In 2002 I found out my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. As we sat on my bed she discussed the options, treatments, possibilities, and countless other things I wasn’t listening to her say- and I faded out on the conversation and into the life of the strongest most independent woman I’d ever known. I knew in that moment, nothing would ever be the same.
As many mother/daughter relationships my mom and I didn’t have the easiest time during my teenage years. I was a chip off her independent block, and wasn’t always great at communicating in an adult manner. Two head strong Italian women- we were like balsamic and EVOO, never really knowing how to communicate with each other.
The cancer that my mother was diagnosed with was very aggressive, and 9 years ago I could tell you what stage it was, all the stats, details, names of drugs, and how often they switched them when they stopped working, and how often she could and did receive her radiation treatments; but today I can only recall how this whole experience changed our relationship forever, and for the better.
I put on my big girl pants, nailed down a good corporate 8:30-4:30 job and became my mom’s personal assistant so that she wouldn’t have to do one more second of this alone.
I remember sitting in appointments with her surgeon and oncologist, scribbling as fast as I could on my big yellow notepad; taking notes, making reminders to look up things that I didn’t understand and which drugs and treatments to research, so that I could reassure her after the fact that her team of doctors were heading down the right path.
My strong mom now tired and scared, leaning on my immature (scared to death) self for strength and love- and some sort of sign that there would be a silver lining one day. I had to be the smile that she couldn’t find with in herself and I had decided that this was my mission of positivity.
With all the commuting and waiting that we did for treatments and appointments, we were left with nothing to do but to communicate and catch up over the last lifetime. Some days it was light hearted work chatter, and some days we dug deep into the past, with teary eyed apologies. We talked about seeing the world, and we promised that we’d go to Greece one day to climb the Acropolis together “after this was all over”.
In 2007 my mother lost her long and hard fought battle.
She was my Warrior, the epitome of strength and perseverance. No matter what they told her, how bad or good the prognosis was, she never once complained. No matter how tired, or sore, sick, or defeated- she’d down-play how she felt, give me her half smile and say “I’m just a little weak today, but I’m sure it’ll pass”.
I tell you today, if I were faced with what she faced, I’m not sure I’d have the strength to fight for 5 years. Fight for my job, my independence, but most of all my life and will to live through the worst of it.
Thank you mom for being my Warrior, thank you for showing me your strength and your weakness, and thank you, most of all for our second chance. Forever missing you….