|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.
"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.