“I have breast cancer.”
It’s exactly like my brother said. Ever since my mom found out she has breast cancer, it is as if I only just learned the word; now my ears perk up when I hear it from four random people, the radio, a coworker, and read about it on a blog all in one day. Since we found out about it in October, it has been a slow, painful trickle of information. Why, oh why, must lab results take so long to come back? Why does the terminology have to be so complex? Why are doctors’ appointments so hard to get? Why won’t anyone tell my mom what her best course of treatment would be? Why must my mom insist on more conclusive testing when the doctor should have done that himself? Why is it so hard to find straightforward information on the side effects and recovery time of surgery and treatment?
I have struggled over the past few months with asking myself why my mom would receive this diagnosis when she did not “deserve” it. She is incomparably selfless. She works harder than anyone. You can count on her for literally anything. She has a wealth of empathy. She cares for so many. She looks after her elderly father who lives a thousand miles away by calling his doctors, managing his medications, and helping him with his money. She once went to a nursing home and asked if she could visit someone who didn’t ever receive visitors. This was years ago. And still, each week without fail, my mom shows love to Ruth by feeding her, talking with her, brushing her hair, and praying with her. She flew across the country on a moment’s notice last year to nurse me and my family back to health when we were all very sick. She has made calls to ensure that the employee she let go, who was aging and struggling to continue to do her job well, received unemployment. But I keep having to remind myself that a cancer diagnosis is not earned. It is not payment or punishment. It just sucks, no matter who it happens to.
It took a lot of years to get the relationship that my mom and I are able to enjoy today. While I was growing up, we fought endlessly and it was extremely emotionally taxing on both of us. But, with some maturity on my part (finally), and lots of hard work from both of us, we have been enjoying the close kind of relationship I think we both always hoped for. A lot of similarities between us have started to show that I am really grateful for. And I love being able to be vulnerable with her in a way I can’t be with anyone else. So, I think one of the things that is the most painful about this news is that we simply haven’t had enough time together to really enjoy one another, and it makes me unspeakably sad that something might threaten that.
This year will be hard, I’m sure. With a major surgery just a few weeks out and months of treatment to follow, I think we’re all a little on edge. Bad things happen. The Lord is always present with goodness. Saint Agatha, pray for us. And Mom, I love you.