We were running through the waves of the ocean and the sun was shining brightly upon us. We were laughing and smiling without a care in the world. At that time I believed that bad things do not happen to good people like us. We live our whole lives and face nothing trivial like the oppressed people in other countries. Little did I know my world and beliefs would be turned upside down.
I always have had my happy family and did not know anything different. Mom always took us to school in the mornings and picked us up in the afternoon. She was always home and cooked dinner in the evenings. When Dad came home from work my brother and I would run to the table so we could all eat together. We talked about our days and the petty problems that we had at school. I always thought that I would forever live with this happy life. We were happy people. We were good people.
When I started the seventh grade everything changed. At school pick up one day my friend asked me who was picking me up. I responded “My mom”. Our routine was never broken. Just a minute later my dad pulled up to school with my little brother in the car and said words that no child should ever hear: “Your mom is in the hospital. She has cancer”.
My head started spinning. The ride to the hospital was a blur. But there she was, lying in the bed. She looked to me as she always had, with her curly brown hair and her light blue eyes. Tomorrow, though, all her hair would be shaved off as the doctors removed the tumor from her brain. I was scared and nervous. Everyone was telling me that it would be fine. I tried to believe them, but everything was so daunting and overwhelming. Our happy little family was no longer at peace.
She made it through the surgery but her mobility and short term memory were greatly affected. She had to stay in the rehab center for three weeks. Our lives no longer ran like a perfectly timed metronome. We were all over the place running from school to sports to home. There were lots of people around to help take us places or get dinner for us in those first few chaotic weeks. Once she was well enough she was able to come home, but she still could not walk unassisted.
Over the next few months, she went through chemotherapy and radiation, which added in its own challenges. She relied on rides to the hospital every day to get radiation treatments but was fortunate to take chemo at home. Even though she was home she could not do any of the chores that we were all used to her doing. As she went through treatments and physical therapy she started to regain her strength. She first started walking with a walker. Then she graduated to only using a cane, finally, after many months, she could walk without assistance.
On one of her regular scans, nearly a year after she was first diagnosed we received news that no one wanted to hear. The cancer was back. It was stronger. It was more aggressive. She tried many experimental drugs, which only were able to slow down the growth of the thing growing inside of her head and not terminate it.
When we sat down to eat dinner one night, there was a different atmosphere than usual. It was like the feeling of hope was sucked out of the room. My mom was going to die. She was put on hospice and she was expected to only live five to six more weeks. I only had five weeks to fit in a lifetime with her. We went on our last family trip to Disneyland. A place that brought her so much joy. When we returned, her health rapidly declined.
She could no longer walk or eat without assistance. My dad lost his job as she was going through this. Even though having no incoming was taxing on our family it allowed my dad to be my mom’s primary caretaker. He was with her every second. Their love for each other was greater than I have ever seen it. He was with her when she took her last breath. I did not know what to do when she was gone. It felt like it was all a bad dream and that she would just be sitting in her usual chair in the living room when I returned from school each day. Out of habit, I would grab four plates from the cupboard for dinner when now I only need three.
I do not get why this happened to her and my family. Why did such a kind and caring person deserve to die so young? There are so many people like my mom and my family where the good people die. Why do good people have to die?
From what my family has endured, we are now stronger people. I have experienced something that I do not wish for anybody else, but through my experiences, I have been able to support my friend through her mom’s cancer and eventual death. I have learned how to find light and happiness despite the hardships I have been through, both financially and emotionally. I gained a new perspective on what life is and what it means to live life to the fullest. In order for someone to live their best life, they need to pursue things that bring them joy and never get caught up in a job or situation that does not allow them to work towards their goals and happiness.
I want to be able to share my story with the people who need to know there can be a life without constant sadness. Now I look back at my time with my mom and can remember wonderful things, like our time at the beach running and swimming in the waves. Memories of her are not just plagued with despair. There will be a new normal. A new routine that helps to get life back into a regular rhythm of necessary daily tasks. The hard things that people face will only make them stronger and more resilient to to what the future has in store for them.