Note: This blog is dedicated to my friend Jill Murphy who lost her battle to Cancer. She was a cat mom, and I promised her I would beat Cancer and keep writing.
I was the mom with Cancer this past year. I was the name mentioned in a hushed whisper out of Midwest politeness as my news circulated. We whisper the “C” word here, too. Sometimes it annoys me that we can’t get down to business and say things at full volume. Most days during this year, I was happy for whisper voices. I already knew I had it, so I didn’t need to hear it from somebody else upon entering a room. The meal trains then left the station in support. Midwesterners rock meal trains.
The Cancer messed up my shoulder, my face, and I spent months waiting to find out if it spread to my brain or eyes. I was placed inside a loud tube to take glamour shots of my noggin and eye orbits. I wanted to add my eye socket pictures to the family photo gallery for a prank. Doctors kept removing little pieces of me for biopsies. Then I went through painful surgeries and recoveries and continued uncertainties. I did all of this while still being a mom.
Hold your sympathy. Remember, I’m from the Midwest, and we are too polite to require sympathy. My story gets better because I am a mom.
The first thing I considered upon my diagnosis was how my kids would take the news. They took it like children raised by a Midwestern parent. We are the parents who tell stories of walking miles to school in a blizzard. By the way, these stories should be considered hyperbole. We walked two blocks in a blizzard to a warm bus. My kids smiled and told me I would beat it like the blizzard of 1978, and we kept going.
Did my kids suddenly learn to put toilet paper on the empty roll? Did they take up cooking? Did they get inspired to clean their rooms? No, no, and no. Believe me, I played the Cancer card a time or two or three. Still, nothing. My kids did the most remarkable thing they could have done. They kept expecting me to be a mom.
They remained my punk kids, leaving tiny shreds of toilet paper on the roll instead of replacing it. On very bad days, they stepped up so I could heal. They helped me believe I would be back to annoying them soon. The other option was too unthinkable to all of us. I had to win. I had a job to do, and Cancer was not going to be my pink slip.
I beat it. Pause for celebration.
I beat it during a pandemic. I beat it as blizzard-like snow fell. I beat it cooking Julia Child’s beef bourguignon. I beat it replacing toilet paper rolls. I beat it for my mom and because I’m a mom. I beat it, and my heart rejoiced then grew heavy for other moms.
Some moms fought harder than me, and they did not beat it. I carry little pieces of those moms in my heart. I understand their fear and fight. I also understand even the best, most beautiful fighters lose. I think of their children. I know these moms even though we never met. And for the moms I know who also fought similar battles, you came to my aid like fervent life coaches, and I am forever grateful. We beat it, and we are a sisterhood of moms.
This past year, I was a mom with Cancer. I am thankful every single day that I am now plain old mom again.