I can remember the day so clearly.
I had just started 6th grade. I was worried about going to a new school with kids I hadn’t grown up with my whole life, learning how to use a locker, and trying out for sports. I didn’t think I’d be worrying about a deadly illness that alters so many lives each year, each day, each second for that matter.
My mom hadn’t been feeling well for a while, but I figured it was nothing serious, until she went to the doctor and sat me down that evening.
Stage 3 colon cancer to be exact. I am from Augusta, Georgia. It’s a large town with a small town feel, if that makes sense. Everyone knows everyone, well at least the parents do. Life was happy there. I grew up with an older sister to play with, a mom who loves me, and a dad who always tells me to be the free spirit I am. Things aren’t always happy, though.
One-day life hits you in the gut so hard you think you might never catch your breath again. For me, that was the day my mom was diagnosed with cancer. I didn’t believe her at first. Sitting in her bathroom I sat there sobbing as she broke the news. Sobbing because I was angry, because I didn’t understand why this happened to her, because it wasn’t fair. She didn’t cry when she told me. She was strong and sat there holding me. That night after I finally got my emotions under control I realized I had to be strong for her. She couldn’t do this on her own.
Stage 3 colon cancer is no joke. Things were bad. My mom was in her late 40s when she was diagnosed. Most people don’t even get a colonoscopy until they are 50. If my mom had waited that late, she wouldn’t be with me here today.
People shy away from it, don’t want to talk about it, dance around the word like actually talking about it will make it happen, but there it was staring me straight in the face. My mom’s cancer was advanced and it wasn’t the best scenario, but then again with cancer is there even a best scenario? She was going to have to go through chemo and radiation as well as an intensive surgery. And then even more chemo.
I can remember her barely being able to walk into the house because she was so exhausted from treatment, crawling into the garage because she was so fatigued. My mom didn’t give up. She was more than this sickness. She wasn’t going to let it cripple her and wither her away. She never complained or said she was tired. She was scared, terrified even, but she didn’t let it show because letting it show let the cancer win and that wasn’t happening.
I remember hearing a lot of things I didn’t understand, medical terms, all much too technical. To be honest, I didn’t really want to know what it all meant because I was scared one day someone would say she only has a year left, or a few months.
Before my mom had surgery, she went through 6 weeks of chemotherapy as well as radiation. I could see how it drained her, sucked the life out of her, but she kept on going.
Then the day of the surgery came.
I remember being at the hospital. I’ll never forget that sterile smell. It burned my nose and made me feel sick to my stomach. I sat in the waiting room with family and friends waiting…waiting for the doctors to come out and say your mom is fine, everything is ok.
That isn’t what happened.
I was supposed to be worried about boys and middle school drama but here I was worried about if I would ever hear her voice again. I couldn’t imagine not having her look in my room every night and tell me she loved me and would see me in the morning, or tell me funny stories and laugh with me. My mom’s laugh is so distinct. It’s so loud and high pitched I could always pick it out of a crowd.
As I’ve gotten older I notice more and more that I laugh like her, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. The eighth hour came and doctors walked out and said if my mom stayed under any longer she probably wouldn’t survive. We didn’t know what else to do but pray. I remember standing there with hot tears streaming down my face beside my family and friends as we stood in a circle and began to hold hands and we prayed.
Prayed for her to live.
Prayed for her not to leave us so soon.
I was so angry because I didn’t understand why God did this to her. I realized, though, that it made my mom stronger, which is hard to believe that was even possible. It made her stronger for the other events that were to happen to her later. They say rain makes trees grow deeper roots. My mom grew deeper roots in all this rain and darkness. She was still a guiding light.
She survived the surgery. I remember seeing her after it. She had so many tubes feeding into her pale, frail body. I felt sick. I hated seeing her like that but at the same time I was just happy to see her breathing. See her chest moving up and down. I can say that without her I wouldn’t be the person I am today and I probably wouldn’t be at the University of Georgia like I am now.
After my mom recovered from surgery, she had more chemotherapy. The day finally came when she finished her last treatment and she went into remission. She is now cancer free 8 years, has run multiple 5ks and a half marathon, as well as receive two promotions at work. She was strong then and still is strong now. The whole time I thought I was going to have to be strong for her because she needed me but it turned out she was strong for me and my family.
She never let the cancer stop her. She didn’t let it weigh her down because if she had it would have consumed her. I remember her telling me the statistic when was diagnosed was that 1 in 4 people get cancer. She looked at me and said “I got cancer but I hope I was the 1 out of the 4 members of our family to get it.” She would have rather her suffer than to see us suffer. I can not think of a greater amount of love and sacrifice than when she told me that.
I not only Relay for my mom, but my Granny and great-aunt Dot who survived breast cancer, my cousin Nick who is currently battling Leukemia, and my Pop who passed away from lung cancer my sophomore year of high school. It’s not just about the loved ones I know affected by cancer, though. It’s about everyone who was affected, is affected, will be affected. It’s about having hope in a better tomorrow.
My mom had hope, and so do I. I have hope that there will be a day where there is a cure. Until then I fight. I fight for loved ones lost, for those currently battling, and for those who will battle. My mom never gave up, and neither will I. She taught me strength and courage, and she continues to do so everyday. She is a force that cannot be stopped and everything I aspire to be.
So I encourage you to sign up for Relay For Life, donate to someone’s page, or participate in a local Relay For Life event near you. Together we will finish the fight.
If you would like to donate to help me meet my fundraising goal here’s the link.