I'll never forget the day dad told us, "Your mommy is sick and we need to help her get better."
I will never forget where I was when my dad told my sister and I that mom had breast cancer. I liked to crawl out onto the porch roof from my bedroom window and I was sitting on the hot roof tiles and he was leaning out to talk to me. When it's your mom who has breast cancer your world stands still.
No Matter Your Age, You Act Strong For Mom
Mom was a pretty solid, self assured woman. I marveled at her strength in the face of this disease, but at times she could be downright scary with her intensity and bluntness. When I heard her crying in her bedroom right across the hall from mine, I knew this was different for all of us. I decided to be brave even though I had no idea what I was going to be brave about at the time. Everyone has their own way of dealing with illness and mom's way was to deal with it head on.
My Mom the Survivor, My Hero
After that first night when I heard my mom crying about her situation I don't think I ever heard or saw her cry again. Sometimes I wish she would have because then I could have too, but she never did. She was a nurse and had seen her share of the side effects of chemotherapy and had decided this was not for her. So although the cancerous lump was small enough that she could have had a lumpectomy with follow up chemotherapy, she chose the more radical solution.
Personal Choice Dealing With Breast Cancer
Mom decided to have a full mastectomy which a lot of people didn't understand. My older sister especially, could not understand why mom would want the surgeons to take the whole breast if it wasn't necessary. However, mom taught us all during this time that there were decisions that you had to make after you were certain you had all the facts, and what was right for you might not be right for someone else.
Recovery From Breast Cancer, A Family Affair
The recovery back then (about twenty years now) was a bit more difficult than now. I heard her cry again a couple of times afterwards as she struggled to get used to her new shape but still she never complained. She told us all why she was opting to not have breast reconstruction (again a personal choice that many disagreed with) and she also told us it was her body and her choice, a philosophy I believe in still to this day.
Lessons of Surviving Mom's Breast Cancer
What I learned most by watching my mom go through this healing process from breast cancer was the strength that one person can have when they make up their mind to do something their way. I learned that getting the facts and then talking to your doctor was all well and good, but that the final decision was the patient's (the doctors didn't want my mom to have the mastectomy either). I learned that life is not always fair, but you just have to deal with the hand you are dealt with dignity and grace, lessons I would have to apply to my own life.