That word makes me see red. It has stolen people I love from this world and continues to cause damage without a care. World wide we lose over 400,000 women each year to breast cancer alone. Cancer sucks, and it steals from us the precious time we need with our loved ones.
My mom lost her battle with breast cancer in 2006, just a few weeks after my wedding. She fought to get there, her aggressive cancer causing many setbacks and painful living during the year of her fight. I was a senior in college, a baby barely old enough to buy beer and my three siblings much younger than that. It was all too much. So I didn’t deal with it. I haven’t dealt with it.
I could say that I’ve been in survival mode, keeping three kids alive and thriving from state to state and deployment to deployment and I haven’t had time to feel the emotions of grief, but that’s not true. The fact is that the reality of having to live the rest of my life without my mother is one that I cannot accept. Sometimes I forget, and I want to call her and it seems impossible that she’s not there to answer.
Especially now that I have children of my own. These are the years that mothers patiently wait for, when their babies become parents. When they are needed again, because I do. I need my mother. The more I find meaning and joy in motherhood, the more I long for my own mother. I have so many questions about marriage and parenting and loving.
She was so good at loving.
I look at my daughter sometimes and just think at how much my mother would have loved her. They are very similar, their love of natural wonder and good stories would have sealed their bond. I look at my son and see her. He has her eyes, and sometimes it takes my breath away to see my mother looking back at me.
She was much too young and her doctors missed the cancer. She had been dealing with a cough for weeks, they just gave her an inhaler and contributed it to allergies. Her breasts were different sizes, they attributed it to her significant weight loss. There were no lumps, it wasn’t that type of breast cancer. It took a visit to the ER for shortness of breath in a different town for them to take notice. A few days later I got the call. Cancer. By the time they found it, it had already spread to the lining of her lungs. She battled, hard, for a year. She threw birthday parties, made it to high school graduation, and smiled at my wedding.
We celebrated her life.
My biggest fear is that I will leave this earth too soon, before my babies have babies, before I’ve seen them become who they were born to be. I sometimes look at my husband and think, “What would you do with out me?” Not in some conceited self-righteous way, but in truth. We have this agreement between us that mom can’t get hurt. Dad can jump out of airplanes and enter in and out of combat zones, but mom can’t get hurt. It was a joke when I started Crossfit, but as we add more babies and another year ticks by it is more of a sober reminder than anything else. My doctor has asked if I want to do the genetic testing. I don’t. I’m scared of what that could mean. Like everything else, I desperately want to discuss this with my mother because she would understand. She would get it.
To my fellow motherless mothers out there, I know you. I know your heart, and the missing piece you’ve lost. I know those moments when you realize that the person who you want to talk to more than anything else, won’t be on the phone you’ve picked up to call.
In those moments I hug my children a little tighter, read to them a little longer, help them see the magic in the world around us, and smile.
It is what my mother would have done.