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.


  1. I’ll keep your mom, you, and your family in my thoughts. Sending you all thoughts and prayers of strength through this difficult time. <3

  2. You will be in my prayers. We are going on 9 years of my mom being cancer free (also breast). We almost lost her. She is a fighter though...and was so strong throughout. Just like I'm sure your mom will be. My mom was almost a stage 4...we were ecstatic to hear it was stage 3 :/ She had a double mastectomy---had 26 lymph nodes removed in her left arm. She did chemo and lost her hair/eyelashes/eyebrows. She did radiation. She made it through. She went to Sea World in the middle of treatment so us kids would have a sense of normalcy (my baby brother was just 10). She did have the gene test only to discover that she wasnt positive for the breast cancer gene but was for the ovarian cancer gene. So a few years after her chemo she went in and had a total hysterectomy. As I was pregnant...I got tested and was positive for the same gene. Meaning we watch my health close and I have to have my kids fast :/ so I can get a hysterectomy by the time i'm 40.

    If you need anything, please let me know!

    1. Thank you, Andrea! It is comforting to know others have beat this!

  3. Your mom is in my prayers, and all the best thoughts and wishes to her!

  4. Jenna, you're amazing! Your words of encouragement and truth have already helped me into this path of the unknown. I do know that my family loves me. I do know that Granny knows what I'm going through. I know that I have a loving Heavenly Father that knows me personally and will guide me through this strengthening trial. Thanks for all you do! Love, Mom


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