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Breast Cancer: A Journey

May 01, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 146

I feel like it is necessary before I begin telling you about this journey to explain what a strong bond my mom and I share. Ever since I can remember my mom has been my best friend. She is the person I go to for guidance, support, love, and friendship. I remember her always knowing the right thing to say to make my tears stop or to give me that extra push I needed to do something I wouldn't normally do on my own. Even through my teen years we had very few fights. I remember other girls my age saying they hated their mother and saying mean things like they wished she would just leave them alone etc. I never felt that way. Even when we did disagree it never lasted long and I always knew she was still there for me. My mother shaped the woman I am today, without her there is no telling where or who I would be. She is my best friend and I wouldn't trade that for anything.

Ever since I can remember, I was a nervous, guarded kid. I didn't want to be at the front of the line or at the back. I didn't want to be the star in the school play, I only wanted to have my two or three lines. I was never a bad kid, just not an overacheiver either. I took the middle path in every decision I made in life and still do today.

I can not tell you the exact date my great-aunt got diagnosed with breast cancer. I can tell you it was somewhere around the same time as my parents divorce. Looking back on this it is a testament to what a strong person my mother truly is. I can tell you I remember clear as day the day my great-aunt lost her battle with breast cancer. My mom was in her bedroom, it must have been a Saturday because we were still in our pajamas. I was playing in my bedroom, right across the hall from hers, with overwhelming collection of stuffed animals and Barbie dolls. The phone rang, and I knew it was my grandmother, shortly after my mom hung up I heard her crying. I went into her room and asked her what was wrong. After this my memory goes fuzzy. I know that she basically told me what had happened, and I'm sure it was in the nicest, most sheltering way possible since this is how my mom always approached me with adult subjects. Even though I can't recall her words I can recall the sinking feeling I had in the pit of my stomach. I remember not fully understanding what was going on, but knowing that if my mom was crying it couldn't be good because my mom rarely cried.

My great-aunt was the first relative to pass away that I had regular contact with. She was my grandfather's, my mother's father, sister. She would take me to my dance practices and was at my grandmother's house frequently. I don't think I could define death to you before this other than when someone goes to heaven. At least I'm pretty sure my seven-year old mind couldn't wrap itself around the concept of death at that time. It was a scary thing to me that one day everyone you loved so much could just be gone, honestly death still scares me a little. Life went on though. Things settled down again and went back to normal.

I seem to always have everything together, at least I like to think that's the image I portray, but I almost always have some fear running through my mind. Even the littlest things, am I going to trip down these stairs, does this match, what if this transfer truck comes into my lane. I know this sounds like things everyone worries about, but if you suffer from anxiety you understand how life or death these small what if's seem. I handle it pretty well, without any medication might I add. I don't have panic attacks too often, and I can normally talk myself down before it reaches that point. In my twenty-one years I have mastered keeping my composure even if my insides are crying and screaming. On a warm day in August of last year, I didn't hold it together, and I did cry and sob and get angry out loud and I wasn't too concerned about who saw.

My mom asked me to come to the doctor with her for her first mammogram. She said she had turned forty the prior year and needed to start having them since we have a history in our family. She wanted me to go for moral support, is what she told me. My mom understands my anxiety, she knows that I have always lived with it, which is why she didn't tell me the real reason we were there until we were about to walk in the door. I was pretty upset with her about this, but at that point her not telling me before was the least of my concerns. She had found a lump in her breast several weeks before. She had been to her OBGYN and that's who sent her to get a mammogram. Well that day we had no answers. Only that they would call us, which only made my anxiety skyrocket, patience is not a trait I possess. I think it was around two weeks later they gave her a second appointment to come back in. My mom had already told me several times she felt like it was cancer, this didn't help my anxiety. And then since we were going back in for a second appointment I felt like something was very wrong.

The day we went to get the results of the biopsy I felt like I was going to throw up and faint and have a nervous breakdown all at the same time. Walking through the doctor's office was so surreal. You are in this beautiful building with this huge rock waterfall beautifully cascading down from the top-level hall to the waiting room below. In the waiting room, that could almost pass as a ballroom there is a woman playing a grand piano. The purple and green color scheme is not to my liking, but I get what they were trying to go for. My mom and I try to laugh and keep the mood light. They call us back and put us in this very small room. There is a couch and two chairs and a coffee table and an armoire all crammed into this tiny room, which is only upping my stress level. There is a box of tissues in every place possible. The doctors come in, a man and a woman. He sits down and blatantly says it's cancer.

I am holding my composure rather well at this point and surprisingly so is my mom. I listen to him as he talks about the type of cancer it is and that its some sort of receptor positive which is in our favor, most of his words however sound like Charlie Brown's teacher, whomp whomp whomp whomp. I am going into this fog. I'm in no mans land holding my moms hand. I am feeling like a child again, if I just be really still the monster won't see me and will leave. Now the man doctor leaves and the lady comes to sit in the chair directly across from us. Her words are also mostly gibberish to me. I am going to lose my mom, I repeat over and over in my head. Suddenly the lady turns to me and says now how old are you. I stare at her blankly, my voice cracks as I try to answer her - "twe- twenty" - I am sobbing. In front of this complete stranger. I cry so hard I can hardly breath, I am now hyperventilating in front of a complete stranger - anxiety not under control.

She gives my mom a bag full of all things breast cancer, complete with a little stuffed bear. She excuses herself and tells us to take all the time we need. My mom is still holding my hand she hugs me and tells me everything will be fine. Am I not supposed to be saying that to her? I really couldn't tell you how long we were in that room for, but once I pulled myself together I was ready to leave. I wanted to run away from everything. I wanted this to be a dream that if I pinched myself hard enough I would wake up from. My mom was my everything, even at the age of twenty I depended on her for so much. How would I go on without her.

I basically shut down. I was so nervous and anxious all the time. Every doctors appointment was like I was about to go sky diving without a parachute. I didn't even go with my mom to tell my grandparents, mainly due to the fact that I knew my grandmother would be more hysterical than I was. I knew this certainly wouldn't help the situation. My boyfriend of two years, whose mother passed away form lung cancer when he was eighteen, was supportive and comforting, but I would still snap at him over the littlest things. I would cry for no reason and in the next minute be angry for no reason. I wanted to say "God, why are you doing this to us, to me?", but my strong Christian upbringing told me that was the wrong reaction. Every one kept telling me to pray, and I did. I begged and pleaded with God to cure my mom. Praying still doesn't change what's happening around you in that moment though.

My mom got very sick on the chemo. She lost her hair; she actually had it shaved when it started falling out. She began to look a strange pale gray color all the time. She would go days without eating anything. I would force her to eat popsicles and drink Gatorade. She would vomit constantly, day after day. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to go through, watching someone you love and care for so much become so miserable and there is absolutely nothing you can do.

Which is another battle I had in my head. My mom told me to go out and have fun, but when I did I felt guilty for leaving her there by herself. What if something happened and she couldn't get to the phone or to medicine she needed. I would carry that weight on my shoulders forever. I did still go do things, but I made sure to spend more time with her.

A little more than half way through her chemo she became really sick with flu-like symptoms. She is a strong independent person, and this is something I love about her, but with cancer this was her biggest downfall. She wouldn't tell anyone how bad she really felt. She would act fine, until this one day she could barely stand up. She drove herself home from work - she worked through all of this, only taking off days when she absolutely had to - and made it to our house before getting sick. I rushed home from work got her stuff and her and we drove straight to the E.R.. I again was trying to control my thoughts, but all I could think was this is it you're about to lose your mom.

We got to the E.R. they took her straight back to her own little room for waiting, since she was a chemotherapy patient. She got sick several more times in here. She was shaking so bad it could almost have been mistaken for convulsing. This room was closing in on me. It was all I could do not to fling the door open and go tearing through that building out the front door screaming the whole way. If it were not for my mother sitting there looking helpless this is what I would have done. They finally took her back to see a doctor. They ran some tests, and eventually told us they would be admitting her. I stayed with her that night. I had to go to work the next day and I felt a tremendous amount of guilt leaving her even though my grandmother was there. All I could think at this point is please let this be over soon.

She was in the hospital for three days. If my anxiety was not about to boil over into a full nervous break down, complete with talking to myself and rocking back and forth with my knees pulled to my chest, before this it was pushing dangerously close to the edge now. I was one wrong step away from being strapped to a gurney myself and taken to the mental ward. I did my best to keep all this to myself. I knew my mom had enough to worry about, and I was supposed to be there to support her. But who was supporting me? My boyfriend did his best, and he was amazing through the whole thing, but sometimes its just not enough. And everyone else was focused on my mom, which is how I wanted it to be. I wanted everyone to do everything possible to make sure she beat this cancer, and that it never ever came back.

After chemotherapy was finished they told us the tumor had shrank a good deal. She had surgery to remove the rest of the cancer cells and some lymph nodes that were possibly cancerous. This was an intense day as well. I was worried about something going terribly wrong and her making it this far to then be suddenly ripped away from me. I sat in that waiting room for what seemed like a year. Even if me and my grandma had went to get doughnuts, my favorite food!, even if I had a TV, an iPhone, and a thousand magazines to flip through but not actually read a word. Again on the inside I was screaming. I was screaming at the nurse who made it clear she didn't want you to bother her, at the doctor who was taking entirely too long to do this surgery, at the other people waiting being loud and rude. I was screaming on the inside at myself too. I should have done this more with mom; I should have been there more for her; I wish I didn't have anxiety that kept me from being the strong support she needed.

After the surgery my mom stayed at my grandmother's house. One, so my grandmother could take care of her all day because I had to go to work and two because we have a small petting zoo (4 dogs 2 cats) at our house and they had to be kept away from her until her incision healed. When she went to have more tests done to see if the chemo-surgery combination was a success, I was so scared. I made myself sick thinking they were going to tell us we had to go through this all over again, that nothing was going to work, that my mom got sick and miserable for nothing and was still going to die. But they didn't say any of that. They said that as ar as tests could see the cancer was gone, that she was going to be fine.

She is still having to have radiation as a precaution. The radiation is almost done with now, and she has had no problems with it. I am truly grateful that my mom is still here and that she survived. This whole experience taught me that "even the best laid schemes of mice and men, often go awry" - Of Mice and Men. No matter how you picture your life going you never know what it has in store for you. No amount of worrying or wishing will change what is happening.

My anxiety is still with me. That is one thing that I don't think will ever change. I have to say that it is a daily challenge to keep it in check. I do however, try to live every day to its fullest. I try to be happy more often than not, and I try to see the glass half full. My mom still being here to share all of life's blessings with me is a gift from God, and I hope I never forget that.

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Source: EzineArticles
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