I have had a lot of support from family and friends during this journey through breast cancer, and one of my strongest supporters has been my mother. She got on a plane all by herself after not flying for fifteen years in order to be here for my surgery. She sat up in the early hours of the morning and talked with me when I couldn’t sleep. She flew up to help me (and watch me sleep) during the last week of Phase II of chemo. She has spent hours and hours on the phone talking with me, and ends each call with the assurance that I can call her and talk to her about anything.
But the thing that gets to me is when she tells me how proud she is of how I have handled myself throughout this journey. It chokes me up. Each time she says this, I want to tell her that I learned strength from her. As a child, teenager, and adult, I have know that I could ask her anything — I could tell her things that I wasn’t proud of, my fears, or my dreams, and she was a safe haven. She has counseled me my entire life. She is the one who taught me to work calmly through an emergency and fall apart later. She taught me grace, kindness to others, and how to listen. And she can deliver a punch line better than any comedian.
I suspect it must be horrible to watch your child go through cancer, and to have to do this just weeks after losing your husband of 55 years would be enough to break anyone. But my mother has shown such strength and compassion. We have learned about cancer and the treatment process together. We have laughed at the indignities and my irreverence. We have talked about life and the possibility of death. She was in the room when I looked at my scar for the first time and said, “I can live with that,” and meant it. And she has let me cry when I needed to and understood when I asked, “When will I feel safe again?”
And yet, my mom says she is proud of me. Look in the mirror Mom.