My first born just turned 18 months. It seems crazy that she could already reach this age. It seems even crazier that, when I was her age, my mom was already gone. I’ve heard that we shouldn’t say that someone lost a battle to cancer, arguing that to fight cancer is to beat it regardless of the outcome, but, as someone who has no memory of her own mother, it certainly felt a lot like losing to me.
I’ve been told that my mom found signs that she might have breast cancer when she was pregnant with me, her second child, but was told that the changes she noticed were likely a mere side effect of pregnancy hormones. So she waited. They diagnosed her after I was born, and she fought hard for 18 long (but oh so short!) months before the cancer finally had its way. And just like that, there was no mommy.
My dad did remarry when I was six, and I’m blessed with a very close relationship with my (step)mom, but it was always hard that I didn’t remember my birth mom. I’m told by some that I look like her and by others that I have a lot of her mannerisms, and I love to hear these things even though I can’t confirm them with my own memories. I’m told that she was over the moon for my brother and me, but I didn’t really understand that until I became a mother myself and felt that love for my own child.
I didn’t think my daughter’s own 18 month birthday would be that big of a deal until I noticed a mysterious place on my arm right around the same time, and then it hit me: Afton would grow up just like I did if something happened to me. She, too, wouldn’t know how much I love her. She would also have to take others’ word for it. She would always wonder how life would have been different. She would always question what advice I would have given in certain situations. She would hate that she didn’t remember for herself. And maybe, she too would be shy about asking about me for fearing of bringing up painful memories.
As it turns out the place on my arm is nothing, so all my fears and worries were completely unfounded, but, turning the calendar to October and remembering that it’s Breast Cancer Awareness month meant a little more this year. I felt like I had walked in my mom’s shoes for a moment, and it hit me with sharp clarity: dying was hard for my mom, too. She knew exactly what she was going to miss: first days of school, summer vacations, my first bike ride without training wheels, holidays, school dances, boyfriends, broken hearts, a wedding, watching her daughter become a mother, grandbabies, and so much more. She knew the questions I would have that would go unanswered. And, for the first time, I felt her pain. I felt her fear that my daughter would trade a loving and present mother for a motherless childhood and someone else’s memories.
I am so thankful that this won’t be my daughter’s story.