In March, Hubby and I drove to West Virginia for a funeral with some wonderful news. We had just found out we were expecting and couldn’t wait to tell everyone..
I’ll never forget my Mom’s reaction. She was sitting at her laptop, farming on Farmville, and I told her I’d been really tired the past few weeks. She, absent mindedly, said, “oh yeah? I wonder why.” And I said, “I know why. I’m going to have a baby.”
She looked at me with what I took to be horror, screamed, and rolled her office chair back. I asked why she was recoiling in horror from me (and I was only half joking). She said she wasn’t, she was trying to get to me, and couldn’t believe it.
It was good times.
Then, in April, only a handful of weeks later, she called with some news of her own.
She had some unusual things going on and mentioned them to her family doctor. After some follow-up visits and tests, she had a diagnosis. She had breast cancer.
My Mom, in typical “my mom” fashion, seemed more worried about how my sister and I would take the news than the fact that she was going through this. She was so positive from the very beginning and had decided on a mastectomy. Keep in mind, this was about 12 weeks before our big family cruise. It was going to take some smooth cutting and quick healing, but we knew she would do it.
I remember what she said to me after she broke the news…she said that she felt much better about it knowing my sister and I were “on board”. We really didn’t have a choice, but we were all in this together, a family unit, rallying behind our leader.
Her surgery was April 30, and y’all? She didn’t even have to stay overnight. She was able to come home right after to recover.
After the cruise, she started chemo and was slated for 6 sessions about 3 weeks apart. I mean, none of us knew what to expect. She did well each and every time. Mom never likes to tell us when she’s feeling bad — she never has — so we had to make her promise to tell us. It was hard for me because I didn’t have the context that my sister did, being 700 odd miles away. She would get tired, maybe wouldn’t eat like normal, but she was a trooper.
When her hair started falling out, she just shaved it. I don’t blame her — who would want to clean up all that hair? She got some sassy bandanna and sent pictures to me when she was wig shopping of ridiculous bright red wigs. My Dad shaved his head with her, and continues to do so because it’s more comfortable.
Today is a big day, the day of her LAST chemo treatment. She’s in the homestretch! Of course, this doesn’t mean the end — she has some radiation therapy and then follow-ups for, I assume, years to come. And then she’ll also be a survivor for the rest of her life. This kind of experience doesn’t’ just fade into a distant memory.
I didn’t tell many people she was having surgery, other than my in-laws and a handful of friends. It wasn’t that I was scared she wouldn’t make it or nervous about her treatments, but I couldn’t stand the look of pity on people’s faces when I told them. “My Mom has breast cancer.” “OH I am SO SORRY *super strength sad face*.” I always followed it immediately by saying, “BUT SHE’S GOING TO BE FINE. She has a super good attitude about it!” And that’s sort of exhausting, multiplying that conversation with everyone I know. So I chose to keep it in, for my own emotional well being more so than hers. That was a little selfish, in hindsight.
It’s a different feeling now. I’m elated that she’s nearing the end. Our little baby boy, her first grandchild, will be here within 6 weeks, and although he doesn’t know it, and may never know it, he’s been a source of so much joy and light during what would normally be a very dark time.
I have a family who is literally overflowing with love for one another. That’s the best medicine you can ask for.
It’s apropos that her final chemotherapy treatment is happening smack dab in the middle of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so I can climb up on my soapbox and preach to y’all a little. Be patient, I climb slowly. Almost there….OK.
Ladies, check yourselves regularly. Don’t rely on the doctor doing it yearly. I don’t, but I sure well now, you can guarantee that. The American Cancer Society says the 5-year survival rate for all women diagnosed with breast cancer is 89 percent. Most will never have a recurrence. And detected early before it spreads, the 5-year survival rate is 98 percent! So help yourself.
Don’t assume it won’t happen to you or someone you love, because it will happen to one or another. I promise that if you ask around your office, kid’s school, church, wherever, you’ll find at least 3 out of 5 people know someone who has breast cancer or has been directly affected by it.
Finally, attitude is everything. It’s scary, for sure, but it will make things SO much easier than if you enter into something like this with a terrible attitude.
This is for my Mom, your Moms, aunts, grandmothers, best friends, sisters, real life friends and blog friends who have experienced breast cancer and are fighting the good fight or have kicked it in the tail.
Congrats, Momma! You’ve done great!