The Weight of a Tear

Written by: Emily M.
May 21, 2021

The Weight of a Tear

My mom was given a three percent survival rate. She was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer that had metastasized into her brain. The hundred thousand dollar equipment tried to calculate how many lesions she had in her brain but came up short with a simple error code: Innumerable. She couldn’t write her name, much less walk or understand what was going on around her. The doctors graciously gave her a week to live.

I remember when my dad broke the news to me I let out a long and ear piercing scream before I sprinted up the stairs to my room and started to sob. I realized those tears were the start of many moments spent crying over the next eight months.

Cancer is not just a disease of the body; it infects the joy of families and the normality of a person’s life. It seeks to destroy a life not just in a physical sense, but to destroy mental and emotional strength too. I cried more in eight months then I will cry in my lifetime; the constant aching of my emotions nested in my chest with every waking moment. Tears became more common than smiles or laughter in my life, and I realized that the weight of every tear was heavy.

My mom was going to pass away.

My mom was never going to see me graduate. My mom would never see me walk down the aisle towards the love of my life. My mom was never going to watch the Harry Potter movies with me at Christmas time or bake her famous caramel cake for my birthday again. Each tear brought on a new onslaught of misery and destructive thoughts. The weight of my tears were heavy.

My father came home one night, I was sitting at the kitchen table when he threw his things on the table and slowly walked towards the stairs, a dead stare in his eyes. Not knowing what to say I walked up to him and gave him a hug. My dad started to sob into my shoulder, his body shook violently, his chest erratically rising and falling and his sobs were loud in our small house. I was only fifteen and I had to hold my crying dad as his wife, my mom, went through excruciating pain. To this day I have never experienced anything quite like holding my broken and exhausted father. The burden of his tears impacted my life from that moment on; I realized that cancer can break down the strongest of people and destroy the most joyful. I never saw my dad cry, much less become angry or sad. He was always smiling, he was always the rock for me…yet in that moment I was the only one he could cling to. The weight of my wet shoulder that night is a weight I still carry with me, even as I write down this paragraph I can’t help but let the tears slip down my own face. The weight of my dad’s tears were heavy.

My mom’s tears however were the heaviest, and the nights and mornings I spent listening to her sobs fill our house are memories I tend to try and forget. She was in agonizing pain, physically and emotionally. She deemed herself subhuman when she had to shave her head, and the chemo treatments made her tired and sick constantly. I remember walking through the wig shop as my mom’s hair started to leave a trail behind her. It came out in clumps, it strung down her back and when I went to pick one strand off an entire section of her hair would come off. She sobbed as she sat in the hair salon and the barber shaved her head, the tears that rolled down her cheeks in that moment were the most impactful and heartbreaking. My mom’s beautiful golden hair surrounded her on the floor. Those tears impacted me the most because it was in that moment that I realized how real this situation was, my mom had cancer and I had to help her through it. My mom’s tears were heavy.

On February 18th at 2:00 in the afternoon I cried in my school’s bathroom when my dad called me to tell me that my mom was officially cancer free. I felt a weight shrug off my shoulders and suddenly the weight of the tears that slipped down my face were light. I learned a lot about life, about emotions and strength in my eight month battle with a cancer diagnosis.

My mom has a new appreciation for her life, and nowadays she is always looking for new aspects of life to enjoy which in return has taught me to do the same. She was tenacious during her battle, she woke up everyday determined to be healthier than yesterday and she did just that. She never let her cancer break her, although it made her shed a few tears she became a light in the darkness for my dad and five siblings; my mom made sure that her diagnosis never defined her. I love my mom, and I will always be grateful to wake up and still have her with me.

 I know that tears have a significant impact, but it isn’t always negative. The tears of my loved ones taught me what true strength was, it was breaking down only to get back up and keep moving forward. I have found strength and courage, and I now wake up ready to conquer whatever challenges that I have to face. I am thankful for my experience, for letting my tears and pain affect me and showing me what it means to be resilient. For every time I got knocked down, I got up and pushed forward. The weight of a tear is heavy, but I realize that you use that weight to become stronger.

Emily M.