Who Will Hold My Hand Through My Cancer Experience?


After I held my hand as my mom died, I wondered who would hold mine as I went through cancer.

The doctor’s office was uncomfortably hot and oppressive. I felt like a prisoner sitting across his desk. I glanced miserably out the window and longed to be on the other side in the raw, damp night air. But that would be a lifetime away.

He placed the written report in front of me while saying, “It doesn’t look good.” My heart was pounding harder than I thought it was meant to. I put my pocketbook on the floor next to me. I pushed up my sleeves to relieve the heat I was feeling throughout my body.

The words on the page swam helplessly as the light in the room seemed to dim. I saw “large mass,” “invasive,”“attached to chest wall,” “aggressive” and looked up at the doctor. My thoughts were more like prayers. “Make it go away; It’s a bad dream; I need to hide in my bed buried under my blanket.”

But all I said was, “No.” My voice sounded like it belonged to someone else. I had plans, I just lost my mother. “This is too much.” The doctor just nodded and handed me the tissues.

When had I stopped fearing this moment? My cancer from 11 years ago seemed like ancient history. I had had surgery, six weeks of radiation and only missed four days of work. Everyone admired my strength, my attitude, my courage.

Year after year, I’d hold my breath waiting for my mammogram results. When did I stop expecting the worst? Was it last year when my mother’s cancer started to spread and I was flying back and forth weekly to squeeze in every drop of love and hand holding I could? Was it last June when I stood up and read her eulogy and ended by hoping I was half the mother to my daughter that my mother was to me? I remember looking at my daughter and feeling so grateful she had spent so many years with her grandma.

Would my daughter’s unborn children hear about me after my death? Would my daughter be standing up reading my eulogy a year from now?

The doctor filled the overheated air with nasty, ugly, frightening words: mastectomy, chemotherapy, bone scan.

All I could think of was how I would get through this alone. Who would take care of me after surgery? Who would drive me to and from treatments? How could I afford to take more time off from a relatively new job?

All my sick days were used up while I was holding my mother’s lifeless hand. Who would hold mine?

I left the office with a wet wad of tissues, no hope and dread for everything that was ahead. I sat in my car in the dark, deserted parking lot for a very long time with my phone in my hand. As soon as I called someone it would be real. I smelled smoke from someone’s wood-burning stove and wished I could be in that house., having dinner, laughing, warm, loved, safe and healthy. I shook away my dreams and started dialing.

This was written in 2005. I am cancer free for almost 17 years.

This article was written and submitted by Joyce Wigler.

This article reflects the views of Joyce Wigler and not of CURE®. This is also not supposed to be intended as medical advice.

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