Having a Mom With Breast Cancer: My Story

In honor of October being Breast Cancer Awareness month, I decided now was as good of a time as any to spend some time reflecting on my mother’s journey with breast cancer and everything I learned from my family’s experience.

At the beginning of my senior year of high school, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. To say we were shocked would be an understatement. At the age of 53, my mom was one of, if not the most, healthiest people I knew. She has been a vegetarian since the age of 15, only eats organic food, never smoked or drank, and simply just did not fit the profile of someone with cancer. In fact, as my mom likes to say, when she was diagnosed, she bragged to the doctor about how healthy she was until he finally told her that she had cancer to get her to stop bragging.

My mom teaches at the high school I went to, so one day after school, I was hanging out in the journalism classroom and she came to give me the news. When she told me, I didn’t know what to do or how to process it. My mom and I have always had a very back and forth, teasing relationship. During our conversation, my mom told me she didn’t want me to change how I acted around her or treat her differently.

At first, we had almost no information or details about how serious it was or what was really going on. All we knew was that my mom had cancer. So, after the initial shock went away, I cried - a lot. My mom is the glue of my family and my life, and I had no idea what I would do without her. However, my mom seemed to be taking it way better than me. She made jokes about it, didn’t cry (in front of me, at least), and generally just went about her life.

We then found out that my mom would have to go through chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation treatment. I was terrified of how chemotherapy would affect her, but my mom seemed unfazed and was just ready to get treatment started and finished so she could get rid of cancer and move on with her life. I think the only thing that really impacted my mom emotionally throughout the whole experience was the possibility of losing her hair.

My mom had long, thick, curly brown hair and hadn’t cut it since she was in her 20s. To her, it seemed, the possibility of losing it during chemo was scarier than the chemo itself. Luckily, she and my dad found “chemo caps” that freeze your hair follicles during chemotherapy and help reduce hair loss. Although my mom did lose some hair, she managed to hang on to most of it and still looks stunning.

Chemotherapy made my mom constantly sick and she lost a lot of weight, but she never lost her spirit. She hardly ever complained, and her strength helped me to not ever feel sorry for myself or sad. Anytime anyone asked me about it, they walked on eggshells and expected me to be closed off or sad. But I knew she was going to be okay, and I always answered anyone’s questions openly and confidently, which took people by surprise.

After she finished chemo, the doctors discovered that she was officially cancer-free. No one in my family was surprised that she had overcome it so quickly. Usually, at the cancer center, when a patient finishes chemotherapy, they ring a giant bell to let everyone know. My mom was so excited to be done that she just ran out of the center without ringing it.

It was smooth sailing (mostly) after chemo. She had surgery, which went well, and six weeks of radiation treatment. My mother officially finished all treatment at the beginning of my first semester at Florida State and is fully recovered.

If it wasn’t for my mother’s strength and resilience throughout her fight with cancer, I would have spent the entire time feeling sad and sorry for myself. But watching her act like cancer was just a major inconvenience rather than something to be worried about comforted me, and I am forever thankful for that. My mom is the most inspiring and strongest woman I know, and I will always love her.

 

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