Facing Cancer Twice
I’ve struggled with writing this post for the past few weeks, mostly because it’s personal, but also because it’s not really my story to tell. However, it’s been on my heart so I’m choosing to tell it simply from my point of view, and pray that it is what someone needs to hear right now.
In 2008 I married my husband. I moved twice. I taught high school students. Life was moving forward.
In 2009 my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. We were told her particular cancer was stage 0 and non-invasive, so based on her doctor’s options, she chose a lumpectomy and did an intensive round of radiation. Six months later she was told she was in remission. We celebrated.
I remember when she called to tell me her original diagnosis…I hung up and cried huge sobs. It terrified me that we were being touched by this disease and the thought of losing her was overwhelming. However, I only vaguely remember celebrating at the end let alone really participating in the journey. I was a newlywed struggling to adjust to being a newlywed. I was a new stepmom adjusting to being a stepmom. I was also a high school teacher, who was on deadline almost weekly because of my content area, and didn’t have many days off. I was not the best support system for my mom, even though we talked almost daily. I wish I could go back and do that part better.
However, each year my students chose a charity to participate in, and for this particular year I suggested we walk in the local Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure together. We made t-shirts, created our team, and my mom participated, though looking back I’m sure it was very tough and emotional for her. My students, my husband, and I cheered each other on, wore our pink, and gave Mom a show of solidarity. I have the pictures. Even though my heart was in the right place, it makes me cringe to look back. I had just charged ahead, made a plan, and didn’t really stop to think about whether Mom was ready to face all that came with being considered a breast cancer survivor.
Fast forward to 2015. Six years have passed. We’ve made many memories, had some great travel experiences, but faced some tough challenges as a family, especially in the last two years. Loved ones passed on, job changes, moves, etc. Our biggest change was the blessing of my daughter’s birth. We were lulled into a rhythm of day to day events, sleepless nights, and annual holidays, so when Mom went for her annual mammogram, we didn’t think anything of it…until they told her to call her oncologist and make an appointment.
She was re-diagnosed in March of this year; the cancer had returned, Stage 2 and much more aggressive. A mastectomy and chemotherapy were the only treatment options this time.
This time I researched everything. This time I was in the waiting room during the surgery. This time I went to as many chemo sessions as I could. This time I cried with her, I prayed with her, and I tried to make her laugh as often as I could. This time I made lists of what she would need, what she could eat, and what we needed to do to help. This time I didn’t rally anyone to walk in pink, but instead rallied our family members to send cards, letters, emails, food, flowers, etc. to cheer her up, encourage her, and bring her joy. This time I made sure I participated.
Dear God, why did there have to be a “this time”?
It is beyond me how this insidious disease has not been cured yet, how it has reached out and sucker-punched so many people. I’ve cried over friends who are losing spouses and relatives. I’ve cried over the blogs of beautiful storytellers who shared their last moments with strangers. I’ve cried over children losing parents. I’ve cried out to God about why we must watch as children are impacted either with cancer in their own bodies or by going through life missing a parent taken by this monster.
I don’t have any answers. I believe in research. I believe in doctors. I believe in being pro-active. I started having a mammogram in 2009, six years before the health pundits say that I had to do it, and I will keep having one regardless of the media stories that say it isn’t necessary. I will encourage my daughter to have one early and often, and I will be sure she too knows how to check her body for signs of anything out of the ordinary, not out of fear, but out of caution.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. I do wear pink. I support the American Cancer Society. I cheer for those who walk in the Komen races and 3-days.
Most importantly, I believe in an Almighty God, who loves us, who can heal us, and who knows how many tears we cry…this time, and all the times.
And, I store away every moment I have with my mom. She’s my best friend, my cheerleader, my teacher, my book buddy, and more. She is beyond wonderful as a Grandma to a joyful and always excited-to-see her granddaughter…the adoration goes both ways! She has struggled in this rough battle, but she is without a doubt a warrior. She has been strong and courageous even as she continues her chemotherapy. She has taken each step in faith and with dignity, believing that God will heal her, walk with her, and carry her when needed. I am so stinkin’ PROUD of her! You’re our Rock Star Mama! I Love You!
I’m not a doctor, a counselor or a pastor, but if YOU are facing a health diagnosis that scares you to your core, or even a life moment that has you searching for support, know that you are not alone. Listen to your doctors. Research and talk with others to gather information. Be knowledgeable, so you can make the best decisions.Soak up the Word of God and hide it in your heart daily. There is POWER in the name of Jesus. Pray with your friends and family. Mostly, know that you are loved beyond measure and God has you in the palm of His mighty hand.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
#BeatCancer #CancerSucks #NeverGiveUp