Cancer. The first things that might come to mind are chemotherapy, ribbons, or the terminal disease that kills amounts of adults and children daily. What most don’t realize is the toll cancer takes, not only on the patient mentally and physically but, on the family and friends that surround their loved one. Trying to understand what they are going through and wanting to give every second of your day to be there and help them be cancer-free someday is something you want so bad but is so unattainable.
My mom was once happy and healthy. We were a family that happily spent time together. Until one day I blinked and our entire world flipped upside down and fell into this dark hole that gets deeper and deeper with every passing day.
It all started when my grandma was diagnosed with cancer (I was only eight at the time so I wasn’t really sure which type), all I knew was that it was an early stage and she would be okay. She didn’t lose her hair but she lost a piece of sanity post operation. Ten months of visiting her in the hospital, holding her hand and talking to the woman that partially raised me all came to an end one morning. Cancer stole my one and only grandma.
Two months after losing her, thyroid cancer came strolling in. It took my mom away from my sisters and I for some time, so she could have surgery and fully recover. I was nine. A few years passed and everything was okay, life was what we considered “normal”, and everyone was healthy (or so we thought). Then cancer stole our peace of mind.
In 2012 my mom had a scan done that revealed the worst. She had breast cancer. It was my freshman year of high school when she had surgery to remove the tumor. I’ll never forget the day I was getting ready to leave for a swim meet when she came home with her first bald head. Emotionally, I wasn’t ready and as strong as she tried to be, she wasn’t either. Yet cancer stole her hair.
Again, time had slowed down a little, my mom was growing her hair back and then it metastasized to her brain. It all started with a persisting three-month long head ache that no doctor could figure out. Eventually they had ordered a scan. They found a tumor. Not only was a part of her brain removed but her peripheral vision was gone. Cancer stole a part of her eye sight.
During the chemotherapy and radiation involved in keeping my mom in a healthier state, we traveled. A lot. Pittsburgh is known for their medical centers and I give their doctors and nurses many thank-you’s, but it is not a simple drive down the street. The typical once every three weeks, sometimes three times a week, took about six hours. Between the hour drive, vitals and three-hour treatment, and the drive home; sometimes we had to get gas for our car that could never catch a break. Cancer stole our money and most importantly, our time.
The journey of major diagnoses, chemotherapy treatments, radiation, scans and blood tests has been an emotional rollercoaster for my family and me. I don’t know what my mom goes through or what any other cancer patient sees along the way but it’s not just a terminal disease killing your organs, it mentally changes you and those around you. Cancer steals the person you once were and creates someone entirely different.