Can you relate? For Moms, one minute we’re humming along, raising our kids, doing “the do” and loving life. Then that “something” happens, throwing us completely off course. A car accident. A household move. A job loss.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. For me, the emphasis is on “Awareness”. I am more than “Aware”…
Those days are burned into my memory.
The day I found the lump. Twice. The day Dr. Shock (yes that really was his name) sat behind his desk and told my husband and me, “it’s malignant” even though I was young and healthy with no family history of breast cancer. I remember walking out of the doctor's office wondering, now what do I do? Life was carrying on as usual around me in the parking lot but my world had just changed irrevocably. I was 38 years old with 2 kids in Kindergarten and 3rd grade who still needed to be picked up from school. Dinner was waiting to be made (although news like we’d just received warranted dinner out for Mom that night) and there was laundry to be folded. (wasn’t there always?)
To be honest, I don’t like remembering how vulnerable I was. I much prefer being the Mom seemingly in control, managing the complexities of life with strength and power, having a head full of hair that moves back and forth. Yet I am a survivor. It is owed to thousands of those whose lives have been turned upside down to share the gift of hope and encouragement.
Alongside the anchor of hope lies simmering resentment. And both are very much real.
Those who have gone through it know full well the painful humility of having to admit “I need help” when you are more comfortable being the one providing the help rather than receiving it – after all, we’re Moms! We’re wired to help others and be strong and courageous! For many, cancer means living through the painful truth that your child, perhaps even your husband, is embarrassed of your bald head – and so are you; your child is scared you’re going to die so he pulls away from you. And you have to face death in the face too. It’s not natural. All you know to do is get through it, heal, live and prove to your family and friends what you yourself, if truth be told, are only half certain is true at the time: Everything is gonna be alright.
The life you once took for granted (because it’s human nature to do so, anything less would be weird) is taken away, along with your eyebrows and eyelashes (is there no humility to be had during the fight with cancer?). The list of what is taken from you goes on: the pleasure of taste, the ease of jumping up from your desk or couch and walking or running to the next item on your to-do list turns into physical pain in your legs for months after chemotherapy. The miraculous drugs (and they are miraculous) that kill the cancer cells in your body are the same drugs that also destroy your healthy cells - cells that make everyday living effortless and enable you to feel good without even thinking about it.
I remember the promises I made during those hang-on-by-my-fingernails times: I’ll never complain about having a bad hair day again; never worry about coloring my hair – I’ll just be glad to have it. Time passes, you forget, and slip back into obsessing about your hair, worrying about your waistline, eating Pizza with Pepperoni on it. We’re human. It’s natural. Anything less would be weird.
There are precious blessings received along the journey. I don’t believe I’ll ever be that Cat’s-in-the-Cradle Father who realizes after it’s too late that he never took the time to enjoy his son’s youth while he had the chance. I prayed to God to let me see my children graduate high school, college, get married, see my grandchildren.
That was 10 years ago and I’m grateful every day that “I feel good and get to live life with my family”. My 3rd grader is a now a college Sophomore and my Kindergartner a High School Junior. The best part: I have to remind myself I even had cancer which is a far cry from where I once was.
I’m a Breast Cancer Survivor. Twice. Many of you are Survivors too. Perhaps not of Breast Cancer, but of children with a disability, of life’s disappointments, single parenthood, death in the family, separation from your spouse. How many battle scars do we Moms walk around with that the world can’t see? Yet we are strong, we are brave and there is no other creature like us on earth. Surviving cancer – and every battle scar in life - is filled with blessings – not that I want to go back and learn those lessons again. Once is enough – or in my case Twice is REALLY enough! Nevertheless, the lessons are in me and for this I am grateful. Life is good.
Moms - be strong and very courageous: Get those Mammograms… then do as the song says: Live Like You are Dying. Although I must admit my life is fairly complete without having to jump out of an airplane. As for Rocky Mountain climbing…sign me up.