At the age of 12, I learned what true strength was when my mom was first diagnosed with breast cancer. Watching her fight for her life against cancer over the next thirteen years, four separate times, shows how amazing a person can be.
Every year, this week tends to be a bit heavy for me. On Wednesday, September 16, 2020, made seven years that my mother has been gone, her heaven anniversary, and today, Friday, September 18th, is her birthday. As I have grown into the woman I am today, been through my own life struggles, I admire her strength more and more as the time passes.
She kept her positive mindset throughout an experience that affects your physical and mental health. She was truly incredible.
However, one year ago, because of an unexpected life experience of my own, I saw my mother in a different point of view, and I was blown away at how amazing she truly was.
Last year, in August, I went for a routine checkup at the clinic, and they felt a lump in my breast.
Everything went silent. What?! Wait, what did the physician just say to me?
No. No. Nooooo. No.
Immediately my eyes began to water. She continued to ask me about my family history and I told her my mom, grandma and aunt had breast cancer (fortunately, my grandma and my aunt survived and are still alive today). Due to my family history, she requested that I get a sonogram and mammogram for more answers.
I gathered my things from the room and walked to the front desk for my referrals for the tests.
I sat there fighting back tears falling down my face.
No. No, this isn’t happening. This isn’t happening to me.
Then, all the worst case scenarios came to mind. If I’m gone, what will happen to…?
I saw my mom do this four times and I don't think I am as strong as her. What will happen if I can't do this...
They called my name. With sunglasses covering my eyes, tears running down my face, I composed myself, picked up my paperwork from the front desk, and quickly walked out the door.
The second I’m outside, I called my boyfriend and told him everything that just happened.
I sat in my car, crying to him on the phone, terrified. He listened, and assured me that no matter what happens, he will be right by my side every step of the way.
Shortly after that very moment, I collected myself again, as much as I could. I have watched my mother defeat breast cancer three times. She’s done it all: chemotherapy, radiation, surgeries, lumpectomy, mastectomy, and endless hospitals visits. I don’t remember seeing her freak out once.
Yes, I know parents always want to be strong for their children, but I have even asked my dad about her reactions, and he said she was always pretty determined to get through this.
Here I was, with just a PRECAUTION and I am already thinking the worst.
I am falling apart.
Wow. I was raised by an insanely strong woman.
The next day, I knew I needed to schedule my appointments for the sonogram and mammogram, but I was so scared. My boyfriend called a clinic on speaker to book my appointment for me. I couldn’t even speak, my heart was racing, and I was already crying. I couldn’t focus on doing it myself.
A week later, I went to get my tests done. My boyfriend went with me, sat in the lobby until I was finished, and drove me back home.
At 30 years old, I had my first mammogram.
The technician giving me my mammogram was asking the usual routine questions about my family history, and then I broke down. I cried. I cried in front of this stranger. She was so kind and calmed me down, and spoke with me. We finished the exam and I got dressed.
I can’t believe I cried in front of the technician for my first mammogram. But it is what it is, and it’s how I felt at the time. No shame in that.
It was seventeen days from when I heard about a lump in my breast, until I saw the specialist for answers. For over two weeks, I was a complete mess, and cried more than I had in a while. I had to take a social media break, but I kept working long hours because work kept my mind busy and I wouldn’t think about the what if’s.
I never imagined that even after all these years after my mom passed away, I would find her even more inspiring and a bigger hero. Just from this precaution, my brain went to all the negative places. I have seen the strongest woman I know defeat breast cancer THREE times, so I know it’s possible, but I still couldn’t keep myself from the worst thoughts.
I did a lot of journaling and mindset work over those 17 days. Manifested having a glass of wine after the appointment to celebrate the good news.
I repeated the mantra “My body is healthy, strong, and healing” to myself every single day.
I still use this mantra daily.
The day arrived and I finally met with the specialist.
I am filled with relief to say that it wasn’t anything serious, but to keep an eye on it and get a follow up in 6 months.
What an amazing way to end over two weeks of stress
Six months later, I had another sonogram and appointment with the specialist. Once again, I was a complete wreck from the moment I scheduled the sonogram appointment, until I walked into the room waiting for the results. I am so grateful that my boyfriend was there by my side for each appointment.
Another amazing day. The results showed that the mass had shrunk! To celebrate, my boyfriend and I went to the same restaurant and I celebrated with that glass of wine again.
A few weeks ago, one year after my world went on this crazy journey, I had another 6 month follow up sonogram and appointment with the specialist. Of course, I was so stressed about the results. I’m sure I always will be in fear of how quickly your world can flip upside down with it comes to these checkups.
Unfortunately, because of COVID-19, my boyfriend couldn’t be by my side during these appointments. We remained on the phone the entire time, and I had him on speaker when the specialist walked in.
Then she tells me the news.
It’s gone. Whatever mass they had seen, has disappeared.
I cried. I cried right there in the chair in front of the specialist with happy tears, happy tears all the way back home.
I left the clinic with the instructions to continue at home check ups, and start annual mammograms at 35 years old (it is recommended ten years before my mom’s first diagnosis).
Spending half my lifetime with my mom, watching her battle breast cancer, has left me with this huge emotional connection to all of this. I always knew my first mammogram would be emotional regardless of the situation, but now the unknown is known, and so many lessons have been learned.
Over the past few years, I have been doing a lot of work to heal wounds from broken relationships, my mother passing at an early age, etc, and I felt like I have been doing really well. Yet, I am realizing I have a lot of work to do because of my intense fear of getting cancer.
Finding a strong support system has made me realize how lucky I am. My dad, boyfriend, and close friends were there for me when I needed them most, and I am extremely grateful for them.
I know my mom was right there by my side every step of the way, and whenever the time comes that I need true strength, I know she will be there holding my hand.
I am my mother’s daughter, and I know that if I can be half as strong as her, I can survive just about anything.
This was my experience. It was hard, emotional, and life changing. I’m sure if I didn’t grow up with cancer appointments, doctors, and hospital visits, I wouldn’t have been so scared.
My mom had her own phrases representing each time she got sick:
First time: Ignorance is bliss
Second time: Oh no!
Third time: Sh*t!
Fourth time: Oh well...
These little summaries show my mom's sense of humor and attitude towards all this was in such a good place. Yes, she had her tough days when she felt weak and tired, but she still got up the next day with a fresh mindset and ready to do what needed to be done.
October may be breast cancer month, but cancer is all year around. It doesn’t care about your gender, age, race, or if you’re a good person. September is the month I feel closely related to it because it’s a month I remember my mom the most.
You can read another blog post here, where I wrote a letter to my mom saying the things I want to let her know.
For all those who have battled cancer, had cancer scares, lost their fight, or those that always stood by someone who was fighting, you are amazing.
Cancer does not affect just the person that is sick. Cancer touches everyone close around them. It’s not easy for anyone.
Just remember that it’s okay to be scared.
It’s okay to feel weak sometimes.
The most important thing you can do in a time like this is find your best and strongest support system, keep yourself busy so you feel useful and you won’t spend all day thinking negative thoughts, and laugh as much as you can.
If you ever feel like you need to reach out to talk about this topic, I am here for you. I know it's scary and overwhelming. I share my stories to let others know that you are not alone.
Always written with love,