I’m not sure how this is going to come out and I’m not sure if I will be able to convey how I feel right now, but bear with me while I try. Tonight I went to a breast cancer survivor dinner with my mom. If you didn’t know, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer May 18th of this year. She had a lumpectomy followed by six weeks of radiation therapy and now she has five years of hormonal therapy ahead of her. That being said, physically, her treatment wasn’t the worst it could have been. Yes, she has scars, yes, she was tired during radiation and yes, she has been poked and prodded in almost every way imaginable, but the hardest part about this for her and for me was more on an emotional level. To be honest, I have a hard time even writing this without crying.
My mom has always been the strongest woman I know. But when she got that horrible diagnosis, something changed. For a while there I really felt like we were living in a nightmare and that things would never get better. She was ashamed and felt completely scared, lost and broken. At one point she said to me “Raechel, I feel like my body has just let me down” this coming from a woman who has always been very healthy and has always taken great pride in taking care of herself. She also didn’t want to be seen as a victim or as someone that was sick. So admitting to people that she had cancer was almost unbearable to her.
However, tonight was a different side to breast cancer than I have ever seen. It literally took my breath away. First of all, there were so many women there at all stages of breast cancer, of all ethnicities and of all ages. It was shocking for me to see women there who were younger than me. They all seemed so strong as they discussed their diagnoses, their treatments and who their doctors were. It was hard to believe that they had all once felt like my mom had or that my mom had even once felt weak because of breast cancer. Tonight gave me a chance to listen to other people’s stories, but to also reflect on my mom’s story. I thought about May 18th and I am proud at how far she has come.
What I realized, was that when you have something like this happen to you and you survive, you come out stronger than you were to begin with. If I thought my mom was the strongest woman in the world before, now she has super human strength times ten. As one of the speakers said tonight, breast cancer does not take away your pride or your spirit. It can’t take away your relationships or your memories, it only makes them stronger. For the first time my mom and I dealt with her breast cancer without sitting in a cold and sterile exam room and it was a nice change to say the least.
Breast cancer or any cancer diagnosis that you survive gives you a whole new lease on life. It no longer matters quite so much how much money you have, how successful you are or even what you do for a living. What really matters are your relationships and how you cherish the people around you. What matters is how you live life and how you enjoy every minute of every day.
In ending I want to share a piece of advice my mom so often gives me. As I’m in hurry or I’m wishing the week would end so that I can enjoy my weekend, my mom will say, “Don’t wish time away and don’t rush through life.” How true is that?
Photo credit: Copyrighted by Bobbie Peachey, http://webclipart.about.com