Thursday, March 12, 2015

Mom's Cancer Chronicles: How's your mom?

I've been on the receiving end of this innocuous, considerate question multiple times a week since I publicly announced my mom's breast cancer diagnosis:

"How's your mom doing?"

After hearing this question numerous times over the past month, the thought occurred to me that I haven't updated my blog about this in a while, and maybe that would be the best way to thoroughly answer the question of "How's your mom doing?" So, for all who would like to know, here's my answer.

First off, my mom's cancer experience is not like most of the ones you see portrayed in movies and on television. She's not bald or bedridden, she's not having chemotherapy, radiation or surgery at the moment, and you can't tell she has cancer just by looking at her -- she appears to be her bubbly, beautiful, youthful self. As she explains on her blog, she is not suffering through the more painful and difficult side effects of cancer treatment people usually think of. No debilitating nausea and vomiting, no hand-and-foot syndrome and she's still able to go to her home-away-from-home Costco on a frequent basis.

But I don't want to give a partial answer, either. Regardless of her appearance and Costco attendance statistics, Mom still has Stage IV breast cancer. It is not curable and will never go into remission. She constantly has to deal with the emotional stress of this diagnosis along with the physical pain. In conjunction with her two cancer treatments -- a daily estrogen-inhibitor pill and an IV bone loss prevention drug she receives once a month -- she takes an anti-anxiety medication just so she can sleep at night. This truly breaks my heart.

But, it could be worse.

But ... it's still pretty bad.

The bone drug, Zometa, is intense. She received her first round at the end of February. It gave her severe joint pain and made her feel like she had the worst flu ever, and the side effects lasted a few weeks. This drug also carries a risk of increased bone fractures, which she could sustain even from doing NOTHING. She will have to take this for the rest of her life.

The estrogen-inhibitor, Arimidex, gives her hot flashes and makes her feel like she's going through menopause all over again. She suffers with constant back pain caused by the medication as well. And yes, she will also have to take this drug for the rest of her life.

In a few months, she'll be rescanned to see how the cancer is responding. Remember, the cancer won't ever go away, but its progression can be stopped with these medications. So that is our prayer, that is what we are fasting and hoping for daily.

So ... that is the most current answer to "How's your mom doing?" But be aware that it changes from day to day. It's complicated, dealing with cancer. It's a roller coaster of tests, diagnoses, medications, appointments and side effects. It's not simply "good" or "bad." It's a myriad of ever-changing emotions, experiences and challenges.

Now to address "the question" in question (haha). When asked face-to-face how my mom is doing, the answer I give depends on how much time I have as well as how attentive I perceive the person asking the question to be. As you now know, it's a long and complicated answer, and you honestly may not have the time to hear the whole thing. You may be in the middle of dealing with your children or on your way to a meeting or doing some other preoccupying activity, and that's OK -- I appreciate that you thought to ask. It shows you care and it's a meaningful gesture. But I want to do the response justice. I want to answer as thoroughly as I can, because this is a really big deal and I don't want to treat it lightly. Plus, it helps me process what I am going through to tell and retell the ins and outs of my mother's cancer experience.

It becomes exhausting to think about my mom's illness day in, day out. Emotionally, I have to prepare myself for these kinds of questions. Every time I am asked, it takes me back to how I felt when I first learned my mom has cancer -- that gloom-and-doom, insecure pit in my stomach reappears. At least I am putting my journalism degree to good use, having to consciously disconnect emotionally to disseminate the facts to people without bawling in their faces.

So, I guess what I'm saying is, feel free to ask me how my mom is doing, but please know this question is not in the same vein as, "How was your dinner at The Olive Garden?" I ask that you please don't use it as some kind of cheap ice-breaker or conversation-filler. Please, don't ask unless you're prepared for a few minutes of uninterrupted conversation about it. Because if one of us is wrestling our kids or I'm passing you in the hallway at church, you're going to get the quick, basic answer of "She's fine; thanks for asking." Which is to say, "She still alive and well enough to go to Costco ... but there's so much more!" And I don't want anyone to get the wrong idea about my mom and what she's going through. She might be "fine" by all appearances, but she is going through a huge trial nonetheless.

And as I said before, it's a rather immense question. It's easier for me to respond to things like, "What kind of treatment is your mom having right now?" "What are her side effects like?" "What is the puppy up to these days?" It's not as overwhelming. I can handle small questions.

If you want to call me up or text me or even chat in person about it, I'm totally down with that, too. And also, if you want to show you care but don't have time for a lengthy conversation, you could always just say something like, "I've been thinking about your mom." Then, I can reply with a very sincere, "Thank you so much," and we can move on from there.

On that note, I do want to thank all of you who have left supportive comments, engaged in conversation about this and have done nice things for me since Mom's diagnosis. A few people brought me dinner and treats, offered to watch my kids, sent me really nice texts and have generally been very uplifting. It really does brighten my days and gives me a little hope when I'm feeling down about it. I am so, so grateful for all of it.

Let's end on a happy note -- yesterday, I took Audrey (on Spring Break) and baby Clara to visit my parents and sisters. The puppy, Daisy, is getting huge! She is so cute, though, like a fluffilicious teddy bear. Here is a picture of Audrey holding her. She really loved having some one-on-one time with Daisy.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Ten months, a little late.

Clara the Bean officially reached her 10-month milestone on Saturday ... or was it Sunday? There is no 29th of February this year, so I guess March 1 is it. That means I'm only two days late on this post. Not that anyone was counting.

This pose ... I die.

As you can plainly see, Clara is as adorable as ever, crawling around, pulling up to stand, yammering all day, waving and clapping. She officially has one full tooth on the bottom, which makes her look like a cute little Jack-o'-lantern. The other bottom incisor, plus the top two, are also coming in -- albeit slowly. But they've officially broken through the gums which means we have our happy baby back! No more crying and fussing all day! No more sleepless nights! I feel like a new woman.

Since she's got teeth and a desire to chew her food, I've introduced some soft solids to her diet. Black beans, peaches, pears, Mandarin oranges, noodles, sausages, oatmeal ... stuff up that alley. She seems to like everything right now or at least be willing to try it. A breath of fresh air, considering her big brother is in the middle of his Picky Preschooler phase. Still can't get her to take water no matter how many methods I try -- the next step is forcing it with a syringe but I feel like that might be taking things into Control Freak Territory. Help me see reason here, people. I need suggestions. Don't worry, I'll be pleading for them again by the end of this.

I recently read that introducing peanuts frequently between 4 and 11 months can reduce a child's likelihood of becoming allergic to peanuts. So about every other day, I give Clara a spoonful of peanut butter. She definitely takes after both parents because she loooooves it. No allergic reactions so far. It's a good source of protein, too.

Clara adores her siblings and her daddy. She just lights up whenever they enter the room and especially when they interact with her. When Dill calls, I put him on speaker so she can hear his voice and she goes nuts. Of course she loves me, too, but that goes without saying. I'm still breastfeeding about four times a day. The feedings are waning in frequency as they typically do at this age. But she still loves her "nursies."

At her 9-month well baby visit, Clara's hemoglobin levels tested low. The doctor also wanted to look at her eardrums but couldn't see past a giant ball of wax. He gave me some instructions about how to remedy both problems and we're due back for a follow-up this week. I wonder if he'll say she needs ear tubes or not. I hope that issue has resolved itself.

Clara is the happiest little girl. People can't resist commenting on her huge, blue peepers and strangers frequently stop me to tell me how darling she is. I totally get it -- she really is a cutie with quite a sunny personality. How could anyone ignore it?

Now, PLEASE help me figure out how to get my baby to drink water! She just isn't having it and she's relying on breastmilk alone for hydration. I seriously need your help. Let me have it!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Yoga pants, vaccines, clean houses and Fifty Shades of Porn.

Lately, a few controversies have been circulating the Internet and I've been hesitant to express my opinion on them. Dealing with bronchitis, yet ANOTHER ear infection for Clara, my mom's cancer and other stresses has depleted me of all energy to debate these issues (wah, wah, waaaah). I've also learned in life that when it comes to debates, there simply is no winner or loser. People come to their convictions for various reasons, and they aren't likely to abandon those reasons on a whim.

But, I do want to state my position on a few of these things. My long-term blogging goal has always been honesty, and I feel a bit disingenuous for my lack of candid discourse as of late. I used to be much more outspoken about stuff, remember? I miss that girl, so I'm digging her up today for your reading entertainment.

Here we go!

1. Yoga pants/leggings as 'immodest.' Let me be real for a sec -- I am currently wearing yoga pants. And when I'm not wearing yoga pants, I'm wearing leggings. As a very last resort for dressier occasions, such as a visit to Hobby Lobby, I will put on actual jeans.

There is a very simple reason for my preference. When you wash jeans numerous times, especially those of the darkly-dyed variety, they fade. They get worn out. I am the mother of a drippy, snotty, 9-month-old and a messy 4-year-old who both smear their various fluids, foods and filth on me and my clothing 11 times a day on average. Yoga pants and leggings are far easier to wash than jeans and don't really experience any wear and tear from washing. And they're cheaper to replace when they do get worn out. Plus, as a mom of three (one being a crawling baby), I need to be able to bend, stretch and move quickly. I find that jeans are a bit prohibitive in this department and tend to expose half of my rear end when I bend over in them. (Who's immodest now?!) Yoga pants and leggings tend to stay in place and are much better suited for an active baby-chasing lifestyle.

Point is, I don't wear yoga pants and leggings to make myself appear superior to anyone (the true definition of immodesty), nor to attract the eyes of lustful men. I wear them for convenience and comfort and I'm glad they just happen to be "in style" right now. I even wear them to church activities and don't feel a bit bad about it. No one has ever made a comment to me about my pants being "immodest" or inappropriate because NEWS FLASH -- they aren't. And as I said on Facebook yesterday, my butt looks way better in jeans than it does in yoga pants, anyway. So if I really wanted people to make eyes at my backside, I'd slap on a pair of tight jeans instead of giving into the temptation of Spandex pants.

On that note, if I'm guilty of anything by choosing stretchy pants, it's laziness. Not exactly the type of life I'm aspiring to, but please just give me a break until my kids are all self-sufficient walkers and I can stop bending over every 10 seconds to rescue them from imminent danger.

2. Vaccines. I vaccinate my kids and I think almost everyone else should, too. It's no coincidence the measles and whooping cough have come roaring back just as the anti-vaccine movement has gained significant momentum.

Science is right about this one, folks. Vaccines eradicate disease. Period. It's been tested, tried and proven. And don't try to convince me that simple hand-washing is enough. Yes, good hygiene (in addition to balanced nutrition, adequate exercise and a generally healthy lifestyle) is key in stopping the spread of infectious diseases. But guess what? Measles and whooping cough, as well as mumps, polio, diptheria, chicken pox, meningitis, rubella, and rotavirus are all vaccine-preventable, airborne diseases. That means you can get them just from breathing the same air as an infected person. Good luck washing your way out of that one.

The worst is when people try to convince me and other vaxxers "the measles isn't THAT bad." Scientifically speaking, it actually is "THAT bad," but I'll play your game for a minute. Let's pretend the one and only symptom of the measles is expelling glittery rainbow poop for a week. Well, even then, I still don't want my kids getting the measles! Lucky for me, there happens to be a simple, effective way to prevent them from getting it, and I'm choosing to take advantage. That's my right, just as much as it's your right to opt your child out. So please, don't try to minimize the symptoms of this or any other vaccine-preventable disease in order to promote your anti-vaccination agenda. It's insensitive and, quite frankly, uneducated. Talk about your fears of vaccine injury, manufacturing and other legitimate concerns all you want and I will listen. But my fears -- infections, compromised respiration, disability or death as a result of an infectious disease -- they're legitimate, too.

3. Clean House vs. Messy House. Some people are messy. Some people are tidy. I think the way we're raised plays a small role in this, but I also feel our individual levels of organization and cleanliness are in large part due to our nature.

Since cleanliness preference is mostly inherent and unlikely to change much, why do we feel a need to project our ideals onto others? A mom with a messy house is not a better mom. A mom with a clean house is not a better mom. What makes a good mom, then? One who loves and respects her children, takes care of their essential needs and helps them grow into responsible, caring adults. That's it.

Now, you might be thinking a clean house as an "essential need." And I bet most parents agree with this sentiment. The problem is, not everyone shares the same definition of "clean." What is perfectly tidy to one person might be an outright pigsty to another. And that's really OK! Unless you feel someone's family is in danger, it's not your job to police the cleanliness level of another person's home.

I personally like to keep my home clean. Some people say it looks like a model home, which I think is generous, but yes, it's very organized and clean. That's because I function best and feel happiest in an organized, aesthetically pleasing environment. But I don't spend every waking moment maintaining it! Most of the time, I have dusty blinds, scuffs on the walls, dirty handrails and crumbs under my table like everyone else. There are books and toys out pretty much always. My mirrors are covered in spots and fingerprints most of the time. The toilet has a ring in it. Oh well. I have three kids under the age of 8. Life goes on.

I will say this: my ability to keep a clean home doesn't make me a good mom. It makes me a good housekeeper. But being a great mother is so much more than clean house vs. messy house. Don't forget it.

4. Fifty Shades of Grey as Pornography. This one is easy. These books and their accompanying films (the first of which is set to be released this Valentine's Day) are definitely pornography. It's not just a fun way to spice up your love life. It is violent, degrading to human beings and deplorable. I don't have to read the books to conclude it, just like I don't have to eat a Big Mac to tell you it's a burger. This franchise, along with all other types of pornography, is anti-feminist and responsible for fueling the acceptance of rape, human trafficking and other sex crimes. What's to stop a person who is entertained by watching violent, degrading sex acts from taking their entertainment to the next level and acting those fantasies out on others, most of whom are likely to be unwilling participants? Based on how addictive pornography is, I'd be willing to bet nothing could stop them.

Alright, I've shared my two cents. Off to clean some toilets in my yoga pants.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Nine months of Clara.

Clara has officially been Earth-side for as long as she was in the womb! That's a little wild to think about.

She celebrated her 9-month milestone by growing her first tooth. Yes, tooth. In the singular form. I think the second one is on its way.

She also battled her fourth ear infection to date this month and we had to try three different antibiotics before the last one worked (nasty Augmentin, for the record). All the while, she had trouble sleeping and eating and was just generally in a foul mood. Not to mention the explosive diarrhea and yeast infections that accompany the use of antibiotics. I seriously hope this is the last ear infection ever, but if not, I see ear tubes in this child's future.

In other news, Clara is a proficient crawler and has also begun pulling up to stand next to furniture. Crazy! She seems too tiny to be doing that type of thing. I predict she will be walking before she turns 1. She likes to keep up with her siblings and wants to be doing whatever they are. And she gets into EVERYTHING. Her favorite thing to do is locate the nearest cord and start chewing on it. She's so pleased with herself whenever she finds one.

Despite having only 1.5 teeth, Clara has begun enjoying real people food. She really likes those squeezy pouches of baby food (there's this broccoli/spinach/kiwi/apple one that she favors but I think it smells like grass and looks like diarrhea), Cheerios, yogurt (yes, she outgrew her milk intolerance!), bananas, and whatever we're having, after I've made it toothless-friendly. She still struggles to drink out of a cup which means she still wants to nurse several times a day for liquid. It's getting old. I'd like to whittle her down to three or four feedings but she's gotta figure out how to drink water first, obviously. Any tips on that would be greatly appreciated.

Let's see, what else? She's started "talking" in this tiny, airy voice which is so cute. She still only says "Hi," "Dada," "Mama" and the occasional "all done." She loves Carson and Audrey and lights up whenever she sees them. When she's not dealing with a raging ear infection or incoming teeth, she is the happiest baby. Her joy is infectious and wherever we go, random people can't help but comment on how cute she is. She lights up every room she enters. What a precious bumpkin!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Mom's Cancer Chronicles: new puppy.

After our long-time family dog of 13 years died this summer, I wished and hoped Mom would get a new one. I looked on the Arizona Humane Society web site daily for a doggy she could adopt. I even sent her links to dogs I thought were cute. But she kept saying things like, "I can't bear to lose another pet ... I don't have time to potty train a new puppy ... I think I'm going to go back to work so I can't take on another responsibility."

And then, she announced to the family she has breast cancer.

Of course, it would be silly to suggest getting a new puppy at a time like that. A person dealing with all the craziness that cancer encompasses has no need for the obligation of a pet, especially a PUPPY. So I pushed that notion aside and felt a bit insensitive for even considering it in the first place.

As the weeks went on, I realized cancer was occupying roughly 90 percent of my thoughts. It was consuming me. I would pass people in the store and wondered if they had cancer like my mom. I spent hours on the Internet researching the cancer my mom has and learning about different treatments for her. I thought a lot about my future and wondered if I would get cancer, too. It was the last thing I thought about before bed and the first thing in my mind when I woke up. I worried about cancer constantly.

Two weeks after we learned about my mom's diagnosis, we were at my parents' house for Sunday dinner and my mom seemed really stressed. She was not doing well and we could all sense it. My dad, Dill and my brother-in-law Jason gave her a priesthood blessing to calm her down. Afterwards, we were all chatting about different fun, light-hearted subjects but Mom was still a total stress case. She was panicking inside about her cancer and it was clearly consuming her mind, too.

I thought, If only this family could have some good news or a happy event to take our minds off this awful CANCER ...

About a week later, my sister Sarah called me to tell me she found a Morkie (Maltese + Yorkie) puppy on Craigslist for my mom. I looked at the link and saw that it was indeed the most adorable thing and I knew Mom would love it. The price was right, too. And we'd recently learned Mom would NOT be having chemotherapy right away but would instead take a hormone blocking medication first, so she would be able to take care of the puppy ... plus, two of my sisters still live at home and would certainly not mind helping out. I knew she'd be worried about the cost as well so I offered to pitch in to help pay for it. Sarah suggested we ask my grandpa if he would help, too.

I called Papa right away and asked if he wouldn't mind contributing to getting the puppy. Without hesitation, he offered to pay for it completely. So generous of him. He said he knew it would bring my mom happiness at this difficult time and he knew how sad she was when Bisky died. What a great gift!

Sarah and Jason picked the little precious puppy up and Daisy became part of the family that night!

Dragging her flat squirrel toy

Cuddling with her Mama on a soft blankie

My sister Mariah got a pixie cut just like mine, so now we REALLY look like twins!

Daisy is so tiny and cute and she's just the distraction the Haney family needed. I'm so glad my mom has a new friend to bring her joy and cuddle and love her when she feels sad. I think Daisy was meant for Mom and know she will be a source of happiness and comfort during this hard time and for many years to come.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Mom's Cancer Chronicles: Bony mets.

Mom holding her first grandchild, baby Audrey, in 2007.

Read my mom's latest cancer post here.

Mom called me on Tuesday night. It wasn't a call I was expecting -- I didn't realize she had any appointments that day. Turns out, she didn't know her oncologist would want to meet with her then, either. Surprise for everyone.

"I just had an appointment with my oncologist, and I don't want you to freak out, but ... the cancer has spread to my bones."

No, no, no, no, no, no ...

Metastasis. That's a fancy word for a primary cancer transferring through the blood stream or lymphatic system and latching onto a new set of tissues. In my mom's case, the primary breast cancer transferred to the bones. The PET scan showed "suspicious" small lesions on her shoulder, spine, pelvis and hip, she said. Metastasis means an automatic upgrade to Stage IV as far as cancer staging goes. The oncologist will need a bone biopsy to confirm, but this is what it appears to be.

She also tested positive for HER2 protein overexpression, which basically means her cancer grows more quickly and is more likely to spread than normal. She said the oncologist also called the cancer estrogen-receptor-positive -- which means the hormone estrogen fuels its growth -- and she'll need to go on hormone-blockers to prevent it from spreading.

As we talked about this ominous development, I felt an odd sense of calm and peace. Odd because metastasis is news you NEVER, EVER want to hear with regards to cancer. It was definitely upsetting to me, but I did not experience the panic I felt when my mom initially told us of her diagnosis. I simply felt like this would mean a new path, albeit a more difficult one, for her. I believe this peace and sense of direction to be the comforting influence of the Holy Ghost. Furthermore, I believe his presence at this time is a direct result of others' prayers on our behalf.

Whenever I am faced with a trial, I feel less afraid and more empowered by taking in as much information as I can about it. It's how I fight my fears. So after I got off the phone with my mom, I started researching HER2+ cancer. I read a lot about how it can be treated through specific chemotherapies as well as hormone-blockers. I found it all very encouraging.

The next day, I had an appointment with my mom's surgeon for myself to discuss that lump I have on my ribcage. It's gotten bigger since I first found it and with all this cancer news, I decided to take action. Thanks to a friend who works at the office, the surgeon was able to see me about it on Wednesday.

As I was heading over there, Mom called me. Bless her soul, she told me she had been up crying and dry-heaving all night from worrying over this new information. She then said she'd called the surgeon's office manager and they'd worked it out so she could piggy-back on my appointment. I was more than OK with that, and actually relieved since I had Clara with me and knew she'd probably benefit from Grammy's presence.

My lump was examined and the doctor recommended I have it removed. It is probably a lymph node, but it's better not to guess with these things, especially since it has grown quite a bit. So I'll have it out in a few months, after Clara is weaned.

Then, it was Mom's turn. I listened quietly as she expressed her fears about the news of the bone metastases. She was crying and panicked, her face lined with genuine worry ... it broke my heart to see my mother in that state. It's one thing to be told you have breast cancer and be presented a pretty cut-and-dried plan about how to treat it. But to find out it's Stage IV and in the bones ... everything changes at that point.

The surgeon (whom my mom LOVES) was so sympathetic and even teared up at my mom's emotions. She explained that "mets" (short word for metastases, which is a real tongue-twister in my opinion), though they aren't good, aren't necessarily the end of the world, either. Especially "bony mets" as she called them. The cancer is NOT in any of my mom's vital organs. And the lesions must be very small because she has no bone pain, either. She went on to tell about patients of hers with the exact same diagnosis as my mom's, thriving decades later. She said there is no cure, but you can manage it as you would any other chronic illness. This visit really put my mom at ease and I was glad to be there with her for it.

After I got home, I researched more about these bony mets. They can be treated in a surprising number of ways. There are clinical studies about this very thing -- breast-to-bone metastasis. There are online support groups, members of which have had their mets for years, some for close to 20. I found all this information so encouraging, so I sent it to my mom, too.

One thing the surgeon recommended was that my mom take some time to do things for herself right now. I couldn't agree more. I am coming up with some things I could do for her or with her, but I appreciate suggestions, too. So please, send your ideas my way!

Every day brings new emotions and feelings about this experience. Anger, sadness, hope, relief, worry. It is a roller coaster, and not a fun one. I sometimes find myself breaking down at the thought of my wonderful parents having to endure such a huge trial in their lives. But a friend whose mother had cancer gave me some great advice this morning. She said, you can't worry about the future because that's too overwhelming. You can only allow yourself to worry as far as the next appointment or treatment and it's more manageable. I'm sure she's right. And she reminded me that faith and prayers will get me through. I KNOW that to be true and I have experienced the healing power of prayer already.

Thank you all for your prayers, thoughts, good vibes, hopes and well-wishes. It really is helping. I do believe it's all in God's hands, but I also believe we are ALL God's hands on earth and that we are here to lift each others' burdens.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Mom's Cancer Chronicles: the announcement.

Dropping me off at BYU, 2005

My mom rarely cries. So when she does, I know it's serious.

On Sunday evening, Mom began weeping quietly before announcing to us, her children, that she has breast cancer.

This is her illness, her story to tell. She wants it that way. But, she also sees the wisdom in sharing this burden with others. As she has told her family and friends, she has felt the weight of it lightening. She also feels that by having cancer, she can provide others who find themselves battling it with credible experiences, facts and encouragement. She says, "That's why there are other people in this world -- so we can help each other." For these reasons, she has decided to go fully public with her illness on her blog where she will chronicle her journey.

In addition, she has asked me to tell my story as the daughter of a woman with cancer. I have agreed to do it, knowing that although it may be difficult to process these intense emotions for all of you to read, it will also be cathartic for me, and may even be helpful for others whose loved ones are battling cancer.

The Announcement

"I don't want you to be sad, but ... I do have breast cancer."

Mom's words rang in my ears, deafening. A looming fear became a reality in a matter of seconds.

In that moment, my world came to a screeching stop. Emotional whiplash. I felt my eyes well up with tears, my throat became full and a warm fear passed over me. Earlier that day, I had been preoccupied with church-related business. Upon hearing about my mom, those worries became insignificant and evaporated effortlessly, as if the news were a blowtorch on an ice cube. I had the distinct thought,

Everything is different now. Everything has changed.

After the initial shock of receiving such news, I began to digest it all. What does this mean? It means Mom is going to have to do all that horrible stuff you only read about other people doing: chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, tests, biopsies, scans, endless procedures. It means she will have to go through all the side effects of treatment: recovering from surgery, extreme nausea, fatigue, pain, hair loss. It means every time she receives new information, she will either be relieved or feel like she's being punched square in the stomach, again and again.

This is the reality of cancer.

My mom is such a good person. One of the finest. Why does she have to go through this?

Well, as she told me on the phone yesterday, "You can't choose your trials." And she's right. You can't. But you do get to choose how to handle them.

Mom has instructed us to stay positive and optimistic, which I am. I KNOW my mother is going to beat this cancer. The doctors and surgeons feel it is highly likely. Will it be easy? No. But it is entirely possible, and it just so happens my mom is freakishly good at doing difficult things. Like serving an 18-month mission in the sweltering jungles of Panama and Costa Rica. Having twins. Having three more kids, one born breech (and without any anesthesia). Losing her mother and three siblings. Graduating from college after a 20-year break.

So she's totally got this cancer-thing beat. The game's in the bag.

Still, it's scaring the living daylight out of me. Cancer took my grandmother and her mother before her. Now, my own mother has it. What about me? What about my sisters? My children?

Mom will be having the BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 gene mutation test soon. This will give us a better idea of what we're dealing with and what it means for the rest of us.

In the meantime, each day brings more tests, more information to process and an inevitable change in plans. Cancer certainly keeps you on your toes.

Right now, Mom is still in the discovery phase of her diagnosis. The have concluded she definitely has invasive ductal carcinoma, which accounts for 80 percent of all breast cancer cases. They say it's Stage II, which could change. It could be in both breasts -- still testing to find out. There are talks of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy. But even that is uncertain.

Here's what IS certain, though: my family is standing with her one-hundred percent of the way. We Haneys are loyal and we defend one another. We're not going to let some crazy cancer bully our mom around. No way.

As Mom has asked me to tell this story through my perspective, I decided to do that here, right on my blog. I'm still Mom, the Intern (of Life). And right now, my internship is covering the intricacies of helping a loved one survive cancer. It's something I hoped I'd never have to study during the course of my life, but here I am. My mom has breast cancer. And I'm ready to do whatever I can to help her overcome this.

Here we go.