A year ago today I was sitting in a surgical waiting room, in Florida, facing my single greatest fear in life, as my mom was getting her womanhood chopped off her body in an attempt to save her life against breast cancer. Her getting sick was always one of those things that has weighed heavily on me since moving to Texas 5 years ago and leaving her behind in Florida. Particularly cancer. I dreaded the thought of it. I hated to even consider what I would do if ever I got that call. So I avoided it like the plague.
Early January 2016 I did get that call. My mom called and dropped a bombshell. She was going for a biopsy. That’s never good news. Yeah, I felt sick at that point, but I tried holding it together for her sake. I knew it was a hard thing for her to have to face without me. In February, we got the confirmation that it was breast cancer, though a very early stage and surgery would be needed. In the end, my mom decided for a mastectomy. That way she didn’t have to do chemo or radiation. Then to be extra sure, she decided on a double mastectomy.
So there I was March 1. Sitting in a waiting room filled with people and yet feeling so absolutely utterly alone playing ‘what if’ games in my head, endless scenarios echoing throughout my mind. “What if it spread?” “What if it’s in her lymph nodes?” “What if she needs long term care?” “What if she needs chemo after all?”. I knew i would have to move back and I was ok with that. The scenarios kept coming.
There was no shortage of mind and heart crippling fears to draw from. I went through all the scenarios. I made a game plan for each of them, and waited. I wondered the halls in short bursts, and waited. Eventually some of church friends came and waited with me- a welcomed source of comfort and strength in a trial of limits, my limits. Alas, the surgery went well. None of the scenarios I planned for were needed. I stayed with mom a few weeks, taking care of her. I learned what a surgical drain was and how to empty it and a variety of other medical things. I learned to look at my mom’s beautiful smiling face and aquamarine eyes and not fall to pieces over her missing womanhood when in front of her. Eventually, I returned to San Antonio.
I returned a hollow shell. I couldn’t even look at the pictures of my mom and me on my mantle that had been taken the month before I had moved away. Those times when she had been whole and never would be again. It hurt volumes just remembering her in my childhood days and then having to remind myself that she would never be the woman I truly knew growing up.
You see cancer takes things away from us. Not just physical parts of ourselves, but mental parts too. Strengths that we once had, love for life and joy that were once full, or at least fuller. Cancer devours us whole and without mercy. Not just those victims of its icy claws but their friends, their families as well.
A few months after my mom’s surgery, I got my own “news”. Abdominal mass, they called it. Well safe to say I had no strength left to fight that battle. None even to process the potential of what the outcome of that news could be. I sure knew where I would not run right away. To my mom. She was already broken. I was shattered, broken even more than I had been before, praying to God for strength, for something supernatural to carry me over this threshold of emotional death.
And He did. He carried me on strong shoulders by the arms, the prayers, the feet of other people who upheld me. Those who grieved with me, and held me close, who prayed with me through the mental battles, the numbness, the despair. There were real friends, who called and checked on me and took me on frozen yogurt dates. My church who asked frequently about updates and held me in constant prayer and battled the demons of fear with me, providing strength in tangible volumes. After my diagnosis was all done and the ‘abdominal mass’ turned out to be an ovarian cyst and not cancerous and new battles arouse like, “would they have to take an ovary with the cyst and would I be able to have children, and who would want to marry half a woman who can’t even guarantee them a child if it came to that?”. Well, my warriors were there too. They still fought for me and never tired. They never strayed from their course of being Jesus and God heard our calls in the darkness and answered.
And when my final pathology report came in and was clear, they also upheld me in my joy, celebrating with me all that God had been faithful in, all that He had done. And my heart is grateful. Grateful to God for giving me them, those warrior hearts whose strength far surpasses my own. In a year filled with despair, despite battling my deepest and darkest fears, it has turned into a year filled with God sized lessons that overflow from a God sized love, which I am only beginning to understand despite having grown up in church. And I am thankful. I am thankful for all God has taught me in this season, despite its hardship. Like learning to lean not just on Him but on His people too.
My heart is grateful. It overflows. It will sing a new song.