My world stopped. My heart froze. The pain was unbearable. Even though my intuition had told me this was coming, it didn't soften the blow. Instead, it amplified it.
My Mom's Breast Cancer was back.
It was a warm night in early July. We were at my parent's house; me and my family, my brother and his family, and my sister and her family. Having a family barbecue and swimming in the pool. All the cousins playing and laughing together. We ate a yummy dinner, and my husband was getting ready to leave (he had something he needed to get done at home) when my Mom asked him to hold up a minute. The kids had all jumped back into the pool, monitored by my sister in law's youngest sister. My younger brother and sister and I, along with our spouses, listened as my Mom told us that her cancer had returned.
We had only lost my Grandpa, my mom's dad, a couple of weeks earlier. We had been through the wringer of his death, his funeral, and then celebrating my Grandmother's 80th birthday. So many varied emotions, stress, and strain. My mom had been feeling tired and not quite right for awhile, but after my Grandpa's death decided to make a doctor's appointment. The results, devastating in diagnosis, throwing my newly retired parents and the rest of our family into emotional panic.
We cried. The first thing my sister said was "I promise to be nice to you this time!". My brother and I broke down and sobbed, my husband too stunned to react, and my sister in law Brenda held me up as I completely broke down. Was I going to lose my mother? Please, God, don't take my mother. I still need her.
The first time my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was 20 years old. I had been married about 1 1/2 years, and was in school. She and my dad stopped by our house in the evening, and told Cole and I that she had cancer. I think I was stunned, it's kind of a blur. I do remember totally bombing a test the next morning, yelling at my professor about it, and then breaking down in front of my entire respiratory class. I remember the day my mom had her mastectomy so clearly....but I was 20 years old, trying to graduate with my degree. My grandma took my mom to her chemo. My mom didn't even lose her hair, and her cancer was so small I didn't even doubt that she would beat it. I'm not sure I gave her cancer diagnosis the importance it probably deserved. I did learn to appreciate my Mom even more. There's nothing quite like being slapped in the face with your parent's mortality to wake you up to how much you need and appreciate them. Looking back on it now, I was so young. I wasn't a mother yet, I was just barely a wife. I had no idea of the scope of what we were facing. It ended up being so easy, Mom did 6 months of chemo, and we were in the clear.
It was too easy, I guess.
How do you tell your children that their beloved Nana has cancer? How do you explain to your 5 year old what cancer is, and what it can do? My children actually handled things really well. The boys asked all the right questions, and Talia understood appropriately for her age. We explained some of the changes that might occur...Nana would lose her hair, be tired, and not feel very good sometimes. These things were of no matter to my children. Those physical things don't really change anything, it's still Nana.
I wish I could say I dealt with it as well as my children.
The anger, the betrayal, and the hurt I felt consumed me. If I went anywhere alone in my car, I sobbed the entire time. Really, any time I was alone I sobbed or raged. I continued running, and my runs let me temporarily purge emotions so that I could hold it together for everyone around me...my husband, my kids. I needed to be positive for my Mom, my brother and sister, my dad, my grandma, my aunts. I didn't want one ounce of the negative emotions I was feeling to touch on my mom, or hinder her ability to fight the cancer as hard as possible. She asked me if I believed she could beat it again. I did, and I told her so. Without a doubt.
That didn't stop my anger, though. I've been so very angry with my Heavenly Father for putting her through this again. So very fearful about the possibility of losing my mother (even though I refused to believe it). Being a mother, as well as 15 years older made it hit me so much harder. After all, I was only 5 years younger than my Mom was the first time she was diagnosed. Thinking of my children facing the emotions that I was feeling is unbearable. Knowing my Mom was feeling the same way, watching her children deal with the situation. My children hit some pretty important milestones this year. I was feeling bittersweet about that anyway, but add my mom's cancer into the mix, and the emotional turmoil was almost too much to bear.
"Will she be there to see Kyle and Alec go on a missions?" "Get married?" "What if she's not there when Talia gets married?" "When she has her babies?"
I still need my mother. We all still need my mother.
Anger is an emotion given to us for a purpose. Anger can be used for good or bad, and we get to choose. I've been angry before. It's hard to admit you're angry with God, but once I was able to do that, I had a realization. Just because I'm angry doesn't mean I don't believe. I've been angry at my earthly parents in my life, but that didn't make me throw away everything they've ever taught me. Being angry with my Heavenly Father is the same.
I rode out the cycle of anger, fear, and sadness. It took it's toll on my body and soul. I had many friends who were willing to listen to me rage, let me cry on their shoulders, and just be there for me. Mom went through the cycles of treatment, lost her hair, dealt with side effects. Yet throughout it all, we all felt the prayers of the many people who were praying for her. It helped.
My mom had a repeat PET scan on December 26th. A week later, at her chemo appointment, we got the fantastic news that the scan shows no signs of cancer left in her body. I fell to my knees, sobbing, thanking God for not taking her yet. My anger not yet fully dissipated, however, that didn't stop me from thanking Him for the amazing blessing of no cancer.
I still have a lot of mixed emotions about all this. I probably always will. I've accepted that my mom will battle cancer for the rest of her life, but I'm feeling very positive that it will be a long and full life.