For My Mom: To the Moon and Back
Cancer is not sudden or quick. It does not happen overnight, but rather it eats away at you over time. It also does not just affect its host; it affects everyone within range. For me, cancer was just another aspect of life. My mom was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer when I was just two years old and would later be diagnosed with stage four. She passed away September 30, 2017. I still think about her every single day, and although I no longer directly face cancer, it is still impacting me.
I never knew a life where my mom didn’t have cancer, although there were those few good and short years in between diagnoses. Learning of a diagnosis was heartbreaking but not surprising; we knew it wasn’t going away. One time that sticks out in my mind was after a swim lesson when my mom revealed she had stage four breast cancer. I was still in elementary school and I did not completely understand the gravity of the situation, but I remember an overwhelming feeling of dread. As I got older, I learned that stage four breast cancer was terminal. Some might think that having time to process death makes it easier to come to terms with, but it doesn’t. Obviously growing up with cancer lingering in the background is not expected to be easy, but I resent the innocence it stole from me. It is weird for me to think that some kids didn’t spend countless hours in hospitals or have cabinets full of medication. Not everyone had hospital beds, wheelchairs, and oxygen tanks in their home. However, these things were just a part of the routine. I feel that I stood out from other kids my age because I knew no one else who had experienced the things I had. I felt stressed and helpless, forced to grow up early, when I should have been young and carefree. I remember my mom fainting at a volleyball practice and how my world stopped. Once everyone was cleared out, the two of us laid alone on the floor while we waited for the ambulance to arrive. “Why us?” I thought, “why did we deserve this?” In reality, it is not about what you deserve but rather how you persevere. Cancer does not care who you are or what you have done. We prefer not to say that she lost her battle, but that her body gave up. She was a fighter through and through and definitely the last person who deserved it. When she passed, I felt so alone. Suddenly, my dad was faced with the challenge of being a single parent while I was left to figure things out without a mother figure. It was impossible to accept that she was actually gone. I would come home and expect my mom to be there. At games I would look up at my dad and see him on his phone and my first instinct was that he was updating her on the score. Coming to the realization that she was gone meant reliving the emotions over and over. Losing a parent affected me in more ways than I could have expected. It’s hard to realize how big of an impact one person has and all the little things they do in your life until they are not there.
One of the strongest emotions I feel is regret. I was afraid of getting close to my mom, and being young I did not understand as well as I do now, that I pushed her away because it was too much for me to handle. I wish I had been able to see the bigger picture and push past my own fears because it was not about me. I regret that I did not spend every second with the most amazing woman I have ever met just because it hurt me to see her in pain. I resented seeing the wisps of uneven hair where beautiful curls had once been. I was angry that I had to assist her with everything when she used to be the symbol of strength and energy, and I was annoyed that she was irritable because of all the medicine when she used to beam with light and positivity. I regret letting her think I was embarrassed by her. I regret not spending enough time with her and learning everything about her. I wish she could teach me everything she knew, but I was at an age where I was set in making my own opinions and being independent. I should have said “I love you” more and spent more time making memories. I wish I would have asked for more help with sports and made sure she wrote down all her recipes. Overall, I regret that I can not change any of these things.
Cancer flipped my life upside down causing emotions like anger, regret, and sadness while also leaving me with a mom shaped hole in my heart. I cannot help but wonder about the things I am going to miss out on, like having my mom at my graduation or my wedding. Despite all the negatives, cancer has taught me to enjoy what I have and take nothing for granted. I have learned that every moment matters. I will continue to miss my mom everyday but I am beyond grateful for the time I had with her. I know she would prefer to be celebrated instead of mourned so I do my absolute best to honor her and make her proud every day.
Mom, I will always love you to the moon and back.