Bittersweet

I know my posts aren’t happy, but this is my therapy and I cannot thank the people who read and follow me enough. The fact that I am able to document how I’m feeling and knowing that someone is out there and understanding is a relief and better therapy than I ever imagined. So thank you.

I officially have 3 days until I head back to school and am 8 hours away from my family and mom. Don’t get me wrong, I love school and I can’t wait to go back and see everyone, but I feel like I need to be home to help out.

So, for about 2 years after my mom was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer everything was semi normal. For MBC there is nothing that we can do to get rid of it or put her back in remission. She will forever have MBC and we can only hope to suppress the spreading and not let it get to any vital organs.

She took medicine orally and had shots every two weeks. The hormonal treatments were working for a little bit, but eventually the scans showed progression. We had our many ups and downs with the medicines that she was taking, with every few blood results coming back with numbers higher than the last.

A week before I came home for Christmas break we got great news. Her blood results came back and they had lowered a crazy amount from her last results! The medicine had to be working!

With the good news raising our spirits my dad and mom took me to the next doctors appointment, 8 days before Christmas. The news received was very far from a Christmas miracle and was completely opposite of what we hoped. Turns out that the blood results were completely wrong from what we had thought and that the medicine wasn’t working. The cancer was spreading and had spread farther into my mothers liver.

Long story short, my mother has to start a weekly chemo treatments now to try to fight off the spreading. Chemo is the LAST thing she wants.

Even though we live in a small town, many people don’t realize that she still has cancer. My mother looks great and is healthy, and people think that it was something that she fought off and beat again.

She cried when she realized she had to do chemo again, and quite frankly, possibly the rest of her life. That was probably the hardest thing to listen to. When the doctors walked in and explained that it had spread and “pretty significantly”, it was like a bomb dropped in the room.

My mother is starting chemo next Thursday and I am leaving on Monday. I won’t be here to help drive her back and forth. I won’t be here to help my  brothers or my dad. I wont be here to help her do her makeup when she loses her eyebrows and eyelashes. I won’t be here to comfort her when she looks in the mirror.

I am excited to get back to the college life and to see all my friends, but I feel like I have aged 10 years over this break and I’m not really sure how I feel about going back.

Its a little bittersweet I guess.

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Meet the Fam:

So, I left out a couple things of somewhat importance in my last blog post.

I am from a small town in a southern state. The town (lets call it Shitsville…ok no, I’m just [semi]joking…we’ll call it “the Burg”) has two stop lights and only a couple thousand people. Everyone knows everyone in this town, which is a blessing but also a terrible curse. My graduating class had less than 100 people, so it was hard to get away with much.

I have always had big dreams of going out of state for college and actually landed myself a scholarship to play volleyball out of state (5+ hours away) my senior year. I am blessed by the fact that I left the Burg, because not many do. Living so far away from home for the past few years is hard, because I feel like I need to help out as much as I can with mom and I also feel like I’m losing valuable time.

I have two younger brothers, who both aspire to also go out of state and escape the death grip of the town. And let me tell you, they will. Their ACT scores and AP test scores are insane for their age, so yes, they will also go out of state and probably come neurosurgeons (because they’re that damn smart).

My father is a pretty big person in our state, so we are also under quite a bit of pressure as kids to always be polished and ready for events. I enjoy what he does, but as a high schooler I had the whole town and state watching my every move. So, in certain parts of the year he has to live away from home during the week, and that’s always hard on mom.

Last part of this post, I’m going to include the facts about Metastatic Breast Cancer. These facts and post are not to make anyone feel bad. All in all, I just want to spread awareness and help my readers understand the severity.

All facts are from the organization Twisted Pink’s website. This organization donates 100% of its proceeds to research for Metastatic Breast Cancer.

  • About 37 percent of women live at least 3 years after diagnosis with MBC
  • Approximately, 6 to 10% of new breast cancer cases are initially diagnosed as Stage IV or metastatic
  • About 155,000 people — women and men — are living with MBC in the United States.
  • MBC is the leading cause of cancer death in women under 50 years of age.
  • Metastatic breast cancer accounts for approximately 40,000 deaths annually in the U.S.

Recap – Past to Present

I am laying in my bed listening to my mother cry in the next room over.

“Someone close to us has died, or someone has cancer”, I thought to myself. Why else would my mother being crying so hard and for this long? My mom is a high school teacher. Maybe something happened at school? Is a student hurt? Or one of her friends? I am in 6th grade and do not understand much about the vast world nor do I grasp the severity of things like cancer or death.

I am standing in line, waiting to shoot my free throws in middle school basketball practice.

Willing myself to not let my eye wander, and to focus on the rim so I can make as many as I can. My willingness falls short. My eyes wander to the side of the gym, where I see my parents staring at me in the doorway of the arena. Why aren’t they at work? It’s the middle of the afternoon, why are they watching some lousy middle school practice?

After practice we are standing outside the jail-like middle school.

They lower down to my eye level and explain that mom has cancer.

Breast cancer.

No, she doesn’t look like she has cancer. Yes, even though she has cancer she still has her hair. Yes, she will eventually become bald. No, people won’t know, she will wear a wig. Yes, it will go away after she has the cancer cut out and after the doctors give her medicine.

Months go by and I am still 11, but I don’t feel like I am 11.

I am watching my younger brothers while mom takes a nap after her medicine. Dad must stay where he works, but he can come home on the weekends. I clean and cook, and I know that in my head I have grown to 16 in a matter of months.

6 rounds of chemo and a whole year and a half later, I feel victorious.

I am 12 and a half and my mom just beat breast cancer. The pink ribbons now have “survivor” embroidered on them and her hair is growing back. My mother and I coo over how fast the hair is coming in and how its fresh growth makes it unbelievably soft.

Now I am a senior in high school.

I am peer tutoring, helping off to the side while the actual teacher takes over the class. I get a text explaining that my mother has left her class room sobbing after a phone call. My autopilot switches on as I walk through the halls of the school and enter the office, sensing which way my mother came. As I open the door to the school office I see three faces looking at me with “that” look. A finger is pointing at the door leading to the parking lot. At the edge of the parking lot is my mother, my aunt, and my mothers’ best friend.

My mom is hanging onto me, and I see tears running down her face.

There is a fog around my vision, and I can’t seem to switch off the autopilot. “They found something on the CAT scan.” “Your dad is on his way.” “Be strong.”

It is now a week later and i hear my mother say, “I have stage four metastatic breast cancer. It is in my lungs, spine, and collar bone.”