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Editor’s Note: This piece was submitted by a contributing writer and does not represent the views of CURE Media Group.
“Your mom is sick.” I reached over, hugged my mom, and cried. It didn’t matter what with. I didn’t want her to leave me.
I attend residential high school, but go home most weekends. My parents had driven out to my school and taken me out for dinner to tell me the news. As inviting as denial may seem at times, I had to face the facts. She had stage 4 breast cancer.
“I could stay here more weekends if that would be helpful.” I searched for something I could do to lead to her recovery.
“No, coming home more weekends would be better.” Both of my parent were in agreement.
My parents dropped me off at school and I faced my friends. “Where’d you go?” they asked. “My parents took me out to dinner.”
I didn’t tell anyone for a couple of weeks. My mom talked to my best friend's parents. Otherwise, who knows when I would have told her. At first, not telling was a denial mechanism, but as time went by, my denial faded and I did research on metastatic cancer. It was clear that the odds were not in my mom’s favor. So instead of denial, keeping her sickness to myself was to prevent uncomfortable situations or have people feel sorry for me. I did, and still do, find it easier to tell people I don’t know as much about her cancer. I don’t want my close friends to view or treat me differently.
But my mom has metastatic breast cancer. That’s a fact. It doesn’t always need to be connected to emotions. Most of my close friends figured out about my mom’s sickness when she lost her hair and I would go home more often. Without me even telling them, they would ask, “How is your mom doing?” At the same time, my less-close friends would simply ask why my mom wears a hat or even straight up ask if she had cancer. When I struggled to share my feelings with others, they stepped up to the plate.
Has my mom’s cancer changed my life? Yes. I appreciate her that much more. When I thought I would be forced take care of myself after she was diagnosed, she has been there even more for me. It has taught me that everyone has painful parts of themselves they wish weren’t there, but those parts make us stronger. It has taught me that sharing these painful parts with others is not a crime. Your friends are eager to support you, just as you are to support them.
It’s difficult for me to think back to before my mom had breast cancer. It’s not that I have a horrible memory and only remember the past two years, but it seems as though it has been part of her for much longer—not a part that lugs along pain and weakness, but a part that highlights her incredible strength and tenacity, and has increased mine.