My mom had cancer

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How’s that for an eye catching title.

This isn’t for the blog stats. This isn’t for the money. This isn’t for sympathy. This is because I didn’t talk about it then, so I’m talking about it now.

When I was 12 years old, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. I’ll spoil the ending for you: she’s okay. I don’t know what stage she was in, but it must have been a good one (relatively speaking) because nine months later, after chemo and radiation and surgeries and all of the drugs, she was deemed cancer free. She has been in remission for almost eight years. Wow, I didn’t realize it was that long until just now. Go mom.

I was young when she had cancer, so I never entirely understood it. Even now it is this enigmatic idea in my mind. Coming to terms with things and acceptance are not on my list of special skills, so it sometimes feels like it was never real. But it was. Very, very real.

Having a parent with cancer is so shitty. Having cancer is, of course, worse. But watching the person who is supposed to care for you not be able to care for themselves sucks a lot. Particularly when you’re 12. Because what could I do? I stood idly by as my mom lost her hair and took perpetual naps and had poison pumped into her body. My mom. I was useless in her fight, even though I owed my whole life to her.

Like I said, I didn’t talk about my mom’s cancer while it was happening. I didn’t tell my friends, and I changed the subject when they found out and asked me about it. I averted my eyes to my mom’s bald head. I ignored doctor’s appointments dated in the calendar. I really avoided the whole thing altogether, which I feel terrible about now. I didn’t ask questions or go to appointments or wait on my mother hand and foot like I should have because I was young and scared and didn’t want to accept any of it because the reality of the situation was just too terrifying. So I kept to myself and din’t share my emotional state with anyone around me. And let me tell you, that was a BAD idea.

It’s fairly obvious why bottling up such intense feelings like these is a bad idea, but it was particularly dangerous in this case because even now, eight years later, I still get very emotional when I think of my mom’s cancer. Which is dumb because, I mean, she’s okay. But my breath still catches when I read “mammogram” on the calendar or when I hear cancer mentioned in passing. It’s still such a sensitive spot in my life, and I feel like I should be over it by now. But how do you get over something like that?

Part of this is for selfish reasons because now I’m scared of my increased risk of having cancer myself. It’s almost like I’ve put the idea into my head that it’s an inevitability, which is a horrible thought to have when I’m only in my early twenties. But hey, it’s a pretty solid reality I may have to face.

But if I’ve taken anything from my mother, it’s her incredible strength. It sounds cheesy, I’m aware, but once you’ve seen someone fall to such a low point in their health and then come back up again, you understand what it means to fight. My mother fought for herself and for her family, and I am so incredibly thankful for her doing that because I could have lost her. My mother could have died eight years ago. That’s a scary thought. But she didn’t, and I need to continually remember that and not take her for granted.

Irrelevant side note: apparently when an immediate family member is sick, it’s a thing for people to bring you food. Like, full meals so my mom didn’t have to cook. I swear, I ate frozen casserole for a year. Even after my mom went into remission we kept eating them because we had to empty our stacked freezer. Maybe that’s why I now have a slight aversion to homemade casserole. Yeah, it was helpful, but it was also kind of redundant to my 12-year-old self. Why couldn’t they bring something more exciting, like chocolate? Or Beanie Babies?

This year I felt very motivated to participate in the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation’s Run for the Cure, being hosted at my school. I’ve done the run once before with my family, but I’ve taken it upon myself to do this run for my mom and for me. I am not a runner. I’m trying to be. I’m also trying to raise as much money as I can, so if you would like you can donate here. I am very aware of financial struggles, so don’t feel the pressure to donate what you don’t have. Though if you wouldn’t mind packing a lunch instead of buying Pad Thai one day, myself and many others would appreciate that $10. And the CBCF is a pretty decent charity: they’re on the MoneySense top 100 Charities list, giving over 50% of funds raised towards research and educational tools. So, I mean, it’s pretty legit. And you’d be pretty legit if you would do this for me.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you so much for reading this. It was a tough decision to finally talk about this, but I think I’m glad I did. Like I said, I’m not asking for sympathy. I just felt like this was a good time to talk about such a big part of my life.

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