My mom is my rock, but with her diagnosis, we all had to learn how to be hers.
It’s been about three and a half years since my mom got Breast Cancer. I remember the day she told us about her diagnosis like it was yesterday. Our whole family had just moved to Jacksonville, Florida after my father retired from the Air Force, and one day we all went out to Olive Garden (our favorite place) for lunch. We were all sitting around a circular table enjoying our meal when she got everyone’s attention and told us about her mammogram and diagnosis. I was only ten at the time, so I didn’t really know what she was talking about when she told us about chemo, radiation, and all the side effects that come along with them. I have Type 1 Diabetes, so in a way I’ve always kind of felt like I understand what she went through more.
I have four siblings, three of which were living with us, plus my niece and grandma. My mom was, and still is, the only one who can keep us all in order. Her diagnosis could’ve thrown a monkey wrench into our lives, but my mom made sure that wouldn’t happen. Somehow she was able to go through all the appointments, chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery while still keeping our chaotic lives moving.
When she would come home from the hospital from a surgery she would be too tired and sick to walk up the stairs, so she had to stay in our guest room downstairs. My dad would help her out of the car and we would hold open the doors and get the bed ready for her to lie down. The first time she was coming home, my grandma pulled me and my closest sibling, Lucas, aside and told us that we didn’t have to help her inside because she was going to be sick and in pain, and she didn’t want it to be too hard for us to see her like that.
Being the helpful kids we were, we helped her in anyway. She was so pale, and I was still getting used to her hairless look. I don’t think the severity of her diagnosis really sunk in until that moment. I knew she was getting chemo, and radiation, and I knew she was going to be tired, and I knew she was going to need our help, and that my dad and grandma would be “taking over” driving us all around to our many different hobbies and schools. But seeing her so frail and hurting, a way I had never seen her before, really affected me.
Once she was settled in her room and we all cleared out, I had to spend some time alone to just think. After that I made an oath to do anything I could to help her get better, even if that meant tending to her every need whenever she needed it. I would sleep with her in the guest room and we would talk about my day, and she continued to be my shoulder to lean on. Every night I would also right a note and stick it on her door so that when my dad checked on her in the morning, she would get a little message from me.
Probably a year and a half later, she was recovering amazingly and only had one more surgery to perform. Even though our lives were different, and everything had shifted a little, we were all still together. But, of course, her stitches got infected and she got sick. Then, after almost a whole year of waiting, she was finally able to perform her final surgery.
It’s crazy how I can hardly remember what life was like before her diagnosis, even though I have memories from earlier, she always appears the way she is now. Her short, curly hair and her beautiful flower tattoo that covers her chest scars are always there. But just when we all thought it was over, about 6 months after my mom was finally done with her procedures, my grandma was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Luckily, hers was much less severe, and she was able to do a short schedule of radiation to eradicate the cancer cells. My grandma, the person who stepped in and was there for me when my mom was struggling, was struggling herself.
It seemed like a never-ending loop, but it did end. Even though we were all changed over the last four years we’ve been in Florida, we’ve grown stronger, closer, and smarter. It’s easy to say now that, if I could go back in time, I would stop them both from getting Breast Cancer, but I wouldn’t be who I am without those experiences. We came together for them and we all grew so much. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that along with the pain and heartbreak that comes with cancer, there is also healing and growth.