“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ – Eleanor Roosevelt
Just over a year ago my amazing little mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. The news was pretty hard to process. For the obvious reasons as well as this being the second go-round with cancer – the first being approximately 6 years prior when she was diagnosed with colon cancer.
While the cancer and treatment hasn’t been a secret (hard to hide a tiny bald-headed lady who previously had a full head of jet black hair) it also hasn’t really been something that I’ve discussed on social media. It has been a journey, not just for my mom but for the family. Yes, my mom was the one having to deal with the chemo, the hair loss, the major life changing decisions associated with treatments, the radiation, the side effects, etc but as a family we each dealt with our own emotions of watching her go through all of this, both singularly and together. For me it was trying to make sure that I was there to support both Mom and Dad, in whatever that looked like.
I dealt with it everything happening by not dealing with it until I was just emotionally overwhelmed (commence meltdown wherever I happened to be. Question: why do the meltdowns always happen at the grocery store or while driving? Not cool!).
At the core of it all, I was angry, sad, guilty and amazed (in any given combination and order of occurrence).
- Angry that the most amazing human ever, who lives the healthiest lifestyle ever, had to go through all of this not once but twice. There were so many statements I made to the Universe, most of them not worth repeating, but the general tone was pissed.
- Sad that there wasn’t more that I could do to help. Sad that Mom had to handle all of the nonsense that goes with doctors visits, insurance, and dealing with stupid people while dealing with treatments, side effects, etc.
- Guilty that I wasn’t doing enough to help and that I wasn’t there more. Guilty that I was so immersed in my PhD that I blocked out everything else around me which led to guilt that I felt guilty – because that seemed so selfish when I wasn’t the one going through the really tuff stuff.
- Amazed at the strength of my parents, the support from friends and family, and the kindness of strangers.
I wasn’t around for Cancer Round 1 (probably part of the guilt) but I was around for Cancer Round 2 (which is going to be the last round!). Here is what I took out of all of it:
- As a family, we are strong: The strength is cemented together with unwavering leadership and love from my father and faith in the Universe that we will be taken care of.
- Focus on the positive: Dwelling in the negative is not productive. Going down that rabbit hole does no one any good and can only breed more hysteria. Been there and it wasn’t fun. Be positive, see positive, find something to be positive about. Thoughts have power – think happy thoughts!
“Promise me that you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think” – A.A. Milne
- Laughter and love are the cornerstone of making it through tough times: The jokes made in our household (many times started by my mother) are a bit irreverent but it feels so much better to laugh than to wallow in the misery of what is happening.
- Accept that which you can’t change and make your way through it: When Mom lost her hair there were a lot statements such as “O you are so brave”. She just shrugged and gracefully said “thank you”. We never thought about it as being ‘brave’, it was more that this was the ‘new normal’ and forward march. (BTW: Mom totally ROCKED the bald head and you better believe the jokes were flying around the house!)
- Love and live to the fullest: Say ‘I love you’ – give that hug – do that thing you wanted to do with the person you love – (except when your mother wants to walk the bridge twice and you know she isn’t in as great a physical shape as she thinks she is, cuz chemo, then you say no! #truestory) – cherish every moment – have the meltdown and find something in the day to be grateful for.
“When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.” – Tecumseh
So why this post? After chemo, surgery, and radiation…today marks THE LAST DAY of radiation treatment! 33 treatment completed! In the celebration…
(Trust me at home there is a celebration! In typical family style it will be complete with laughter and some meltdowns across the board. As I work on this post, my sister is in Publix buying flowers and balloons and adding some extra waterworks to the floral department (the dude working floral was not ready for work today #justsayin)…I shut the door to my office so that some poor student doesn’t walk in on my meltdown. #cleanuponaisletwo)
…there is also a reflection of some of the things that has occurred over the past year. In sharing some of it, from my perspective, there is closure. However, I can confidently say the entire family is happy to pen an end to this particular adventure!
“Some days are better, some days are worse. Look for the blessing instead of the curse. Be positive, stay strong, and get enough rest. You can’t do it all, but you can do your best” – Unknown
My parents are my heroes. My mother is truly the most amazing person – she has handled this past year with a strength, dignity, sense of humor, and selflessness that I can’t even fathom. She radiates (haha) sunshine even on the darkest days and is resilient beyond measure. When I grow up, I want to be just like her.
I came across the following that I think sums things up nicely: