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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SLU chapter.

In the simplest terms, cancer sucks. It really does, and I wish there was a more poetic way of saying this, but there isn’t. Cancer fucking sucks. But cancer is made pretty with pink, tied into a cute dainty bow. 

It didn’t make sense that my mom has cancer. But, this is our reality now. And it wasn’t all pretty and pink like how it is sometimes painted. What was supposed to be a relaxing summer break turned into a summer filled with chaos, tension and hostility.

There is this notion that cancer is supposed to bond you closer to your family. Very quickly, I learned that this wasn’t the case with my family. If I’m being completely honest, it initially felt like our family unit was the weakest it has ever been. Cancer affected every relationship and dynamic within my family. The sibling-to-sibling relationship, the mother-father relationship, the husband-wife relationship and the partner-child relationship. 

I saw the biggest and most valuable shift within the mother-daughter relationship. My mom engraved into my sister and I’s minds that being a daughter in our family means putting everyone else’s needs before our own. After her cancer diagnosis, taking care of her became the only responsibility that mattered. Being a caretaker for your parent is truly a unique experience. When my siblings and I took on the role of caregivers, we weren’t her kids anymore; that role was pushed to the side. 

The mother-daughter bond is already known to be one of the most complicated and layered of all human relationships. So, when you put breast cancer in the mix, things become even more complex. There are so many intense feelings of sadness, anger, guilt and terror. And it was incomprehensible at times. There was a week when I gave my mom the silent treatment, and consequently, my mom went on “strike” as retaliation. But in the midst of it all, even when her stitches became undone and her blood dripped everywhere, she’d see my finger wrapped in a band-aid and worry for me more than herself. 

Whenever my mom needed someone to yell and scream at, my siblings and I were there. Whenever my mom needed someone to cry with, we were there. Whenever my mom needed someone to just be in her presence, we were there. We were always there, but it wasn’t always pretty. Pink had always been my favorite color since childhood, but during times like these, pink had become the ugliest color I’d ever seen. It was an eyesore. It was a constant reminder that our lives had changed forever. 

The summer was booked with doctor’s appointments, surgeries and radiation. It was brutal, and I wasn’t even the one fighting it. I watched my mom hop onto the examination table, dangling her legs and swinging them back and forth, just like a child would, waiting for the time to pass. Just like the way I still do. All of the pretty pink decor couldn’t take away from the fact that this was scary. 

There were times when pink was a symbol of optimism and playfulness. We always made jokes to ease the situation. After she got her ovaries removed as a precaution, we joked about how she’s permanently down two pounds now. While getting radiation, the doctors said that the hair on her left armpit wouldn’t grow back, so she asked if they could do the right one as well in an attempt of a DIY laser hair removal treatment.

There were days when pink brought a sense of fear for the future. My mom told me to go through her clothes and jewelry and decide who should get what. I never took her seriously though. I just joked and said that it wasn’t necessary because I would take everything. She told me to help dad find a new wife, but not one as memorable as her. 

Cancer made me see my mom in a different light. Cancer showed me that while my mother is a mother, she is also a woman first and foremost. Having breast cancer has changed the way she sees herself and her femininity. When she first found out she had cancer, she had one demand: to make sure she wouldn’t lose her hair. She was prominent on this request throughout. 

Doctors would ask my parents if they were sexually active. Initially, grossed out by this question, I realized this was going to impact her life in ways that I hadn’t even thought about. Of course, her rationality went out the window. How else are you supposed to react when you are losing parts of your identity and femininity? All the feminine reminders of breast cancer showcased in delicate pink bows were not helpful either in the beginning. 

I still try to de-villainize pink for my mom. When we paint our nails together, I always do a different shade of pink while she rotates through pastels. I practice new hairstyles and braids on her and try to put in pink bows, which she takes out every time. Slowly, but surely, her animosity towards the color is fading as she realizes that pink is pretty and so is she, pink is strong and so is she and pink is powerful and so is she. 

Hey my name is Urvi and I am a junior at Saint Louis University!