It was just seven years ago that I heard my mother say she had breast cancer. I still remember how she blurted it out like a bullet, “I have breast cancer”! Her words seemed to come out of nowhere striking me hard, like a stray bullet, penetrating every fiber of my being. I was in total shock. It took every ounce of strength within me to remain calm and poised on the outside while her words, “I have breast cancer”, ricocheted in my head.
How could this be? I had travelled over 1,300 miles to see my mother while moving our daughter to Tuscan. This was supposed to be a happy visit. Three generations of strong, witty women were supposed to be enjoying the journey of life not the circle of life. Within minutes of seeing my mother, my world was turned upside down. I was already struggling with my only child moving so far away from home and now the news of my mom’s breast cancer sucker punched me into another realm of reality.
How I was about to respond to the news of my mom’s diagnosis was as important to me as it was to both my mom and my daughter. If I responded with anything other than love, faith and calmness, fear would take hold of all our hearts and minds in an attempt to drown us in despair. I reached out to my mom, who had gotten the news herself only 30 minutes earlier and pulled her close. I embraced her with a long hug and whispered it was going to be okay. Then I prayed. Afterward, we talked more in depth about her diagnosis and the treatment that would follow. We did not let the news of her breast cancer diagnosis keep us from laughing and having a good time during our visit, but we could feel the undercurrent of uncertainty all around us. We knew we would never be the same again. Cancer had invaded our lives.
That’s the thing with cancer. It creeps in quietly and then it violently takes unsuspecting individuals by surprise. Cancer is not a gentleman. It is vile through and through! Its only goal is to destroy you by sucking the life out of you physically, mentally, and spiritually. A diagnosis of breast cancer changes you forever. Even if it appears to be eradicated through surgery, chemotherapy or radiation, there will always be the uncertainty of it staying in remission or coming back with a vengeance.
All three of us women, three generations strong, were violently confronted with our own mortality. The questions of how, what, where, who, when and why swirled in never-ending, silent conversations inside our heads. It wasn’t just my mom who was affected by the cancer diagnosis. All three of us were affected. How did this happen? What do I tell my family and friends? What stage is the cancer? Where exactly is the cancer? Who decides the type of treatment needed? Why are there so many appointments being scheduled so quickly? How do I process all of this information? What do I have to do? Where do I have to go for treatment? Who can help me if I need it? When will treatment begin? Why do I need radiation and hormone treatments? How much is this going to cost? What will insurance cover? Where are services provided? Who can guide us through this process? When will this nightmare be over?
The unanswered questions were the worst because they created a pathway for fear to enter through our imaginations. It was only by taking those questions and thoughts into captivity, that we were not completely overtaken by fear. We chose to focus with our faith not our eyes. We chose to trust God and allowed him to be our source of strength. We chose to be optimistic and thankful that the cancer was caught early. Even though fear lurked in the shadows over the next few months, we still chose life! I am not going to lie and say we didn’t have our moments of fear, but I will tell you that fear did not win.
It had been seven years since my mom was diagnosed and treated for breast cancer. After she had been cancer-free for seven years, it was my turn to say “I have breast cancer”.
[More to come about my breast cancer journey in the future.]
For more information about breast cancer you can visit: