Thanks for sharing your mom's story. It is my hope that when my children are grown, they admire and respect me as much as you do your mom!
Below is a survivor story about my mom, Claire B., who survived Stage 3 breast cancer.
I had just brought in groceries when my mother called with the news. Her results were in and the word benign was not part of them. The words floated around and I tried to grab a hold of them, unscramble what I was hearing and have it say something else. But there was no way to make the words malignant and mastectomy into anything but total emotional chaos. At the time I had no way of knowing that the mastectomy was going to be the easy part and that my mother, who had never even driven a car, was about to become a warrior in the biggest fight of her life—a fight for her life.
A few weeks later I had just come back from the beach when my sister called with the news. My mother, our mother, had Stage III breast cancer which had also invaded her lymph nodes. I was numb; I was scared; I was 39 years old and didn’t even know what a node did, let alone what happened when they were gone. I had a lot to learn.
What I soon learned was that my mother, the same woman who buttered my waffles when I was a kid and made meatloaf every Monday, may have lost a breast and a bunch of nodes, but she’d gained a huge set of…pardon the expression…cojones. She braved the chemo, the nausea and fatigue; she held her head high as she came to terms with the altered state of her body and knew radiation might give her the likes of a bad sunburn...without a day at the beach. Her breast was gone and her hair soon followed. As it clumped on her clothes and pillows she made the call—shave it off. We were nervous; it was surreal; for all the times I’d wanted revenge for the bad bang trims she’d given me, I’d never imagined shaving my mother’s head. With the first pass of the razor, we were giggling and rubbing her peachy soft head as if it were a magic lamp and a genie might pop out of her ear. There was no doubt what our three wishes might be and her laughter and courage to walk out of the bathroom bald left me in awe. My mom had yet again managed to be there for me, when it should have been the other way around.
Chemo and radiation not only sought out any remaining cancer cells but it infused her with a strength I’d never known she had. She didn’t shrink from life; she donned her wig and was right where she always was…front and center as part of the foundation that supported and held our family together. Watching my mom fight bravely and selflessly through chemo and radiation showed me something else as well. It gave me a real life glimpse of unconditional love and marriage. My father and mother went through the cancer together; without hesitation; without reservation, they faced it—together. Bald head, one breast and green from nausea, my mother was still the most beautiful woman I’d ever known and I could see the reflection of that in my father. Every time he drove her to and sat through an appointment; when he told her to leave the wig off at home and when he ate soup for dinner because it was all she could stomach, I saw love in its most important form…selfless support and acceptance.
It’s been almost two years since my mother was given the beautiful title of “Survivor in Remission.” It was a title I’d never even heard of nor would ever have wanted to, but when it came to my mother’s brave battle against breast cancer, it was like a Purple Heart, Oscar, Emmy, Golden Globe and being crowned the Queen of England all rolled into one. It was life being allowed to go on with her in it; it was more time for my kids to be with their Me-Mom; my Dad to be with his wife and more time for all of us to spend with this amazing woman whose hard yet elegantly fought battle with breast cancer left us in awe of her strength and resilience. Along with being a wife, mother, grandmother and friend, she is now a “Survivor in Remission.” With her battle scars fading across her chest, her arm wrapped tight against the lymphedema, and her beautiful salt and pepper hair back on her head…my mom is not only a survivor, she is also the greatest heroine of any story, real or imagined, that I’ve ever heard.