Please note, while my blog has always been PG13, this post may contain graphic or offensive language. Because this piece is in regards to a powerful and very painful memory, these extreme words are in my opinion the best way to describe the moments. Three years ago, not much longer after Orange’s first birthday, my world came crashing down.
My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.
I remember holding her tight. Hugging her and telling her how strong she is and how we’d be there every step of the way. I meant every word I said. I didn’t shed a tear as I held onto her shoulders, inhaling her sweet perfume and being met with all her hair. I knew life wasn’t going to be the same. But there was no way God was taking my mom.
As we drove away, Princess Daddy was silent. And as soon as we accelerated up the hill, safely out of sight and being sure my weakness was hidden, I slowly started sobbing. Cancer. Shit. Cancer isn’t a joke. It’s not just nothing. It’s cancer. The C word. I cried the rest of the way home. Orange climbed up on my lap soon after we got back and just patted my cheeks. I held her so tight it must have been hard to breathe.
Selfishly I began thinking of myself. I felt awful for doing so but I couldn’t control it. We were just talking about any disease, we were talking about breast cancer. Breast cancer trickles down from woman to woman attacking families in its path. And now it was in MY family. None of my aunts had it. Nor my grandmothers or great aunts. But all the sudden it was here. And the little demon inside of me reminded me that I could no longer look at my own two breasts the same way. Because they weren’t just any ole boobs anymore. They were potentially ticking time bombs.
And then I thought of my little girl…
This beautiful soul was brought into our lives to save us all. She brought our marriage back together. She brought happiness to everyone who met her. But now, without even knowing it, that tiny little girl had an even bigger job. Watching her grow up and having her to see and love every day made my mom fight. It’s not to say she didn’t have any other reasons to fight. Of course she did. But not like this.
Cancer changed us all. Mom went through multiple surgeries, chemo and radiation. She lost her hair. She was drained of all her color. She was sick, over and over again. She was frail and lost her rose colored glasses. We had to fight for her when she didn’t have the strength to fight for herself. And it worked. She made it. She’s three years cancer free now. She’s a survivor.
My mom is my mom again. Her experience has surely changed her but I continue to only see the good. She and my dad are more in love than ever. She is constantly getting check ups (which as painstaking as they are) give us all reassurance that the cancer won’t just sneak up on us again. But more than anything, she knows now that every single second has to count. So she grabs that last kiss and spoils the babies and never leaves without a dozen hugs.
I remember shortly after the diagnosis, just after my mom’s first surgery. The tumor was much larger than predicted to be. Her journey which originally was supposed to be one routine surgery and some radiation, just in case all the sudden turned into a full blown treatment entourage. I typed two simple words as my Facebook status and hit enter. “Fuck cancer.” I was mad. I was so mad that this happened. It wasn’t fair. How could cancer come into OUR lives? It was a slap to the face. My mom was the most genuine person I knew. She cared about everyone. She always saw the good in people. She is a flipping preschool teacher for Christ’s sake. Talk about patience and kindness.
But here’s the thing. Good things don’t always happen to good people. And bad things aren’t always reserved for bad people. I stopped believing in Karma because that would somehow imply that our family deserved this pain. And we didn’t. We didn’t earn the right to have to cry or pray or beg God that he was trying to take the wrong one.
So July, well, it sucks. I can’t think of July without simultaneously thinking about cancer. And even though she’s in remission right now I can’t help but prepare myself to hear those dreaded words again. Every follow up I pray to hear “all clear” and “no changes.” Every one.
We participate in the Susan G Komen races to show our support and our love and our dedication, to prove that cancer did not win and it can’t. It’s WON’T.
Mom’s not Scott free right now. We learned after her surgeries that her cancer treatment would also include five full years of hormone. The chemo put her into early menopause. And the combination of everything took a toll on her body and she has joint pain often. Her knees are completely deteriorated. So there’s a chance that “Scott free” really doesn’t exist anymore. And while I’d like to think that one day we will look back on all of this and be shocked by the memory as if in disbelief that it ever even happened but that won’t be the case. July won’t all the sudden become magical again. Because like I said. The cancer changed us.
No matter how hard the memory of the cancer experience is for me, it is nothing to what it feels like for my mom. Each year in July she will continue to celebrate the HAPPINESS that comes with now being cancer free. So even though I hate July for what it is, my mom rejoices for what it has become. So with that, I will raise my white flag and side with her. Happy 3 years cancer free, momma!!!