Editor’s Note: During the 1972 election, Timothy Crouse penned “The Boys on the Bus” – a book that introduced us to the gritty (mostly male) journalists on the campaign trail. Over four decades later, the daily grind of election may be the same, but the faces have certainly changed.

Meet CNN’s “Girls on the Bus.”

CNN  — 

It’s May and my producer, Pallavi, and I are on our way to Kentucky on the eve of the primary there. We’re taxiing at Reagan Airport in Washington, just another day on the trail. I have not, despite the flight attendant commanding us all to do so over the intercom, turned off my phone. It lights up in my hand. It’s my dad calling, which is odd because it’s around 6 a.m. in California. 

“Dad?” I pick up, speaking very quietly. “What’s up? I’m taxiing at DCA.”

“Matey,” he says. My father is Australian and that is his term of endearment for me and my sister. “I’m calling because Mom is in the hospital. We think it’s just an infection.”

Dana Bash: Covering gender issues in the 2016 race

He says he’ll call me later when they know more. He tells me not to worry. Of course I worry. I also remind myself that she was at work on Friday, teaching a rowdy class of sixth graders. I tell myself it can’t be that bad, I’m just exhausted and over-reacting.

I text my boyfriend to say my mom is in the hospital. I look out the window and start crying, quietly, I think. Pallavi slips a bunch of tissues into my hand.

My mom is my 3 a.m. phone call, my annual road trip buddy, the connective tissue between my father, sister and me — and one of the funniest people I know. She wrote letters to me in college from the perspective of the family cat. During the election she sent me text messages in the rhetorical stylings of the various candidates. 

I remember one year she became severely addicted to the reality show, “Dance Moms,” which forever puzzles me because she’s a woman of substance.

This year, the election is her all-you-can-eat reality show buffet. She’s obsessed with the drama of the contest. Each big primary night is appointment television. She watches for me and texts. 

“Who are you following in Oregon? Bernie?” 

“My darling daughter, it’s after midnight! Sleep!” 

“I’m watching you on New Day!”

“So. Can I critique you in an I’m your biggest fan manner? Can you say yes instead of yeah when Wolf asks you a question?”  

Our constant conversation helps me keep my sanity as I dart, sleep-deprived, from state to state.

Pallavi and I land in Louisville and drive to a cafe in Lexington to file our story before the rally for Hillary Clinton, whom I’ve covered for more than two-and-a-half years, starts nearby at Transylvania University. 

My dad calls again. It’s not an infection. It’s acute leukemia. I start crying and people look up from their coffee at me.

The doctors are waiting on a bed at UC Irvine Medical Center, which has a renowned cancer center. As soon as one opens up, they’ll transfer her. She’ll get the best treatment possible.

Balancing motherhood and the 2016 campaign

My dad says I should wait for more information before I come home, but Pallavi books us flights back to DC that night so I can have more flight options to California.

We head to the rally for our live shot and leave before Clinton speaks, taking pictures as we go in front of the Transylvania University sign. My mom is a big Rocky Horror Picture Show fan so I know it will give her a laugh, which I’m sure she’ll need.

As we drive to the airport I google acute leukemia. There are two major kinds and her chances of surviving either are not good. I steel myself for her long cancer battle. 

I thought the hardest thing I would deal with in 2016 was covering the election. It was a reasonable assumption.

I have no idea that by noon tomorrow she will be gone.

The day after my mom died I fly back to California and spend the three weeks before the California primary making arrangements for her cremation, planning and getting the house ready for a memorial service and covering political rallies in Southern California. The normalcy of work helps. So does wine and spending time with my sister, dad and boyfriend.

We talk a lot about my mom. I think about the year and the moments that stand out to me. They’re not the ones that stood out before she died: interviewing Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump – on his plane, no less.

The moment I treasure most was the worst travel day of the entire election. Pallavi and I were trying to get from Boston – we’d been in nearby New Hampshire – to Las Vegas, ahead of the Nevada caucuses.

Our connecting flight from LAX to Vegas was cancelled due to weather, rebooked, then cancelled again. Pallavi and I rented a car and drove to Orange County, where I grew up, to catch the last flight to Vegas out of John Wayne Airport. We had time to kill so I called my mom. She met us at In-N-Out for double-doubles.

Shortly after we dropped off our rental car and cleared security at John Wayne our third flight was cancelled. 

My mom made up the twin beds in my childhood bedroom as Pallavi and I headed south on the 405.

That night I sat on the couch with my parents, just talking and laughing.

In the morning, Pallavi and I got up around 4 a.m. and my dad, decked out in a Broncos robe and matching slippers, made us tea. I hugged my mom goodbye and drove to Las Vegas for a Clinton event.

It was the last time I saw her.