Freak out. She tells you she has cancer, she’s not sure how serious yet. All you hear is, “I am dying and who knows how much time I have left.” For half a second you sit quiet and let it sink in. Your mom has cancer. The reality of it slaps you in the face and the quiet snaps. You begin pacing around the house. You turn off your currently cooking Top Ramen — because what is that but more cancer? — mumbling, “what the fuck?” over and over to yourself. You are in shock. Your mom is healthy, this shouldn’t be happening, not to her. You notice she doesn’t calm you down like she usually does. You see fear in her eyes and that snaps you out of your panic as quickly as you snapped into it. You realize she’s freaking out, so you cannot freak out. You pull it together, at least for the moment. She’s weak. She needs you to be strong. You suggest the two of you go right that very minute to the vegan cafe up the street to talk about it over a fresh carrot juice and something with kale — you know enough to know that talking about it and juice and kale can only help.
Forget about everything else. The break up you are going through, the move you just made, the new job you just started, the untrained beast of a dog you just adopted — the importance of it all evaporates in that instant. Your struggles are nothing juxtaposed with the potential death of your best friend. Nothing matters other than getting that fucking cancer out of her body. Fuck cancer. Your mom having cancer is a vacuum. Nothing else matters.
Research. You are afraid but you have to remember your mom is more afraid. You approach sifting through all the cancer information and misinformation as if you are trying to find a needle in a haystack. But it’s really like sifting through mounds of hot shit in search of a tiny magical diamond. It isn’t fun. You don’t want to do it, it almost kills you to do it, but you have to do it because the magical diamond is Hope and she HAS TO find it. No one makes it out of this without it. So you help her dig.
It’s all so overwhelming, but in your research you find this about diet.
And this about treatment centers.
And this for inspiration.
And this about what actually works.
In your research you find they cure this every day.
Encourage her not to undergo conventional treatment. Dr. Robert Atkins, one of the pioneers of complementary medicine in the United States, said, “There is not one, but many cures for cancer available. But they are all being systematically suppressed by the ACS, the NCI and major oncology centers. They have too much of an interest in the status quo.”
Before you call me a conspiracy theorist, and before your mom goes down the traditional (largely unsuccessful, and, in my opinion, criminal) cancer treatment route, consider reading up on some people’s thoughts of the full extent of the cancer industry’s agenda. The more you learn, the more you realize the backwardness of the cancer industry, and that you want your mom as far away from it as possible. I consider this, hands down, the most important step you can take in helping save your mom’s life.
Stop researching. You will read nothing about anything other than cancer for weeks and start to feel that you may be getting cancer yourself. Once you start feeling like this, you need to step away from the cancer research, and you need to encourage her to do that same. You encourage her to take her mind off of it with yoga and marathons of Modern Family. You take your mind of it by writing and getting drunk. You do not get drunk in front of your mom.
Support whatever decision she makes. You’re thrilled when your mom says she is not getting surgery or undergoing conventional therapy. She’s going to do an alternative treatment instead. It seems like it’s a good treatment, even if you would have chosen a path more radical. But you don’t fight her. The last things she needs is to fight you — she has a bigger battle ahead of her. And you need to be on her side no matter what. You support whatever route she chooses, even if it is the conventional route. Whatever decision she makes, your job is to bring her Hope and support and positivity at every turn.
Be her rock. Your mom has worried about and taken care of you all your life. Even though you are an adult now, she has still been your number one fan and supporter (and, yeah, still sometimes buys you groceries). But the roles are reversed now. It’s your turn to let her lean on you. Anything you can do to make her life easier, you do it. Grocery shopping, driving her around to doctor’s appointments, running her mundane errands, listening to her for as long as she wants to talk, cooking her healthy food even though you don’t really know how, buying her flowers and other nice things to surround herself with. You do it all. You take her burden and you carry the weight on your shoulders like Atlas. She is your world and you hold her up.
Tell your boss what being your mom’s rock means for your work performance. You just started a new job and now you have to tell your new boss that you aren’t going to be the kind of work rock star you promised him you were in your interview. It kills you to have to let him know (through tears of weakness) that you are going to need some time off that you haven’t earned in order to drive your mom to treatments every week. To admit you can’t do it all, that you can’t give 100% as you’ve always done, is a pain you didn’t see coming — and it forces you to let go of the pressure of perfection you’ve been guilting yourself with your whole life. It forces you to slow down and evaluate what’s important in life. You realize maybe this whole ordeal is pushing you to be a better person in a strange way.
Break down when Celion Dion’s “Because You Loved Me” comes on the radio. Really? Right now? After a decade of not hearing this song, the DJ is hitting you with The Dion? How the hell are you even supposed to handle this? You were my strength when I was weak… you saw the best there was in me. Obviously she wrote this about her dead mother. FYL. You just let the tears flow — no point in trying to resist this diva.
Find your own rock(s). You’ve been strong for her and The Dion scenario reveals the obvious: You need to lean on your friends. Remember that you can’t do it all. Asking for help isn’t easy, but you need to let it all out. You usually do this with your mom, but you can’t do this with your mom now. So you reach out to your friends. And you realize pretty quick who your true friends are throughout this whole process. In the beginning, it’s astonishing how many people are seemingly there for you. So many people say they love you and will check in on you and if you need anything, anything at all, you can count on them, etc., etc. It’s even more astonishing how many of those people never show up again. Never even call you to see how your mom is managing, or you for that matter. You mourn the losses of those friendships, because if they aren’t there for you when your best friend in the entire world has cancer, you will never let them in again. How could you ever relate to someone who heard you were going through this and never reached out to support you? You can’t and you don’t. You focus on attracting more meaningful, compassionate friendships into your life. And promise yourself you will never be that kind of fair-weathered friend.
Make her laugh as much as possible. “Laughter is the best medicine” isn’t just some fruit loop woo woo mantra. It’s true. So whatever it is that makes your mom laugh, do that, buy that, be that.
Be a source of hope to people when they find out someone they know has cancer. Now that your mom is better, it would be selfish to fall back into life as it always was. Because life isn’t as it always was — you know too much now. The right thing to do is to put what you’ve learned out there in any way you can. Your job is to relay your story. If you are a painter, paint it. If you are a teacher, teach it. If you are a writer, write it. If you are an entrepreneur, entrepreneur it. Whatever you are, use it to spread hope about this disease to the people who need it, because cancer is a force in this modern world that, according to the World Health Organization, is the leading cause of death worldwide. Hope — that diamond — is the beginning of the cure; your job now is to help people find it however you can.