In the package, there was a note from the editor asking if I would be willing to contribute again. Well you don't have to ask me twice. Not sure if they will like it, but here's what I am sending them. Keep your fingers crossed.
There is nothing worse than going through cancer treatment, except perhaps watching someone you love dearly go through it. Cancer wreaks havoc on your world, and takes your entire family on an unpredictable roller coaster ride. So what happens when you encounter both scenarios at once? Well, the answer might surprise you.
I was 34 when I was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer. Up until that time, we had no family history with the disease. Needless to say, it shocked everyone we knew. Being the first person in my close network going through this was daunting and traumatic. I was blessed to have an amazing support system: an awesome husband, amazing friends and family, but possibly most importantly, my wonderful mother.
Mom was an integral part of my cancer journey. She did what mothers do, not matter how old their babies are. She stood by me as I navigated side effects, cooked whatever foods I could tolerate, helped keep life normal for my 2 year old son, and went to many of my appointments. Her support was unwavering. And because she was my mother, she was one of the few people who knew the whole story. She saw everything I went through: the brutal truth. When I would say to others "oh, I'm doing ok", she knew what was really going on behind the scenes.
You might imagine my horror when she was also diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after I finished chemo, and was halfway through radiation. It broke my heart, and filled me with guilt. Knowing that she knew exactly what she was now facing in graphic detail made me feel terrible. It didn't seem fair that one family should have to endure so much, especially in such a short time frame. Wasn't one of us enough? I thought to myself, "if you only get what you can handle, than someone must think very highly of us and our strength". To be honest, I would have preferred not to have received such a compliment.
But in time, I realized a few things. Yes, she knew the bad and the ugly of cancer treatment, but she also knew she could handle it because I did. I believe she learned a lot by watching me. She might still encounter bizarre chemo side effects, but she will know what to do about them because she worked with me as I figured it out how to manage them. She is prepared, and although she is not looking forward to her journey, she knows like anything else in life, there are gems to be found if you look hard enough. Although it seemed a little bit backwards for her to be asking me what to expect, it is special for me to be able to guide her through this. So what if it redefined the typical mother-daughter dynamic? Who said roles had to stay traditional? We are a family, and we support each other no matter the challenges. Just as we got through my treatment together, we will do so with hers as well.
We were lucky enough to have a wonderful relationship before cancer. Now we can keep each other company in this crazy club. And I realized that she found hers early because of me. She gave me life, and I just may have saved hers. There is no sweeter blessing than that!