Today marks a year since my mother told me she had stage IV Lung Cancer. My mom had known for months, but waited until I was finished my finals to tell me so I wouldn’t be stressed out. Selfless and loving, my mother called me on the phone and tried to get me to come home from school that night. I had no idea what was going on, I had to work the next day, and my close friend had just come back from studying abroad. Not to mention I had just finished a hellish semester of what was my first round of senior year, so I was hesitant to come home for something I knew nothing about. This day last year marks the night my life changed outstandingly and brought more pain and struggle that I have ever known.
Not many people know how to react when someone tells you their parent has cancer. I feel that cancer has different meanings for everyone. The definition for me used to be empty, a stage my mom went through when she had skin cancer but was able to have it removed. The definition for me now is different. Cancer is not a sickness, nor is it a disease. Cancer is a heartless, destructive, merciless monster that takes elements you love about someone and slowly and painfully takes them away. Cancer deteriorates, destroys, and devours. It is capable of making you feel waves of emotion stronger than any hormonal imbalance.
I wanted to write about this because many times people will ask me how my mom is doing. For those who have parents or loved ones who are diagnosed, you know the angst felt when walking into a public place or gathering where everyone asks you how your family member or loved one is doing. Many of us play it off like its nothing, say they’re OK or hanging in there because the reality of it is you don’t want to know. We know you’re asking to be considerate, to start a hopefully cheerful conversation oozing with success and good health. When you ask me how my mom is doing, I can’t tell you. I refuse to face the reality and discuss it over my drink.
I watched someone I love get pushed to their limits. I watched someone who used to take salsa dancing lessons lose the strength to vacuum and do laundry. A woman who used to work two jobs took a permanent leave of absence for disability. The person who introduced me to my love for red wine can no longer taste it. The hero who picked me up from my faults and mistakes and held me when I cried about petty situations cried to me in my arms about the inability to survive. My momma, mommy, mumma, had been attacked by her own body. Cancer infests every bone in her body from the neck down. She looks at me with sleepy eyes as I write this at 4 PM, although she slept 14 hours last night she can barely stay awake on her couch.
I wanted to write this so people would understand the constant emotional stress those whose family or loved ones have cancer are under. I am constantly worrying if my mom is going to fall and I wont be there, if she is crying alone and I cannot hold her, if I will in fact see her again after our goodbyes. I am tense. I am worried. I am scared. I am made sick by the fact that my mom’s social and work life was taken from someone who never smoked a cigarette. I feel betrayed by the universe.
Know that that I am also strong. I am hopeful. I am thankful. I have the most beautiful, wonderful, courageous mommy in the world. She is my hero, my muse, and my inspiration. She has no idea how much she means to me.
I write with hopes of people being kinder to others in what this new year will bring. I speak for those who have suffered from any tragedy; death, disease, abduction, diagnoses, or suicide. Those who have suffered from this type of hurt are capable of a deeper understanding and threshold. Those who have suffered tragedy know pain and suffering. Those who have experienced these times are less quick to judge, have kinder tongues, have open arms. They are trying so hard to keep everything together. They are cringing at people who take their parents for granted. They are hoping for a different understanding from those who think they are “in a bad mood”. This again goes for anyone going through any bad time. You are not alone.
So before you pass your judgments, count your blessings.