I am a woman, a lung cancer survivor, a mother and a physician. My 17-year-old daughter submitted a paper for her college English class that brought her professor to tears. The essay describes the emotions and the role reversal she felt she had to take from the daughter to the caretaker/parent. I would very much like to share her story.
We never know when our life could end or when everything could just come crashing down and our whole existence is over. We always think we have time. We think we have 80 years on this earth but that is not always the case. You hear people who go through tragedies say enjoy all the moments, big and little, love your loved ones while you still can, and life is short so live it to the fullest. I never quite comprehended what they were saying until the summer of last year. We are constantly taking things for granted in our lives that we don't even notice when we should be appreciative until the unthinkable happens and we realize what we have or could have lost.
Mothers give us the gift of life. Without a mother none of us would be here today and most of the time we forget just how fortunate we are for them. Whether someone is close with their mom or not, they have her to thank for their existence. I am incredibly close with my mom. She has always been my role model -- the woman that one day I hope to become. She has blessed me with everything I could have dreamed of and still does. She is my best friend, the person I can rely on to keep my secrets, give me guidance, brighten my day, and be there at my breaking points. As children, we always think parents are supposed to take care of us and we do not understand that sometimes we need to help and take care of our parents when they are in need. They might not have a spouse, or parent or friend to do so, only us. We do not understand just how much a parent does for us and we won't understand until we become a parent.
There are two types of people in this world, people who pick good news first and people who pick bad news first. I always pick bad news first and save the good for last. When my mom told my siblings and me that she was diagnosed with lung cancer, it was a horrifying moment. I was in pure shock and I didn't know how my life was going to be for the next few months. Could I potentially lose my mom? She was going to have surgery to hopefully remove the cancer and make sure that it had not spread elsewhere. There was no good news, only hope. We sat around the dinner table in silence for a while in shock. My mom is a doctor; she knows how to stay away from leading causes of lung cancer, like smoking and protecting your body when using radiation and chemicals. She has a healthy diet and she runs marathons. How could someone who is in great shape and has so much knowledge of cancer prevention be the person who is living with cancer? The more I thought of the what ifs, the less I wanted to deal with it and accept the situation. Instead, I put my feelings in a box and shoved the box deep down inside, and I was not going to open the box until the time was necessary. Last summer, I basically lived at the hospital taking my mother to doctor appointments day in and day out. Someone needed to be there to hold her hand through it all and put on a fake smile and say everything is going to be okay even when I had no idea what the outcome was going to be. I know she would have done the same for me, so I, the child, needed to be there to help my parent.
The day of her surgery was intense. I drove her to the hospital before the sun rose and we waited for the long process to begin. I did not get to see much of her because of all the final testing the doctors were doing before she went into surgery but I was trying to come up with other things to talk about to get her mind off of what was going on. That was the hardest part.
The doctors took her back for surgery in the late morning and I was left in the waiting room area along with many others waiting and hoping that their loved ones are safe and still alive in surgery. The hours went by and more friends and family came to sit with me as we waited to hear any new updates about my mom. As the day turned into night, we were still sitting in the waiting room. A nurse came out and told us the surgery was over, she was in recovery. We walked to a new floor and a new waiting area. By the time she got out of recovery, it seemed like we had been waiting several days but it was only one. The whole day I was worried and scared and all I wanted to do was see my mom and be wrapped in her arms knowing I was safe and okay but I remembered that she was more scared than me, and I had to be the one comforting her. When I finally saw my mom that is exactly what I did.
Thankfully, the doctors caught her cancer at an early stage and were able to remove all of it, and the cancer had not spread. It was a crazy summer full of crazy emotions. Thinking that I could possibly lose my mom and live in a world where she was no longer going to be in, to knowing that I have been blessed with more time with my mom changed my perspective on life. I finally understood everything that I have is because of her. Without her, I would be nothing. I owe everything to her, and for her I am forever thankful.
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