In May 2008 I already had more on my plate than I felt emotionally able to handle. I was being bullied and harassed at work and I was living daily in the tribulation period of my failing marriage. I felt like I was scraping myself off my bed every morning and smooshing myself into a replica of "me" and going about my day. I was sure things couldn't get worse. (Isn't it ironic how just when you think that, the Universe shows you just how wrong you are?)
I don't even remember now when my mom told me, or how she told me. All I know is that she went to the doctor and ended up having a biopsy. I think I knew about all that at the time, but I can not remember. she kept it from me at first, hoping she wouldn't have to worry me. What I do remember is the day the secretary came and got me out of class. She told me that my mom and Jill were outside, that they were going to Dr. Allcorn's office to get the results of the biopsy, and that they wanted me to go. "Don't worry, we'll cover this," she said. I remember her face was sympathetic, and it was then I realized something might really be wrong (I'd convinced myself it was nothing, and that everyone was being over-dramatic. It's called denial).
We went to the doctor and he said something about metastatic and malignant. When the nurse was talking to my mom, she stood next to me. I looked over her arm. The chart said stage 3. The doctor didn't really say much, except that he wanted her to go to a specialist, blah blah blah and he recommended surgery immediately. They discussed where she should go (she had files at St. John's in Springfield from the biopsy, he recommended Columbia), and she finally made an appointment in Springfield.
After that day, I looked up her cancer type online. I was afraid she was going to die. I FELT like she was going to die, and I didn't have it in me to deal with that. People started asking me how I was doing, and I said fine. I wasn't sick, she was. The truth is, her cancer was eating at me as much as it was eating at her.
I went with her to meet with the cancer lady who tells you how awful the chemo and radiation will be, where to get a wig, and what you can't have or do or eat when you're going through it all. I never realized until that moment just what it means to be a cancer patient.
I soon became angry. I was mad at my mom first. She'd known about the lump for months, but because her *bad words* school doesn't offer insurance to non-certified staff (nevermind she's worked there TWENTY YEARS), and because she had her gallbladder taken out the fall before, she didn't go to the doctor. She was too worried about her financial situation (medical bills, harassment from the hospital, etc). Eventually she was put on Medicaid. Do you know what that means? They think you're going to die. You're "disabled" and all that. I was scared.
Then I was mad at the school. They didn't cover her. It was their fault she hadn't gone sooner. She was going to die, and I was going to sue their asses off. I mean I was angry like you wouldn't believe. Then I was angry at the world. People would say (when I did open up and say my mom had cancer), "Oh, breast cancer. She will beat that. It's no big deal anymore." They obviously didn't know what it was like to have a mom who couldn't get out of bed for days, who couldn't eat, who couldn't feel her finger tips, who didn't have hair. A mom who was so emotionally and physically sick she wasn't even my mom.
I would love to say I was a good daughter, and that I helped her through it, but I didn't. I took her to a few appointments, and I went to her surgery, and when she asked me for something, I'd do it. But I didn't go check on her. I didn't clean her house. I didn't ask her about the cancer or the chemo. I didn't want to know. I needed my mom, but she was unavailable because CANCER was ruining her body and her life. People thought I was a selfish brat, and I was, I guess. I was in survival mode emotionally, and I was doing the bare minimum in order to raise my daughter effectively and keep myself above water.
I hated the cancer. And since it occupied my mom's body, she is the one who I avoided in the process of avoiding the cancer. My then husband, who lost his dad to cancer, never once asked me if I was ok. Never once offered to go with me to those doctor visits or to see her. He complained when I left Chloe with him to accompany my mom.
I finally found Robin, a friend who became my sister when I needed that, and my mom when I needed that. She grabbed me in the hallway one day and told me she'd heard about my mom. She wrapped her arms around me and cried. She'd lost her dad a few months before, and I knew she understood me. She opened her home to me and
By the fall, Mom was ready for surgery. Her tumor had shrunk immensely. Her surgery went well, and she started to be more like herself. Radiation was difficult, but for the most part I had my mom back. She was happier, she was healthier, and things were normal again.
My mom is a two year survivor now, and I'm confident that she beat cancer. No, she kicked its ass all by herself. I'm proud of her and I still hate that disease for what it did to my mom, what it did to me, and what it's done to so many people. It's the hardest thing I have gone through and I didn't even have it.
So here is to EVERYONE who has gone through it, helped someone through it, or run the other way like I did. It is real, it is devastating, and even though women beat it EVERY day, it's a vicious monster and we can't make enough noise, raise enough money, or raise enough awareness.
If you're a woman, be sure you do a BSE every month. If something is amiss, DON'T avoid your doctor out of fear. Eat right, work out, kick your bad habits, and talk to your doctor about the risks associated with birth control. And, read Chrissy's blog, then enter her giveaway if you like :)