snow-capped mountain at the horizon viewed from lake dock

My Mother’s Misdiagnosis Taught Me The Most Important Life Lesson

Hearing “last chance for boarding,” I ran through the airport as fast as I could. Going through TSA, I looked over and saw a woman waving through the glass window. I returned the wave and mouthed the words, “I love you, Mom.” She smiled but I could tell she was holding back tears. I boarded the plane and took off on my flight. Little did I know this would be the last time I would see my mom for a year or forever.

When the plane took off into the air, I felt a wave of nervousness rush through my body. Firstly, because I was leaving home and starting my life across the country. Secondly, the realization that I’d be away from home hit me. I landed and called my mother to let her know I made it safely. I could hear the sorrow in her voice due to us not being able to hug each other before I left. I told her, “I’ll hug you next time I see you.” My mom didn’t give regular hugs—they were the hugs that made you feel at home. I was also sad I didn’t get to hug her one last time. However, I was also excited about my new journey. I was a 20-year-old who thought they had most things figured out. I didn’t know it then, but this experience would show me no one has it all figured out.

August 23rd, 2020. That was the day I was told. The day my world changed. I felt my face get hot and a lump grow in my throat as big as the word cancer. It felt like I was going to choke. I couldn’t swallow, I couldn’t breathe. I would sit outside whenever I felt this way, but this time it was different. Something in the air caused my lungs to suddenly feel full instead of deflated. I looked up at the trees and noticed the sun-filled sky. In some weird way, it felt like a hug, a warm embrace from the sun’s rays and the branches of the trees. I cried until I felt peace.

Months. That’s how long I was told my mother had to live. That’s also how long it had been since I last saw my mother. I suddenly became something small and I realized the world was much bigger than me. I realized that I would never have it all figured out because no one does. I suddenly became a little girl again. I was full of questions, looking at everything with wide eyes and an open mind. My iMessage suddenly became full of questions to the one person I felt had all the answers: my mother. She answered them all and made sure to emphasize that I would be okay. She also emphasized that life always ends with death, a hard truth to swallow. I knew it was time to head back to my hometown to take care of her, so I booked my flight.

In the days coming, I realized the little things made me upset. Our favorite show on TV, a song we used to sing together playing on the radio, Japanese Cherry Blossom scented perfume, the color gray. Any time I would see something that reminded me of her or the time we spent together I got an overwhelming feeling—a feeling that I took her being alive for granted, a feeling that her accolades wouldn’t have mattered to me in her death. Who she was as a person mattered to me.

Thankfully, the day I landed my mother told me the doctors made a mistake. She didn’t have cancer, she had sarcoidosis. This diagnosis was an easier one to swallow, since there was a chance it could dissipate without medical intervention. However, this ordeal opened my eyes. We should be better people to the ones around us. Cherish those moments because you never know if they can be snatched away. Make sure you live and actually enjoy life, because I wouldn’t have remembered my mother as a great procurement specialist or a hard worker. I would have remembered her every time I saw powdered donuts, dogs, and necklaces.

a private person with public thoughts

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