Every October, countries around the world unite trying to increase the attention and support for the awareness, early detection, treatment and palliative care of breast cancer. Each year, there are about 1.38 million new cases and 458 000 deaths from breast cancer (IARC Globocan, 2008). According to WHO, it is by far the most common cancer in women worldwide, both in the developed and developing countries.
In mid spring of 2018, my mom found a lump the morning of our family portraits. It would turn out the lump was cancerous and had traveled from her breast to her lymph nodes. The next seven months would pass by in a blur, filled with moments of laughter, anger, and sadness.
For me, the summer was spent crying and feeling bad for myself. No one in my family was supposed to have cancer, especially not my mom. Of course, I felt bad for my mom. No one can actually understand what she went through, unless you went through it yourself. But I felt pity on ME. How could this happen to ME? How could it be MY mom? Believe me when I say that typing it out, I know those were selfish thoughts, and I didn’t even realize I was feeling them until I sat down to write this.
I was scared. Actually scratch that. I was TERRIFIED. My siblings and I don’t handle our emotions the same way, and because I’ve always been the “emotional one” or the “cryer” I tended not to go to them with issues because I wasn’t taken seriously. I couldn’t talk about this with my dad, because he never really understood the extent of my feelings. The only one I wanted to talk to, was the one I really couldn’t: my mom. I had to be strong for her. She couldn’t know how hard this was for me, because what I felt was only a fraction of what she was going through
I’ve gone through what I call “dark paths” many times in my life, but I made sure that my mom’s journey would not be one of those times. She was going through something life altering, and needed me to be there for her. In a situation like this, it helped that my mom has a good relationship with all of her children, as well as having a loving husband. We all came together and took on our roles, so to speak. I used the drama from my outside life to entertain my mom, and distract her, even if it’s just for a few seconds. We tried making light of any situation we could; goofy photos, deciding which nurses and doctors were cute. If it helped her forget where she was and why, I was willing to do it. She went through chemo, surgery to remove the cancer, and then radiation to make sure that whatever was left, was dead. It was never easy to see her slumped on the couch, feeling worn out and defeated by everything her body was going through. Even today, two years later, she’s not 100% herself again. She has to wear a compression sleeve, and even in the middle of a hot, muggy, summer has to wear long sleeves outside; but she’s still my mom.
I may not remember what I was doing the day she got her diagnosis, but I remember where I was when I found out she was cancer free: on my lunch break at work. My parents had gone in after her 6 weeks of radiation, and celebrated her cancer free-ness with a week’s vacation to Florida! In the ten month journey, we all experienced helplessness, despair, but also hope and a new form of love for each other. It’s not easy, but we came out of it stronger.