A lot of people are about to finish up with school for the year, or have finished in the past few weeks, but this week marked the end of something different for me: my mom's chemotherapy treatments.
About 6 monthes ago, on November 9, 2010, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had no symptoms prior to calcifications showing up on a mammogram.
On a friday, I remember her telling me about the mammogram, and that she'd gone in for a biopsy. My initial thought? It's going to be nothing. This kind of thing just wouldn't happen. I barely thought about it all weekend. I'd almost completely forgotten about the biopsy until my mom picked me up from dance on Tuesday night. As I walked to the car, I noticed she was crying. My initial thought- she must have had an argument with my dad, or something of that nature. The words I heard next were some of the scariest I've ever heard in my life. I don't remember precisely what she said, but I remember exactly how I felt: numb. I didn't know how to respond. Then, it hit me: what if I lost my mom? At that moment, I felt terrified. I wasn't ready to lose her. However, it also made me feel really thankful for the wonderful relationship that I have with my mom, because I knew that, if anything were to happen, I would have great memories to hold on to. In the 5 minute drive from the dance studio to my house, I went from "having a pretty good day" to an absolute nightmare.
The following weeks were a flurry of tests, complicated medical terms, and more information that anyone should have to process.
We found that the cancer was in its beginning stages, and that, thankfully, she would most likely be fine. On December 3, she had her first surgery to remove the cancerous tissue from her breast. Later that month, she had another procedure to remove more tissue as a precaution.
On Monday, January 17, 2011, my mom began a regimin of chemotherapy every three weeks, with another drug, Herceptin, on the off-weeks. She was to have 6 chemo sessions overall, for a total of 18 weeks of treatment.
I was addmittedly scared for my mom to begin chemotherapy. I had a picture in my head of a gaunt, sickly person constantly sick to their stomach.
Thankfully, she tolerated the chemo fairly well. Her worst days were the first 4 or 5 right after a day of chemo, but, surprisingly, she never once vomitted.
This monday, May 2, 2011, was her last chemo session, and a big day for us. I took the day off school to be with her for her treatment. We kept it low key, but I could tell how happy she was to have crossed this hurdle in her treatment.
She will now go for Herceptin treatments every three weeks for a year. This medicine is less intense than the chemo because it has little to no side effects and is given in much smaller doses. After that, she will have to take a pill for five years. Within the next month, she will have a mastectomy in order to prevent recurrence.
Over the past several monthes, I have learned firsthand many life lessons that had been told to me before, but that I had not necessarily been able to truly embrace. The first is just how precious and fragile life is. I realized that life can be taken in an instant, and that every day should really be treasured. At the moment my mom told me about her cancer, I thought about the little things I do, like saying goodnight and I love you to both of my parents every night before I go to bed. I knew this was important before, but it has taken on a new meaning now. I don't mean to say that I am paranoid about my parents dying, but I have come to realize that it is important to emphasize your love and appreciation for others daily. I have also learned about the importance of taking life one day at a time. Monthes before my mom's chemotherapy even started, I weighed myself down with thoughts: How sick would she be? What would it be like when her hair fell out? Will she lose lots of weight? One day, I had a realization: The time was going to come. My mom was going to go on chemo. Whatever was going to happen was going to happen, and my constant worrying was doing nothing but bring me stress. It was at that moment that I realized what I needed to do, the only thing I could do, and that was to take each day as it came, and deal with what was, not what I thought might be.
Through everything, I have been so proud of my mom. She has been incredibly strong, both physically and mentally. She was the first one to make sure that the rest of us were feeling ok about everything, while she was the one going through everything firsthand. My family tends to use humor as a coping method, and she was the first to make a joke to put everyone else at ease. I aspire to be half as strong as she is when I am grown, and I am so proud of her for finishing up!