The post of many feels

I found a lump in my breast.

It could be nothing – Dear God, I hope it’s nothing.  Please let it be nothing! – but it could be something.  And if it’s something, then it will be my very worst fear come true.

My mother died of breast cancer at the age of 31, just one year after diagnosis.  Hers was an advanced and aggressive cancer; her doctors offered her little hope.  But she took what little they offered her and fought bravely for a year for us, for my dad, my sister, and me.  She battled hair loss and weight gain and nausea and everything else that goes with being a cancer patient, and when she finally succumbed to death, she was smiling.

I am not as brave as my mother.

Finding a lump in my breast – and worse, finding I had cancer – has always been my deepest fear.


Ten is for friends


Yesterday I wrote about my mother’s diagnosis with cancer.  Despite all the treatment she received and all the prayers said on her behalf, the cancer spread rapidly and she died the year I was ten, one short year after her diagnosis with breast cancer.

My mother was 31 years old.

I have now lived nearly two thirds of my life without my mother.  I remember her, but not as well as I would like.  I am lucky that I have had people to ask about her over the years.  She also evidently enjoyed writing, as I once found a notebook filled with poetry and a partially-used diary along with a couple of papers she wrote while in college.  I treasure these things for the insight they’ve given me into a woman I barely got the chance to know and for the insight into the child that I used to be.

Ain’t nine fine?

As you can see from the strap around her neck, shutterbug-ism runs in my family. 🙂
Photo courtesy of Martha DeGroote

Well, no, actually.  At least, not for me.  If you thought my seventh year was bad, hold onto your hats.

When I was eight, my mom went back to school to become a medical transcriptionist.  She finished her program a year later and was offered a job at a local hospital where she had interned while studying.  But within a month, it was clear that all was not well.  A visit to the doctor, followed by a mammogram, confirmed the truth.

She had cancer.

A mastectomy was scheduled and chemo was ordered.  But with a diagnosis of advanced breast cancer, a cure was a longshot.  She did everything she could to beat it.  Prayer after prayer was said by more people than I can count.

We spent a lot of time together that year, visiting places like the Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend.  But we also spent much time apart, as she traveled to the Mayo Clinic and the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics for treatment.  She even got on an airplane for the first time in her life and flew to Texas to visit a childhood friend.  The time apart was hard on me, as I was very close to my mother.  But it was not as hard as what was to come.

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