At the end of the night, A Mother’s Love donated $500 to the American Cancer Society.
The party – a twist on the typical father-daughter dance or mother-daughter tea – gave mothers and sons a chance to reflect and bond, cry and embrace, laugh and dance to the tunes of a live DJ.
Himself the father of four daughters, McCarver designed the event to let sons know “we’re trying to do something about this ugly disease,” he said. “I hope we had an impact.”
Deidre Morgan felt it during the release of pink, gray and white balloons. She also felt it through the sobbing embrace of her youngest son, Joseph, 11, during the Mother-Son dance to Boyz II Men’s “Mama.”
Morgan, a seven-year survivor of breast cancer who spoke to the crowd gathered, credits the support of her husband, Ron Morgan, family and friends for her endurance through everything from chemotherapy to a double mastectomy.
Back then, Joseph was young and her older sons “blocked it out; they didn’t want to deal with it,” she said.
A Mother’s Love created an event open to moments of grief, encouragement and joy, said Morgan, who lost her own mother to lung cancer and her grandmother to breast cancer. She also has more than one aunt who has survived breast cancer.
“When you’re dealing with something like this, you have to be positive,” she said, adding she plans to ensure her older sons’ schedules are clear so they can attend next year. “It’s not just our fight, it’s everybody’s fight.”
Ron Morgan, who shaved his head with his wife in preparation for her cancer treatments, believes McCarver’s tears gave sons at the dance permission to shed their own.
“As men, we’re taught to be tough and that you don’t show emotion in terms of crying,” he said. “When our son saw Antonio get emotional, it let him know it’s OK to cry sometimes.
“Watching him on the dance floor with Deidre, it was beautiful to see.”
McCarver’s paternal grandmother, Sharon Phifer, flew from Detroit to attend the dance.
“He’s the kind of child who would do something like this,” said Phifer, who also rallied around McCarver’s mother, Mechelle Glenn, and Simpson to raise him. “When he saw the pain associated with cancer, he wanted to do something.”
Shawnonne Pickett got excited when McCarver first mentioned the idea.
“As a mom, you tell your kids you love them and you do things for them all the time,” she said. “But it was a good way for me and my son to bond, and it was nice to get dressed up and experience something new.
“It was twofold: our connection on another level and an opportunity to participate in something in support of cancer awareness.”
Boyz II Men’s “Mama” was Larry Pickett, Jr.’s favorite part of the night.
“I liked dancing with my mom,” said the 8-year-old who attends Word of God Christian Academy. “It was fun.”
You could see the pride in her son all over Mechelle Glenn who traveled from Tennessee for the dance.
“We could have just written a check, like we always have to support breast cancer and cancer research,” Glenn said. “But we have to do more than just write a check. We have to get others involved.”
McCarver is taking steps to establish A Mother’s Love as a nonprofit organization to increase support.
“A Mother’s Love is not just about the mother and son dance, and it’s not just about raising money and awareness for cancer,” McCarver said, adding he envisions a back-to-school backpack drive and a coat giveaway.
“It’s going to happen,” McCarver said.
An important thing already happened for Glenn and other mothers.
“Mother’s Day is hard for me, but this makes it better,” said Glenn, scanning the room to make eye contact with her son. “He makes it better.”