We have a nickname for my mom: the glue. She's the defining piece of my family's puzzle that keeps us all together through the good times and bad. So when she found a lump in her breast last October, it felt like our lives were crumbling down around us. It didn't seem real. I couldn't even bring myself to say she had cancer, so I just called it "the lump" (I know, ridiculous) leading up to her surgery.
My mom has always been important to my family and me, but it wasn't until I had to sit in a waiting room while she had hours of surgeries that the weight of her impact sank in. She was always there to give us advice, cooking lessons, financial feedback, and good hugs. She's my shopping partner, drinking buddy, and all-around BFF. Now she needed us to do the job she mastered so well.
I'll never forget the way she looked in the recovery room. She had never seemed so small and weak, but she still wanted to know how everyone else was doing. When my brother and sister walked in, she said, "Look! I'm OK," in the best "strong" voice she could muster.
But if we thought the surgery was difficult, we were being naïve. Chemo has been so much harder. Week after week, my dad takes my mom to her treatments. For the first couple months, she used cold caps to try to preserve her hair. My dad went through the whole process of obtaining the dry ice and bringing the caps in a cooler for every chemo day.
Eventually, the caps stopped working, and my dad was the one who shaved my mom's head for her. For the almost 30 years my parents have been married, I have never seen so much teamwork and tenderness between the two of them. They have faced plenty of challenges together, but cancer has been the greatest obstacle of them all.
"For the almost 30 years my parents have been married, I have never seen so much teamwork and tenderness between the two of them. They have faced plenty of challenges together, but cancer has been the greatest obstacle of them all."
My parents have always had a healthy and affectionate relationship, but I have learned how much they need each other through this journey. Yeah, they make each other crazy sometimes like any other couple, but they also love one another fiercely. An awful illness can make you realize that more than ever.
My sister and I stay with my mom regularly and go to chemo as often as possible, but we are in our 20s and live on our own. My 16-year-old brother, however, faces my mom's diagnosis every single day. He's a teenager experiencing all the usual high school challenges, but he has made his priority looking out for his mom. He is mature beyond his years.
All in all, my family has proven itself to be a team. Any bad things that have happened to us before suddenly seem pretty silly. We have discovered that there's no bond better than the one we have with each other.
Through this diagnosis, we have grasped who our friends truly are. My mom's closest pals check in on her every week; they take her out when she's up for it and call her constantly. Hell, her two best friends even bought her a wig. Her entire office takes turns bringing her dinner once a week. Those are the true friends. Cancer helps you learn who is actually there for you.
My mom still has a long way to go in beating this thing, but she has handled it all with grace. She never complains — she's the best patient ever. She's been the ultimate example of strength. It has been hard for her to let others help her, because she's always the one coming to the rescue. But we wouldn't know how to take care of her so well if she didn't teach us how in the first place.
"Cancer helps you learn who is actually there for you."
My mom's breast cancer journey has taught us all how to be "the glue" — the person she has been for us this whole time. The job shouldn't be up to just one person. Whether you're maintaining relationships with partners, family, or friends, it's important to remember that keeping those bonds strong is your own responsibility as much as others. If you do a good job, your loved ones will be there for you when you need them most.