My mother is one of the most amazing people I know. She is unbelievably sweet and kind to everyone that she meets. She has loved and guided me, unconditionally, since I was born and I am beyond grateful to have her in my life. If you know her, you know her laugh is contagious and even at the age of 52, she can still cartwheel like a pro. Her love for life and happy spirit is inspiring. So when she sat me down, two weeks before Christmas, to tell me the doctors had found something during her routine colonoscopy, I didn’t want to believe her.
They found cancer.
Even writing this now is still hard to wrap my head around. As a family, we were already helping my aunt Joan (who is fighting stage four extrauterine cancer) and it was crazy to think that now my mom has cancer as well. Two of the most important women in my life, two of the most wonderful women in the world…have cancer.
My mom shared this terrible news with me in the most calm way possible. I remember hearing her sweet voice as the room started to spin and tears rolled down my face. “They found something. They found cancerous cells in a polyp. I will need surgery soon to remove parts of my colon and we don’t know how bad it’s going to be.” So as a family, we did everything we could to be as ready as possible for what came next. We kept it private, not knowing what else we would find out. It’s not until now that I’m sharing our story.
Five days into 2015, my mother had her surgery. After much pacing and anticipating in the waiting room, we found out everything went as planned. The next step would be to wait for the biopsy results to see in the cancer had spread to other regions of her body. They brought her to her recovery room where she would spend the next week healing. I spent that entire week in the hospital with her. I sat my her side and helped in anyway I could, it was the least I could do for the woman that raised me and cared for me my entire life. Her strength exuded in everything she did and even when she was in pain, she still managed to smile and strike up conversations with all the nurses. On Friday, after being in the hospital for five days, we received the amazing news that the cancer was only in the polyp and nowhere else!! He shared with us that she would not have to undergo radiation or chemo but her surgery recovery would take a couple of months. Honestly, all I heard was “cancer-free” and I started dancing for joy!!
The reason we are sharing this with is not for support or sympathy. It’s a wake-up call. My mother is wonderful and kind to everyone. And yet this still happened. She is only 52 years old, incredibly healthy, eats right and exercises daily. Yet this still happened. Cancer can happen to anyone. The doctors said her tumor had been growing for a couple years. If she would have gone in for a colonoscopy at 50 like they suggested they might have been able to take it out without surgery. A routine colonoscopy saved my mom’s life and prevented her cancer from getting a lot worse. Please, I beg you all to make time to get routine physicals, colonoscopies, mammograms or prostate exams. It could save you from so much more in the end.
It is so incredibly important to show the ones you love that you care about them. I would have never have thought this would happen to my mother. Do not take your loved ones for granted. Hold them tight, help them out and tell them every day how much you love them. We only have this one life to live. Let’s fill our lives with joy and love and kindness! Let’s appreciate all the beauty that surrounds us. Let’s be thankful for our blessings. Complain less and appreciate more. And above all else, surround yourself with those you love and selflessly, do whatever you can to be there for them.
Even though my mother is in recovery now, she took the time to prepare this beautiful message:
“Hearing the words colonrectal cancer, tumor and resection are shocking and overwhelming. You prepare yourself for surgery day and then you must surrender yourself physically to others. I am very grateful to the entire staff at St. Vincent’s Hospital, who aren’t just going to work, but who really are giving comfort and care. Valet parkers and transport personnel who provide you with a kind word as they take care of your vehicle. Admissions staff, who after they received my information, personally took me to my next stop. Pre-op nursing staff who prepare you physically and are positive and upbeat. Pastoral care, whose gentleness and years of wisdom bring ease. Post-op recovery personnel who can sort through your pain ramblings and move you to your room. The fast-acting, knowledgeable, firm yet always kind nursing personnel who seek answers for you and deal with the many issues you experience. The cleaning staff and food service people, always in motion, still find time to chat with you and remind you there is a world outside your tiny hospital room and more to life than the uncomfortable bed designed to create more pain you didn’t know you had. The OR staff, the anesthesiology staff and surgical team – I give thanks for their wisdom, knowledge, and steady hands. And to those who selflessly donate blood – as a recipient of it, I give my heartfelt thanks. Please forgive me for those I have forgotten. Let’s blame that on the narcotics… (:
A personal thank you to friends and family who have given their support and prayers to us. For all those who where at my side I can never repay your kindness. For all those who stepped in to care for my sister, Joan, who is receiving hospice care for cancer in my home, I was able to rest knowing that you had her care covered. And I know they would say it’s no problem, but Sara and Shaunae, you are truly a blessing.
It’s a New Year and a New Beginning. You’ve heard it all before. Do we really believe that it truly is a new beginning and use that message to live life to the fullest? It’s not a saying to me anymore, I am truly going to accept this new year as the gift I know it is. I’m not going to be afraid or take this for granted.
Please find a healthcare provider, set up an appointment, and get checked. A physical, a colonoscopy, a mammogram, a prostate exam – these simple tests can make all the difference in the world. It is so easy to set these up. Stay in the know of your body. Problems found early can be dealt with and improve the outcome. My family and I have a way to go on this recovery road, but we are thankful that I am still moving forward with them.”