The Battle Begins

Posted on September 15, 2013 by


It feels like it happened a million years ago, but it’s been a few years since my Mother told me her sad news on July 12, 2011. It was a Thursday evening when she called me from her cellphone while I was on my way home from work.

When I heard the news, I broke out in tears. I was convulsing even after the call had ended. My boyfriend’s Mom was looking at me quizzically. I looked at her and I told her, “My Mom has cancer.”

At the age of 58, she first noticed that something was wrong when she felt intense pain inside her limbs. She thought the pain and the fatigue meant nothing. Eventually, walking became a chore. Later on, putting her clothes on was too. Driving became the most difficult task for her to do. We had to get her a wheelchair for walking long distances. We had to help her put on her clothes. My Mother lost her independence and health in a short amount of time.

I had asked her one day why she felt so much pain all the time. She thought it was oncoming arthritis. “Nothing to worry about,” I remember her saying to me. “It’s just hard for me to walk that’s all.”

As it turns out, it was something to worry about. It was only after she underwent an MRI, a CAT scan, and blood testing at a Portland hospital that they found out it was cancer. After my Mother’s doctor got the results back from the lab, my Mother was called on July 12, 2011, and asked to come visit her at our hometown health clinic. Her physician told her that she had, what appears to be, bone cancer. The cancer created tumors all around her bones. It even ate a hole in her left hip. That day was the hardest day in her life. She had to call her husband, my Dad, from work to come pick her up from the clinic. She had to tell him her grim news in person.

There is not much you can do as a witness to a body killing itself. When you’re a witness just be there to help whenever she needs you. Plan ahead. Help her put her socks on. Help her get her pants on. Don’t ask her if she’s alright a thousand times a day. There’s not much to do but quickly get up when she gets up out of her chair. She tells you she doesn’t need help. You sit back down to watch her waddle to her destination and she comes back tired. As she sits down, she grinds her teeth to hide the million bites of pain.

The last time my Mother got a mammogram was in 2004. Because she had health problems even then, my Mom had stopped getting breast exams thinking that they’ll just find something else wrong with her. Her apathy nearly killed her. Within a few years, the cancer in her right breast spread all around her body and attacking her bones unnoticed.

Her type of cancer is called Estrogen-Receptor Positive. It’s breast cancer based. This cancer is sensitive to the hormone estrogen. Her body was over-producing estrogen which postponed my Mother’s menopause. The large amounts of this hormone only exacerbated the cancer and made it spread to the rest of her body to her arms, hips, and legs. Every day, my Mom has to take an estrogen blocker pill so that the cancer doesn’t grapple onto something else like her kidney or her heart, which is the worst thing that could happen.

There are different kinds of cancer. Some people need to undergo chemotherapy to get better. Thankfully, my Mom didn’t have to go through that, but she did go through radiation to shrink the tumors in her legs, back, hip, breast, and arms. We all breathed a sigh of relief when the doctors decided not to take her breast. My Mom doesn’t do very well before or after a surgery. “The cancer,” they said, “was already in her body. Removal of the breast wouldn’t make a difference.”

Because of my Mom’s illness, I began to wonder about my own health. What if they find something wrong with me? Will there be cancer hidden under some healthy flesh?

Then I realized that I need to learn from my Mother’s mistake. I shouldn’t be afraid. I will have cancer when I get older, there is no doubt about that, so I need to get myself checked out every year before the cancer gets worse. I just can’t be afraid because if they do find cancer early, I have a better chance of surviving than if I just do nothing. I don’t want to leave everyone behind because of my fear.

And, thankfully, my Mom doesn’t have to either. I remember when I was living away in 2011, my sister and her husband visited me and we talked about how dire our Mother’s situation was. I think how far away it seemed that I thought: this is it. This is when Mom is going to leave us.

It’s the year 2013 and my Mom’s tumors are shrinking. She feels better. She walks without the wheelchair or the cane. She can drive now! Her mood has brightened since her doctor told her that the tumors were smaller. I can hear her now, she’s chatting to my Father about the issues of the day. My Father responding in a muffled low-tone. I am so glad that she is still alive. I don’t know what I would do without her. I love her so much.

Her tumors are shrinking but my Mom will always have cancer for the rest of her life. There will always be pain and exhaustion with cancer. The battle never ends.

Thanks to Ms. Roberts for her contribution!  You can read more on her site here.  If you would like to submit a piece to be featured on Eunoia Solstice, email submissions to e.jenkins at pfanm dot com.  Thanks for reading!