Why? Because today, my mother is a one-year breast cancer survivor.
May 24, 2004. I didn’t usually call mom in the morning. And I don’t remember why I did on this particular morning. But for some reason, I sat down in my classroom and dialed her number. Her crying voice picked up on the other end and said, “I have cancer.” I had a vague recollection that she had gotten a lump checked out. We cried together on the phone for a while. But I had to say goodbye and collect myself. I would have 16 kindergarteners invading my classroom in a matter of minutes. The following week brought uncertainty, a plethora of cards and pink flowers, and a schedule for surgery.
Come the middle of June, mom would have two lumpectomies. The second was on my 24th birthday. They removed the two lumps and 19 lymph nodes, 3 of which were positive.
By the end of July, she was starting chemotherapy. The total of eight treatments took place every two weeks and would bring her right into November. I had the humbling opportunity to accompany her on two of these trips. The chemo took a toll on her body (and hair), but her spirits were stronger than ever. She amazingly continued working through all of this.
Around Thanksgiving, mom started a 6 ½ week course of radiation. Her hair started growing back around Christmas, and her attitude remained as positive as ever. By the middle of January, we were celebrating the end of cancer treatments.
The next few months progressed without any major changes. A couple of doctor’s appointments just for check-ups.
And now, here we are, one year later. Celebrating life. Celebrating strength. Celebrating God’s faithfulness.
So much in me has risen up in this year of watching someone so dear to me play with the crappy hand life dealt her. I remember at one point, toward the end of chemo, she wrote these words:
“So now I'm looking back, and I realize that if the cancer comes back I won't go to pieces! Some might read that as me not having faith that God has healed me. That's not it at all. I know that the Lord walked with me every step of the way. He was so close and so dear. My family and friends were amazing. I may never have to deal with cancer again. But if I do, I'll be okay.”
That gave me such hope as her daughter. I certainly don’t want to watch her go through it again, but knowing that she know she’s going to be okay makes me feel okay. I also felt that if I ever had to go through this myself, I wouldn't be scared.
Fear also rose up at more than one point along this journey. The realization that breast cancer was now part of our family medical history was less than exciting. Watching mom deal with nausea, pain, and fatigue was unbearable. Wanting so badly to help her but not knowing exactly how to was tough.
I remember feelings of thankfulness being prominent. At every point of the journey—the diagnosis, the treatments—there was something to be thankful for. That the lumps weren’t bigger. That more lymph nodes weren’t positive. For the amazing doctors and nurses that were in charge of her care. There was always an overwhelming feeling of the preciousness of life.
By the grace of God, we all made it through the whole ordeal. And just as mom had said, we don’t want to do this all over again, but we know God holds our lives in His amazingly loving hands, and we can’t do anything but trust Him.
My mom is an incredible woman of God. I’m glad that I can call her my best friend. And today I’m glad to call her a survivor.