*Tears were shed in the writing of this post*
“Good night. I love you. Sleep well. Have pleasant dreams and I’ll see you in the morning.” That is what I hear every night from my mom before I go to bed.
Bad things happen to good people. That is something everyone unfortunately learns at some point in his or her life. It is how you react, how you grow, and what you learn from those bad things, which define you as a person. The bad thing in my life is my mom’s cancer diagnosis. In the past five years since her original diagnosis with cancer, I have evolved as a person. I have reacted, grown, and learned.
I keep a lot in. I know my dad and brother do as well. I feel an obligation to be strong. After all, I am not the one going through treatment. Family members of loved ones living with cancer, especially the immediate family, have many emotions and inner struggles they do not reveal. It might be difficult to swallow some of this post, but I ask you to place yourself in my shoes.
I was with my mom when she was diagnosed with cancer. I was fifteen. I remember her calling my dad and telling him, but the rest of that day is a blur. I remember watching TV, but not actually watching TV. I remember my mom saying not to cry yet; we don’t know what stage the cancer is. I remember my mom typing an email to her family, pushing her chair back, looking at me and crying, “I don’t want to go through this.” That was the first time I hugged my mom while she cried about cancer.
My sophomore year of high school was a roller coaster. High school is a roller coaster by itself and adding on my mom being sick was a lot for me to handle.
I sobbed when my dad shaved my mom’s hair. I get my curls from her.
I cried when no one was around. Would my mom see me get my driver’s license? Go to prom? Get accepted to college? Graduate high school? Those questions sent me spiraling into tears.
I pushed friends away. They did not understand what I was dealing with.
I threw myself into my academics. That was one thing my parents did not have to worry about.
During the years my mom was cancer free, my mom truly became my best friend. We tell each other absolutely everything. We are open with each other. We are honest with each other. We gossip together. During those years, I got my license, went to prom, got into GW, and graduated in the top of my class. And my mom saw it all.
The worst fear of someone whose loved one has cancer is there will be a reoccurrence.
After only a few weeks of moving to DC and attending GW, my mom texted me saying to call her. My mom took a deep breath and told me the cancer returned. I felt my entire eighteen-year-old body crumble as I sank to the floor. I started crying. I was in shock. I asked what stage the cancer was; she said stage IV. I knew what stage IV meant… no cure with an average life expectancy of 26 months. I was sobbing. I heard my dad telling me it would be ok, I did not need to come home, and he would take of my mom. I wanted to be home so bad. My mom was always on mind. I learned the best place to cry in college is in the shower, or when your roommate(s) are not in the room or sleeping. My emotions were all over the place. I cried that my mom might not see me graduate, she probably will not see me get married, and she probably will not spoil her grandchildren at Disney World.
My freshman year I truly reacted, grew, and learned from a really bad thing.
This last year, my sophomore year, I was in a great place. Academically I was excelling, I had amazing internships, and I ran around DC with my incredible friends. They make me laugh and smile, but also know I have my days. Even when I cannot explain what I am going through, they still love me through it all. They are my shoulders to cry on. And those tears keep on coming. I still worry. I still cry. I call my mom a lot while at school and if it is not a call, it is a text. Like I said before, my mom is my best friend and I cannot imagine a day where I cannot talk to her.
As much as I would love to have stayed in DC this summer or have gone to New York for an internship, I am content being home with my mom. Sometimes I feel like a mom. Driving my mom to Dana-Farber or just to run errands, picking my brother up at school, getting lunch together for my mom, or hugging my mom when she cries; simply put, being a caregiver. Time with my mom is precious. I enjoy just sitting on the couch a foot away from her while she sleeps (exhausted from the chemo). Some mornings I climb into bed with my mom and Wally and we just talk. When my mom feels well we both enjoy a little retail therapy. I have learned to enjoy the little things with my mom. (The big things, like our upcoming vacation, do not hurt either!)
During the moments when reality hits, it really hurts. My mom is going to die from this disease and we do not know how much time she has. Her last treatment stopped working and she is back on chemotherapy. My family does not know how she will respond this time or if it is going to work. I am doing my best to be there for my dad and brother. When people ask me how I am doing, I shrug and say fine, but truthfully I am scared and I hate how this is happening to my family.
I get sad when I think of planning my wedding or raising children without my own mom. Reality hurts. The silver linings help. I get to have the strongest relationship with my mom, we get to travel together, and we say I love you a little more. I get to promise her everyone will celebrate her life. We really do live, laugh, and love everyday.
Every night I get to say, “Good night” and “I love you” to my mom. To which she responds, “Good night. I love you. Sleep well. Have pleasant dreams and I’ll see you in the morning.”
I cannot imagine a night where we cannot say, “I love you” or a morning when I wake up and my mom does not.