One thing I’ve learned when facing the “c” beast, each of us fight in our own way. Whether or not we have choices to make regarding medical procedures, the emotional and mental parts of the equation are as unique and numerous as the stars in the sky. The night of my diagnosis, I made decisions as to how I would fight. Very deliberately and very aggressively. I also demanded life continue as close to normal as possible. I refused to give cancer anything more than absolutely necessary. What I didn’t consider was the toll my approach would take on my family and friends. In spite of their overwhelming need to take care of me, they supported me and let me do things my way. Today, my daughter shares her heart…what she felt…what she feared…what she did for me.
Dearest Keri, I love you to the moon and back! Mom
A few weeks ago my mom asked me to write a blog post about my experience with breast cancer since October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Of course I said yes, that I would write a post, because I knew that it meant a lot to my mom. But did I want to write it?…Not at all. A feeling of dread came over me after I committed to writing a post, not because I hate writing (seeing that I am a math teacher) but because I do not want to go back to that dark place ever again. I have worked so hard to put my fear, sadness, and hatred that I feel towards cancer aside because I do not want to bring those memories to the surface again.
It’s only been a little over two years since my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, and I can remember the exact moment I found out. My mom told me that she, my aunt and grandmother were coming to visit me in Athens, Georgia where I was in college. I was so excited about my mom visiting me that I was up early that morning getting ready for a fun day. I remember going to lunch with my family and my boyfriend and having a great time. Then we went back to my house and my mom sat me down on my bed and told me that she had to tell me something really important. She told me that she had stage three breast cancer, that it seemed like it had just popped up over night, and that she would be going through chemo, surgery, and radiation.
I remember just asking myself why over and over in my head. Why my mom? Why me? After everything my mom had been through, why did this have to happen to her? Why could’t something good ever come her way? I remember thinking that I wanted to move back home to be with her so badly and she kept telling me that she wanted me to stay in school and to stay strong for her. She wanted me to keep living my life like normal so that when she talked to me it would seem like part of her life was still normal too.
This was so hard for me to grasp because I just wanted to be there for her and help her like she had helped me all of my life. It hurt me so much that I couldn’t be there for her when she needed me the most. She had great friends and family members back in North Carolina that could help take care of her, but I wanted to be the one to take her to the doctor and I wanted to be the one to give her medicine in the middle of the night. I wanted to be the shoulder she cried on when she was upset or not feeling well, but I couldn’t.
The only thing I really knew to do while at school was to get more involved with my sorority whose philanthropy was breast cancer awareness and education. I also signed up for several Susan G. Komen 5k races. One of my favorite memories that still brings tears to my eyes is one of these 5k races. About twelve of us, my mom included, participated in a race and I will never forget seeing my mom run across the finish line. I don’t know why that moment meant so much to me. Maybe it was because it was a moment when I saw that my mom was still my mom. She was still the strong and courageous woman I had always known her to be. She was fighting to cross the finish line just like she was fighting to beat the cancer. Even when she did not know if she was going to live or die, she was still fighting and living each moment to the fullest.
There were many moments like this one when I saw what an amazing woman she is. And now, two years later, I still see a woman who is fighting to live each moment to the fullest. I still see a woman who loves, laughs, cries, and praises. Even with all of the things she has been through, I still see the mom I’ve always seen, which shows me that no matter what I may go through in life, I can never give up. I can never stop trying to be the woman my mom raised me to be. And if I ever get discouraged, I know I always have a great role model to look at who has taught me more about life than I could ever have imagined, and for that I am thankful.
While cancer has brought much fear and sadness into my life, it has also brought so much love and admiration. The women that fight a battle with breast cancer are such an inspiration for the rest of us. And mom, you are my inspiration. I love you.