You are one of the most terrifying and unsettling words in the English language. When my mother was originally diagnosed with breast cancer, I spent a week researching what would happen.
I wanted to know what new drugs were available, what treatment options were available, and what the life expectancy was. I read a lot of tales about other women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. I needed to know what I was getting myself into. It was all I needed to know.
I’ll never forget how she contacted me one morning and told me about you. My stomach sunk as my heart sank into my stomach. My lungs felt as if they were being stripped dry of oxygen. I don’t recall finishing whatever phrase I was in the middle of.
Growing up, all I could think about was not being able to do things with my mother—I don’t know how to prepare her chicken and wild rice soup, I don’t know how to manage my student loans, I don’t know how to plan a wedding… My mother was going to teach, tell, and show me all of these things in due time.
I was afraid I would lose her when she was sick. “It’ll be alright, Joy,” says the narrator. This is something she told me. This was something she told me several times. But I could tell she was terrified. I could tell she was concerned. However, she would never admit it. My mother is our family’s rock. She wasn’t going to allow anything to get in her way.
It’s a funny thing, life. I spent so many years defying my mother and fighting for my independence and freedom, and now that I’m about to graduate college and travel the world, I’m seeing life come full circle. But there is one constant in my life: my mother’s affection. She seemed to know that no matter how crazy I drove her, I’d be fine. That is exactly what I did. And it’s all because of her.
I’m sorry to confess that I was unaware of these facts before my mother’s illness. My mother has always been my best friend, but the prospect of losing her at the time made time stand still and put everything into perspective for me.
I can now send you this letter now that cancer has gone away and my mother is still alive. I’m not sure if we’ll see each other again, and I sincerely hope we won’t, but I’ll leave that up to the universe.
And here’s something I never expected to say…
But thank you, CANCER, for bringing to my attention the significance of my mother’s love’s constant presence. Thank you for allowing me to keep my mother with me. Thank you for instilling in me the value of family. Thank you for teaching me that family is the most important thing we have and always will be. Thank you for transforming me into the daughter of a fighter, a survivor, and a fearless badass. I never imagined I’d be thanking you for allowing us to get through, for allowing us to just be here now, right here.
To have my mom right here is all that I could ever wish for.
A breast cancer survivor’s daughter