What a Breast Cancer Diagnosis During COVID-19 Meant for My Family

October is the official Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I didn’t know that before this year. I never really cared to. But, things have changed this year.

My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in early February of 2020. I was studying abroad for the semester at the time. I spoke to her weekly about how much I was loving London and how I never wanted to leave. I had no idea that she had just found out information that would drastically change the next decade of her life.

Time was on our side back in February, though—my mom had planned a trip to meet me in London and we would visit Paris together with some cousins before my birthday. She spent a week in London exploring, and then we took the Eurostar all together to Paris.

paris eiffel tower and city Photo by Andrea Maschio from Unsplash

Paris is the city for lovers…not for bad news, right? Well, it was almost as if I knew what she was going to say before she said anything while we stood at the restaurant right near the Eiffel Tower.

“I have breast cancer.”

Logically, my first thought, that I remember clear as day, was what the f*ck does that mean?

My mother. The woman who gave birth to me. The one who has put up with all my whining…sick? No. No way. I don’t believe it. She’s indestructible. No matter how insane our fights may be, she never crumbles.

Needless to say, a lot happened the following weeks after I found out. The Covid-19 pandemic began to pick up, I had to fly home early, and there was a whole lot of cramming things in before I got home. I don’t think I ever processed the fact that I was flying home to a family in the middle of a lot of personal trauma while the rest of the world was also falling apart around me.

Dramatic? Possibly. But, what is life without a little drama?

Person looking outside of an airplane Photo by Tim Gouw from Unsplash

I flew home two days before my mother’s surgery, which also happened to be one of the last few surgeries done before hospitals started focusing solely on Covid-19 patients. The weeks following, she healed, she started chemotherapy, she worked, we cut her hair, she finished chemotherapy, she started radiation, she moved me back to school, she finished radiation, she started infusions, and she continued to work. A lot, I know.

I could get into how scary it was that my mother was going through a time in her life where she barely had an immune system during a global pandemic, or I could talk about the toll it took on everyone being locked in the house together, but this article isn’t about the struggles I went through. It isn’t even about the struggles my mom went through. It’s about how despite a few anxiety-ridden months, my mom kept it together—she kept herself together, her family together, and her job together. She became Superwoman.

I definitely didn’t make it easy for her, and I’m sure my brothers feel the same way I do. Not to say that we didn’t help out, because we did, but at the end of the day, no one in our house understood what she was going through. I’m not sure many people did.

Kellyn Simpkin-Strong Girl Back One Arm Kellyn Simpkin / Her Campus

In September, I got to get away from home and venture back up to Boston for school. Reflecting on the last few months of 2020, I have come to realize how much my mom did for herself and for her family—both because she wanted to and could.

Like I said earlier, I’m not sure I ever comprehended what her breast cancer diagnosis meant for the coming years. I have days where I forget anything is wrong with the world, and then I have days where I talk myself into believing nothing is right at all.

The one thing I have come to realize and hope I have made apparent to everyone, especially my mom, is how amazing of a woman my mother is despite the challenges she faces. Thank you, Mom.

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