My mom didn’t want me to see her struggle through treatment, but she was glad I was home. She didn’t have the energy or memory she used to, lost her hair, and felt overwhelmed trying to keep track of what her next steps in treatment would mean.
After treatment was over, I remember her telling me, “I am happy you were at college and not at home during this time. I hope that you were able to have fun and not be troubled.” Referring to when I went back to school that following Fall.
It was interesting because even though she was glad I wasn’t at home for the entire time, being home versus 3.5 hours away back at school helped me to regain focus. At school, my mind was on other things, and with friends constantly in my dorm, I didn’t have any alone time to concentrate. Back home, I could get more time with my thoughts, and being with my mom during this time gave me one less thing to wonder about.
Those months at home would remind me to work harder than ever before. The two classes I struggled to keep up with started feeling a little easier at home. It didn’t make much sense, but I could finally breathe again during this time. Still, being at home came with its struggles too.
Just a Call Away
There was an invisible line between wanting to help and not wanting to make my mom feel like a burden. I tried to find subtle ways to help by doing little things like grabbing stuff when she didn’t feel like it or answering questions when she had trouble recalling things. Her trouble remembering things continued as treatment progressed, and when I returned to college, these questions came in the form of phone calls.
I’ll never forget her calling me one day at school, “I don’t want to look it up because I’ve been trying to remember on my own, but it’s been days. What’s that boy band called? They are British, and we’re really big. They got famous on one of those singing shows.”
I tried not to giggle when I told her it was One Direction. The medications made it hard for her to remember stuff like that, and even though it wasn’t an important detail to remember when she got the memory back, I could feel the warmth of her smile through the other end of the line.
A couple of weeks later, she would call to ask, “who is the guy that sings Starboy?” and I would have to tell her it was the Weeknd, except this time, the giggle would escape.
It would have been easy for her to find the answers online. But she always looked to me to answer them, which was a light-hearted way of starting a conversation amidst the chaos.
You tend to have many questions when you find out someone you love has breast cancer. When you’re related to them, one of those questions becomes, what if it’s genetic? Thankfully, my mother’s cancer wasn’t, but this experience taught me the importance of paying attention to your body. My mom is an excellent example of this. If she notices anything different, no matter how scary, she doesn’t blow it off and makes an appointment to see her doctor. I am continuously taking steps to prioritize my health and get regular check-ups, but I can always be better. I look forward to finding new ways to be proactive when it comes to my health and hope to encourage others to do so as well.