4 Ways My Mom's Cancer Diagnosis Has Changed My Family
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4 Ways My Mom's Cancer Diagnosis Has Changed My Family

Good things still come from even the worst of situations

4 Ways My Mom's Cancer Diagnosis Has Changed My Family
Shea Ward

Early January in 2018 my mom was unexpectedly diagnosed with Stage 4 Colon Cancer. In a matter of minutes, in the span of one sentence, my entire family had our lives turned upside down. Over the past 13 months, we've become a team, pushing through the bad days and celebrating on the good ones. There have been moments of fear, uneasiness, concern, and anxiety but there have also been overwhelming amounts of love, support, confidence, and hope.

It's the hardest thing in the world to watch someone you love more than anything suffer. But over the past year, my family has grown considerably both together and as individuals. It's been an event that has changed all of our lives significantly, but not every change has been negative.

1. My mom takes advantage of more opportunities 

My entire life my mom's biggest dream has been to travel the world and my entire life I've watched my Mom pass up those opportunities for work, family, money, time, etc. My mom is cautious, a planner she wants to be prepared for anything and everything "just in case". But she definitely was not prepared to be diagnosed with Stage 4 Colon Cancer. It wasn't a battle that she was expecting to fight, and even though from the very beginning she has been strong, positive, optimistic, a fighter- that's how she has always been.

That part didn't change. What changed was her desire to take advantage of opportunities, to commit to them, to finding any and every way she could to make them work, because life is short and because she deserves to live out her dreams too. A couple months into treatment she made the trip to Michigan for Mom's Day, over the summer we all spent a week in one of her favorite places Franklin, Tennessee.

In November we left the country as a family for the first time when we spent 11 days together in Ireland and now my Mom and I have a girls trip to Vienna planned in May. My entire life I've watched my Mom put everyone else and their needs first at the expense of her own, and as hard as it has been to watch her life revolve around doctors appointments and chemo, it has been so rewarding to watch her win, remain at work, and take advantage of every opportunity to fulfill one of her dreams.

2. My dad is more affectionate 

My dad has always been selective when it comes to expressing his feelings and showing emotion and affection. I've seen my dad upset twice in 20 years. The first time following the passing of his own dad and the second time when the love of his life was diagnosed with stage four cancer. My dad is the wisest, most supportive and funniest man you will ever meet.

Following my mom's diagnosis, he really stepped up to the plate. Getting her to and from chemo and doctors appointments while getting my brother to and from both school and work. Going out of his way to prioritize family brunches and game nights. My Thanksgiving break took an unexpected turn when I ended up in the hospital, but it was my dad who sat with me through all 8-9 nerve-racking hours.

When I called my ad upset and told him I wished I could just go home for a weekend like the in-state kids, he didn't think twice before booking me a plane ticket home and telling me to never think that wasn't an option for me, and it has been my dad who has sat on FaceTime with me giving advice, supporting me and giving me the strength to make one of the hardest decisions. In the past 13 months, my dad has gone to endless lengths to manage everyone's schedules on top of his own and make us all feel loved, safe, and supported.

3. I'm more appreciative

I remember sitting in the hospital looking at my beautiful best friend and trying so hard to comprehend the fact that she had stage four cancer. With my heart in my stomach, I remember feeling helpless and having this moment where I realized there was a possibility that I could lose her followed by this flash of what life would be like without my mom and I have never experienced worse pain or fear then right there right then.

Anyone that knows my mom or my dad can confidently say that their life is better because they are in it. It was those feelings and that experience that made me realize how lucky I am to have Patrick and Heidi as my parents. In the past 13 months I have become even more appreciative of not just the life that they have given me but of who they are as individuals, the lives they have led and what they have given up for me and my brother so that we could have our best chance.

I have grown extremely close to both my parents and my brother and there is never a moment that I take them from granted and I try harder now to show them, to tell them, to remind them of how grateful I am for them and everything they have done and continue to do for me.

My mom's unexpected diagnosis followed by the unexpected death of one of my first forever friends has deepened my appreciation for life because at any moment your life can change. You and everyone you love are not guaranteed tomorrow, so say I love you more, let go of anger faster, fight for each other, and take advantage of every moment you have with the people that you love and that love you because you never know when your or anyone else's last moment may be.

4. My brother is more independent

My brother is the definition of a momma's boy, coupled with the fact that he's kinda lazy, let's just say for the majority of his life he's relied on my mom for pretty much everything. My dad used to make this joke when we were younger, he would say "Do you need mom to wipe your ass for you too?".

I think my mom was his guardian angel like most moms are, they make everything better. When my brother was younger he went through a period where he battled anxiety and my mom was the one that supported him, calmed him, she was the one who was there for him.

But, when my mom was diagnosed with cancer I think it was the first time he went through something really hard in his life where he didn't want to go to my mom. He wanted to be strong and brave so that he could support her, so that for the first time he could carry her fears and be the one making her feel better. I think out of that my brother really matured and grew more independent and I couldn't be more proud of the man he is turning out to be.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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