My mom died two months before I turned 8 years old. Just two months after my oldest daughter turned 8, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Then I became a parent with cancer. Life sometimes feels like reliving past trauma in a cruel pattern, only with slight variations.
As I child, I spent countless hours in frustrated tears, silently expressing my anger towards my dead mother for leaving me. I was a little angry at God but a lot angry at my mom, because simply, I knew her better. How could she just abandon me?! I resented the fact that I was forever “different” from my peers now and missing out on the one thing I thought everyone else had, a mom. And because I didn’t know better, I blamed her for it.
In a way being diagnosed with breast cancer gave me a chance to heal that childhood trauma. Because of cancer, I gained a better understanding of what it might have been like from her perspective. To have the constant ache of fear and worry about leaving her little girl behind.
I had little memory of her breast cancer experience but going through it myself, gave me the opportunity to connect with and know my mother in a way I never could have in any other way. We are forever bonded by a similar path even if we never physically walked it together.
The heaviness of that worry was my constant companion throughout diagnosis, treatment and beyond. I know what it’s like to lose a parent at a young age. The thought of my kids losing me, made me ill. I refused. I begged. I pleaded. I chose an aggressive treatment plan. I did all the things. Then I finished active treatment and still… the pit in my stomach remained.
It’s still there. But thankfully, it’s less now, because of therapy and time. TIME is a big one. I have to remind myself it took me years to loosen my grip on those childhood grudges. It might take years before I feel fully at peace with the fact that I don’t have complete control over the possibility of a cancer recurrence.
Ironically the thing that has helped the most is facing the possibility head on. I talk and cry with my therapist about those scary “what ifs.” And you know what I’ve discovered? My biggest fear is that my kids will lose me but I lost my mom and I am okay. My kids would be too. Kids are amazing and resilient.
On this side of things, looking back, I can only imagine how my mom must have felt. She probably knew my dad would take good care of me and that I would be surrounded by a village of people who loved me. That probably gave her peace of mind but she knew she would miss out on all of it… and that’s where I get a lump in my throat. Being a parent with cancer is rough. I wish I could hug her and say, I’m sorry, mom.