Now that the kids are finally better, I’ve been reflecting on my week away. I am not sure how to share these thoughts here, or even if I should, though it seems inauthentic not to. While it affects me, the story is actually my mom’s, and she is a very, very private person. So private that I had to slowly coax the information out of her. Thank goodness for my sister, or I might not have known as soon as I did.
Not too long ago, my mom went to see her doctor because she wasn’t feeling well. She felt worn down all the time, in pain from rheumatoid arthritis in her legs and unable to sleep at night from high blood pressure. It didn’t help that she worked two full-time restaurant jobs, and was on her feet all day. Nor did it help that she didn’t have a single full day off. Anyone would recognize this as an unhealthy situation. When pressed, my mom would reply that she had no reason to stay at home. I also know that she was worried about having enough money to retire.
After a plethora of tests, they found something. It had been 6 years since her last mammogram.
Nobody wants to hear the “c” word. And when you are not a native English speaker, things become even more stressful and confusing. All those questions, all the forms that you can’t read and can’t fill out properly, all the big words and painful tests become overwhelming.
That is why I flew out to be with her. We are not exactly “close,” but we do love each other. I wasn’t sure what my role would be, and before I left I found myself googling ideas from other children of survivors. As time unfolded I could see where I could help: supporting her after surgery, trying to organize and make sense of the insurance and work-related paperwork, recording her many medical appointments and contacts into a portable monthly calendar, putting her in contact with a veteran survivor, reading aloud from the dauntingly thick handbook… but most of all, just being there.
We had good times, too. Normal mother/daughter things – shopping for cute clothes for the kids, watching TV, seeing a movie with my sister followed by a special dinner out.
The surgery is past, but there is still a long road ahead. First chemo starts in a few weeks, then radiation therapy, then hormone blockers… its going to be really hard. I wish we didn’t live on opposite coasts. I wish she was healthy and took better care of herself. For now, I just want her to be brave, to tough it out, to… survive. I want her to be around to watch my kids grow up, unlike my own grandmother. Most of all, I just want this to all be successfully behind us.