This past month has been an emotional rollercoaster for me. I’m writing this here and sharing with all of you in hopes that it will help me process my emotions and eventually let them go.
On February 10th, 2015, my mom was diagnosed with skin cancer. To be more specific, she was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma. Before this experience, the only skin cancer I knew of was melanoma. I had no idea there were different types and was completely ignorant to the causes, recovery, surgery, and success rates. The only thing I knew at that very moment my mother called me with the news was that the doctors must be wrong. The growth the doctors removed a week before wasn’t a tumor, it was just some weird scab. There was no way my mom, the biggest advocate for sunscreen and skin care, could have skin cancer. When I heard the fear in my mother’s voice as she sat on the other line of the phone explaining this to me, reality sunk in. My mom, the one person in this world who holds a part of my heart no one else can even touch, has cancer.
That first night I was a disaster. After I hung up the phone with my mom, I laid on my bedroom floor for hours sobbing uncontrollably. All I could hear in my head was ‘my mom has cancer’ and my mind was flooded with thoughts that still can make me cry if I think about them long enough. My fiancé did everything he could to console me, he was the positive light that gave me the smallest sense of hope I so desperately needed to get through this past month. I felt out of control and so small. For someone who thrives on having control and finding solutions to problems, this was especially frustrating. After hours on the floor, I knew I needed to find a way to gain some sort of control, and I did this by going to the gym and running. I hadn’t run since my half marathon last March, but that night I ran until I felt as though I couldn’t run anymore. While I ran, I cried and attempted to keep a steady breath. All I could think about was how much I still needed my mommy.
Day after day passed and with it came stomach pains, nausea, anxiety, confusion, anger, terror, and a list of many other symptoms. I was trying so hard to be strong for my mother as she had been strong for me all of these years. For once, it was my turn to be the tough one, and I was struggling with it. I didn’t want her to see me in a negative state or hear about what a hard time I was having because I needed to protect her in some way. The last thing I wanted was for her to worry about me worrying over her. Over those days, I told a handful of people about my mom, I did some helpful and positive research, along with research I wish I didn’t do. (Note to my future self: Please don’t Google. You will only terrify yourself.) Both my mother and I received outpouring support and love from those we told. Many assured us that squamous cell carcinoma isn’t a death sentence; that with surgery, all could be fixed. Logically, I knew the statistics were in her favor. Logic and research proved my mom would more than likely be okay. Even so, logic could not stop the nightmares from coming. For two weeks straight I had repeated nightmares of my mother dying that felt so real, I would wake up screaming and crying in the middle of the night. For me, that was the worst part of this experience. The physical pain and side effects I could handle, but those nightmares are still engrained in my memory that to this day it’s painful to even think about for a moment.
While I was being this weak version of myself, my mom was being the strongest version of herself. That’s my mom though. There is this beauty my mom possesses where even in the darkest of moments, she finds a way to shine some light and continue living her life fearless. These are all qualities that I admire about her. I often tell myself that if I end up being only half of the woman my mom is; I will have succeeded in life. She has this energy where positivity continuously beams out of her soul and touches everyone around her. Amidst the frightening reality and the even more frightening unknown, her positivity prevailed.
A little over a week ago, my mom had excision surgery to remove the layers of skin in the surrounding margins of where the tumor was. It left a really deep hole in my mom’s chest that thinking about it now, is actually sort of symbolic. There was now a physical hole to accompany the unmanageable emotional hole left in each of us the night she was diagnosed.
Seven days ago, we received the great news that the biopsy was clear of cancer cells. I don’t think I will ever forget that moment. I felt as though I could finally breathe again and as though my world was put back together. I finally had the sense of relief and mindset that my mom had all along: She is stronger than this.
This may sound cliché, but if I learned anything from this experience, it’s to simply love one another. Be kind to people. Be a positive force in this world. Love your family and treat them as the rare and precious gem they truly are. Take care of your parents and mend the relationships with family members and friends if you can.