Friday, March 6, 2009

A story inspired by Joshua

"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.


  1. It's a blessing in disguise to have tragic things in our lives. I truly believe this. My losses have been the biggest blessings. They have shown me so much truth. I see that is how it is for you too. jeNN

  2. Syd, what a beautiful post, I am so glad your mother and wife beat the cancer. The "C" word as a woman is always a huge fear for us. I had skin cancer about 14 years ago and I fear it coming back everyday or worse. Your mother sounds like a wonderful woman. We as children hold a key to a very special innate circle. The circle of Life, where we feel the depth of the mother/child bond, that no matter what, or how much we can try and run from it, we always make that circle back to our mother , the one who delivered us into this world, to our grandparents , our very existence. As a mother we always try to instill the good in our children, we are there to help take away their pain, to handle and embrace life's challenges, we try to be the BRAVE HEART, The LION, yet inside or alone we roar with anger, pain, we do not like to see hurt or worry on a child's face, a mothers love is precious, her kiss magical. Your mother I know is very proud of YOU!! You have inherited her strengths.

  3. My mother's battle with breast cancer did not have a happy ending. However she lived in denial until the end. When she was in the Univ of Chicago hospital.... dying, I remember her leaning over to me once and whispering about her roommate, "feel sorry for her, she's REALLY sick". I had to smile at her.

  4. touching!!! and yes, God would never give us something we are unable to handle...

  5. It's all about the attitude it seems.

  6. I never thought of my Grandma as Stoic, but she too struggled with the demon cancer and she lost the struggle in 1984. She was an amazing woman who, until she couldn't physically help it, didn't let anyone know of the real struggle going on in her body. My dad still carries around a lot of anger about it. He is angry at Doctors at the hospital, even at his Dad for not paying more attention.

    I guess sometimes God just needs us to have those really really brave souls in our lives, those who can quietly withstand more than most in order to help others in a whole different way.

    Our lives are full of amazing strength, both a blessing and sometimes, when not focused in the right place, a curse.

  7. Thank you for this post. You reminded me of the gratitude missing in my life today...never lost, always there. I needed to read a story about looking in the rear view mirror of my life and accepting the way things are...thank you. J.

  8. Syd, I think every mother in the world puts up a front, so their children can move on with their own lives.

    Your wife is blessed to have you at her side during better or worse.

  9. I think there really is a very fine line between stoic and denial. Truth be told when I'm there I can't tell the difference.
    Excellent Post Syd

  10. A very insightful post, Syd, and I'll bet it helped to write it too.
    My mother had breast cancer way back in 1952 and yet she lived to be 94. A positive attitude certainly helped...her and all of us.

  11. Syd thank you for sharing about your mom and wife - and I am grateful they are cancer free still.

  12. So many lessons to learn, so much gratitude to be felt, so little time to do it all in.

    Thank God I found recovery. It has given me the time in which God can show me much about my life, others lives, and our relationship to Him and I'm so grateful for that.

    God bless you and your wife.

  13. Thank you, Syd. Your blogs just always strike a chord in whoever reads. My mother: breast cancer. My second and third wives: breast cancer. None of them died from it though.

  14. Thank you for sharing on this topic. What you said about perhaps it being best for your wife to not focus on cancer, the survivor stories and the death roll call after a certain time is much how I feel about my alcoholism. Keep everything in check, do what I need to stay healthy, but don't make my entire existence saturated in the disease. Otherwise I am living in paralysis and fear and not the joyous and free way I have worked for in sobriety.

  15. Dealing with my father's cancer and 10 years later, my brother's cancer gave me the strength hope and experience to deal with their illness & deaths & other illnesses that I didn't cause, can't cure....

    I think that taking time to think about & remember those who've passed, or those who've been cured-- and to honor and celebrate them & the experience is as important as it is to turn that hard experience & the memories into Joy -- and keep moving on.

  16. I met Christina (Joshua's mother) through another friend who was dealing with BC. Kim unfortunately didn't survive her second bout with the disease. I was the one who had given Christina the news of Kim's passing...I don't think I ever had a heavier burden, knowing at that moment Christina was in the midst of her own battle. In the end it drew us closer together.

    I hope you don't mind I sent the link to her so she can see her story, Joshua's still inspires people. I'm glad you were able to talk about this dear friend. Thanks you for sharing your Mom and Wife's story with us. (Hugs)Indigo


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