To My Mom as She Battles Breast Cancer


Image source: Serge Bielanko Private

Hey Mom,

I’m sitting here writing at my kitchen table, and the thing that keeps occurring to me is this: summer was really a sucky time for you to be battling breast cancer. You should have been getting ready to hit the beach, maybe taking that trip to the amusement park with the kids we’ve been talking about for the last year.

Then it hits me. You’re all right. You’re a few months into being told that you have breast cancer and it has been the scariest, strangest time I think any of us can remember. Yet, your prognosis is so good.

They caught it early.

They think they got it all during the operation.

It hasn’t spread to your lymph nodes. 

You probably won’t need chemo. 

You and me, we’ve sat on your porch drinking coffee in the buzz of the humming birds, talking about luck, and second chances, and blah, blah, blah.

Whatever.

This still scared the sh*t out of me, Mom.

Some people have moms who aren’t involved in their lives. They don’t hang out with their grandkids too often — never going out of their way to take them for an entire day, and especially not overnight. But not me.

Your presence in my life, in my kids’ lives has been indescribable. So even though I knew we had to be brave or courageous or whatever brand of modern self-help you want to hashtag into the picture here, the truth is: I was more scared than anything at first. And I know you had to have been more scared than me.

You talked of how scary this all has been for you, Mom, and I think that’s what has moved me the most.

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Communicating with each other has been difficult from the moment you called me to say the doctors “found something.” The patients, friends, and loved ones that are impacted by breast cancer have so much they want to say to each other. But the fear of admitting how we’re feeling stops us from saying what we want to say. I get scared to talk about how much you mean to me. I get too freaked out to allow myself the heavy luxury of knowing how powerful your presence has been in our lives thus far.

Because breast cancer often hints, or screams, as it may be, at these other possibilities. And they’re impossible to wrap our heads around. So we turn away from all of that and pull ourselves together the best we can.

We talk of “beating it.” We talk of “doing what you’ve got to do.” We talk of tomorrow because it seems like the right thing to do. We smile nervously as we pump each other up for whatever lies ahead because that’s what we’re supposed to do. What else can we say? It’s okay to be terrified, but let’s not dwell on it, you know?

Or maybe not.

I don’t know.

You talked of how scary this all has been for you, Mom, and I think that’s what has moved me the most. You spoke about your own fear so that the rest of us didn’t have to speak about ours. You talked about your nerves, your apprehensions, and your pounding heart so that we could all address our own without uttering much about it.

That makes me smile as I begin to get it now.

I saw how you made sure that even though you were scared, you let us know it was okay to feel that way, by admitting that you were afraid and that you didn’t want to die. We’ve all learned so much from you and from this experience. I’m glad to say I know you’re going to beat this — and I’m pretty sure you know it, too.

I love you, Mom.

We all do.

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