I had a knot in my stomach as I walked into the hospital, and looked around for the room where my mom was having her chemotherapy treatments. I was planning to sit with her for the last two hours, just a portion of the time she had to sit there being injected with drugs that would hopefully ensure that no more cancer would spread through her body.
I remember the day in 2009 when my dad called me to tell me that they had discovered my mom had breast cancer…again. I remember the music playing in the background as my son was watching his Baby Einstein video. Even today, when I hear that music I develop a slight lump in my throat. I have to admit – the news that she was facing breast cancer for a second time was devastating and scary. She was only 32 when she received her first diagnosis of breast cancer, and endured several surgeries to ensure it was gone. Her mother (my grandmother) died of breast cancer when my mom was 24 and pregnant with my younger brother; I was almost 2. Her father (my grandfather) died of brain cancer when I was 16.
Haven’t we already had enough cancer in this family? And why would my mom have it again 28 years later? I was angry and scared. I was only 8 years old when my mom had her first bout with cancer. That is a very terrifying word for a child. And it was scary to watch the adults around me fall apart at the news…. my dad, my grandfather, and my parents’ friends. But back then, it truly was alarming as breast cancer was not as easily detected or treated, like it is today.
The day I went to sit with my mom for one of her last chemo treatments, I came in feeling sad, but I left feeling proud of my mom. I had already been proud of her for being so positive and encouraging to us. I had been proud of her for memorizing Psalm 91, and quoting it when she felt uneasy. But I was most proud of her for an act of love that is embedded in my memory. After her treatment was completed for that day, she, my dad, and I started walking down a hallway leading to the parking garage. There was a lady standing in the hallway, quietly crying as she faced the wall. She wore a red wig. I remembered seeing her earlier as she talked with a nurse and filled out paperwork. She had been disappointed when the nurse told her how long she needed to be there that day. “How am I supposed to handle my job too? I have to get back to work today”. And so a bit later we saw her out in the hall crying. As we walked past her, my dad and I both looked at my mom. “Maybe you should talk to her”, my dad said. So my mom did. From a distance my dad and I waited, but saw them talking, and my mom hugged her and told her, “it gets easier”.
My mother literally stepped out of her own pain and difficult circumstances to encourage someone else. And because she chose to do that, I believe the woman found a much-needed glimpse of hope that day.
If my mom had not displayed such trust in God, and had not reached out to so many people during her own trial, I think I would have remained scared during the whole ordeal. She endured surgery, radiation, and chemo….and she somehow found the strength to laugh, love, and encourage other people. And so she gave me the gift of hope in the face of the unknown.
I think it’s safe to say that how we handle a difficult journey and the attitude we choose while going through it will have an impact on how those around us will handle it. I pray I can be that same example to my boys when we face future heartbreaks, which are just inevitable in life.
Thank you mom! I love you.
Mom – just after finding about her cancer recurrence, and then a few months after her treatment (cancer-free!)