"I'm not scared anymore, but I do worry. I don't want to grow up without my Mom. I want to have her here with me forever. I asked her once why God let this happen to us. Know what she told me? She said that God knew we were strong enough to handle it." Joshua
I followed a link to a blog about Christina's struggle with breast cancer. On her blog, she has a post written by her son Joshua. Joshua is a brave young man who has had to deal with fear about his mother's cancer. Yet, he found a way to work through that fear with the help of his family and his own positive attitude.
Reading about Joshua brought back my experience with my own mother and my wife who both had breast cancer. My mother was diagnosed when I was in graduate school. She had a radical mastectomy. I can remember the call from my father telling me that my mother had been diagnosed with cancer. I remember being worried for her. I remember how we went to see her after she had the surgery and that the right side was bandaged.
Yet, this tiny woman was upbeat and cheerful. She didn't seem worried or concerned. It was as if this was just a little inconvenience for her. She said that she would be up and going to a tea party in another week or so. And because of her attitude, I didn't worry about the outcome but felt assured that everything would be okay.
In my own selfish mind at the time, she had given me permission to go back to school and continue with my studies as if they were the most important thing in the world. And I left my mother to her own introspection about this disease.
It wasn't until much later that I learned how much my mother denied things. She was stoic in all regards and seemed so brave to me, yet in later life, she suffered from severe depression. I wonder now whether she ever had sleepless nights over the breast cancer diagnosis. I wonder whether her bravery was just a mask for denial. And that her brave front was just the sign that I needed to send me as fast as possible back to my studies so that I could sequester myself in my own controlled little world.
Breast cancer came around in my life again when my wife was diagnosed several years ago. Once again there was a stoicism and optimism that made me think that things would be okay. She also had a mastectomy. She went through a long breast reconstruction process. And I know that she cried and was apprehensive. She voiced her worries. I can remember how she would interpret every ache as metastasis, how she would pour over breast cancer books, and how she would follow a number of blogs about the disease.
Finally, we talked about the fact that it might be a good idea to move on. And that focusing on the disease, the survivors and their stories, and the roll call of the dead, may not be the best thing. Maybe that was the role model that I knew from my mother--just take a peek at this once in a while but keep the monster out of sight as much as possible.
Anyway, Joshua's story has made me realize that I needed to write about this. I needed to look back at those times, examine my thoughts, and be thankful that my mother lived a long life after her diagnosis and that my wife is still cancer free. My gratitude is overwhelming.