I don’t remember the first time my mom had a lumpectomy, because I was only 6 weeks old. It’s so hard to wrap my head around that because she was only 5 years older than I am right now. She was only 20 years old and had a brand new baby. Can anyone really wrap their head around that?
My mom has been through so much throughout her adult life.
The first time I was old enough to actually understand that my mom was having a recurrence and would need to have a bilateral mastectomy, I was 7 years old, and in the 2nd grade. I was too young to really comprehend everything that was going on, but I knew that my mom was not doing well. When she came home from the hospital I could see it, but she was so strong for my two sisters and me. She still took care of us the best she could and that made me feel safe and like things were going to be okay. She never shied away from letting us see her incisions and drain tubes, because it made it less scary for us. I helped her write her drain tube numbers down and did my best to help around the house with chores that I could do, like laundry, dishes, and she even let me help with dinner some. It was the first time I started to feel like a ‘big girl’.
Once she was healed from surgery, she seemed healthier, more active than before, and like my Momma again. She trained for and completed multiple 60 miles walks for breast cancer. And all seemed right in my world again.
My Mom married my step-Dad and we moved from Indiana to South Carolina in 2013….life seemed perfect. My sisters and I were adjusting to our new school, we had all made new friends, and we were all really happy. Then my mom got sick again. She woke up one morning with severe abdominal pain and went to the doctor. Within two weeks, she had another major surgery. Not long after that, she started chemo, and lost her hair. All of it was scary for me – I worried my mom was not going to be the same, but I had two little sister who were looking up to me to see if they should be scared or not, so I tried to be strong like my mom.
The thing that gave me comfort that my mom was still the same was when I broke my arm at my Dad’s house while my Mom was in the middle of her chemo. She drove by herself from Charlotte to Birmingham to pick us up in the middle of the night and drove all night long to get us home so she could take me to the orthopedic surgeon. No matter what my mom is going through she always makes sure we come first.
Once her hair started growing back in and I saw her health improving, a felt relief for the first time in awhile.
Over the next couple years, my Mom had a couple more surgeries, but she never let it keep her down for very long, so life was mostly normal again.
Before my 11th birthday, she had to spend over a week in the hospital. We had already sent out the invitations for my sleepover and I was worried we would have to cancel it. She was determined to not cancel it though. She got out of the hospital the day before my party, and made my step-dad take her to the store to get my presents. We laugh about the fact that the only clothes she had was some pajamas but that didn’t stop her from going in the store so I had the present I asked for. Then she spent hours baking to make a cookie bar and food for my party and taking care of our Great-Grandma who had come down to help but had fallen and broken her arm. A few days later, she took me shopping to get a dress for my 6th grade dance even though she was supposed to be on bed rest.
I started another new school in 7th grade and things were going good. I was doing tumbling, and my sisters were doing dance. I made some really good friends and really enjoyed my new school, but around Christmas my Mom had to start some new treatment for the lesions in her abdomen and they made her really tired. Between her working and running us to activities, she didn’t have much energy for anything else, and that was really hard for me to see and process. Even though my aunt was living with us at the time, I had to start taking on more responsibilities with helping around the house. My mom had to have a really major abdominal surgery that spring, and ended up having to spend some time in the hospital because of complications. I remember her first week home being really rough, because she was in some much pain. I had never seen her like that before, and it was scary. My Nana and Papaw had come down to stay that week with us, and my mom was in such rough shape at the end of that week that my Nana cried when she had to leave. A week later she asked my Lele to drive us to the mall and took me to the mall to get outfits for my overnight field trip to Charleston. We joked about the fact that she was walking around the mall, hunched over like an old lady. But I really saw my mom’s strength and love for me that day. She pushed through so much pain to be able to have that time with me and make sure I had everything I needed for my trip.
This past fall, I started high school. It was a super exciting time in my life, but it was also tough because my Mom was still sick. We found out that there was a problem with her implants. Her doctor told her that her body was trying to reject her implants, her capsules were squeezing her implants and could cause them to rupture and one of her implants shifted out of the pocket causing her chest to look really abnormal. This was the scariest thing I had ever seen. Something a doctor put in her body was hurting her! How does that happen?
As scary as it was, I tried to not only be strong for my sisters, but also for her. She talked to me a lot leading up to her explant surgery, and really cared about how I felt about it. We talked about her options for reconstruction and going flat. I told her, I just wanted her to be better. That I did not want her to get implants again just to maybe have the same thing happen again. I told her I thought she would just look like she just never really had boobs to begin with. And it does. For the first time in a long time I see my mom comfortable in her own skin.
A few months after her explant surgery she participated in The Grace Project where she had pictures of her taken showing her scars. That was a big deal. The pictures are so beautiful and I’m so proud of her for being brave enough to use her experience to help others.
My mom has gone through so much, and so have me and my sisters with having a sick mom. I have cried and prayed so many throughout my mom being sick. But even though I have been so scared for my momma’s life at times, her strength has always reassured me that everything will be okay.
My mom inspires me. She has taught me what it means to have hope. She makes me believe. My strength comes from watching her.