Thursday, June 5, 2014

My mom's fight

A lot has happened in the time I’ve been away. My Italy trip was AMAZING, I’m officially divorced, my boyfriend moved in, and my mother has one less breast than she had at the time of my last post. I have so much to say so I’m going to break this up into a few posts but I need to start with my mom.

My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in February. Hell of a Valentine’s Day phone call to receive! I knew she was getting a biopsy for a “suspicious spot” but I honestly wasn’t concerned. When she called to tell me they found cancer my world did one of those special-effect things where everything goes really far away and I was almost outside my body. I believe that’s called fear. The scariest part was the fear I heard in my mother’s voice. She’s incredibly practical and logical and to hear her becoming panicky was something I can’t describe. I honestly don’t remember the conversation, everything was a blur. A couple of weeks ago she told me that I did a really good job of calming her down during that call. I’m really glad I was able to do that for her, but I don’t remember a word of it.

Next came more testing and waiting. She had another biopsy to determine if she needed a mastectomy or could get by with a lumpectomy. She was really hoping there wouldn’t be any more spots and she would be able to just have a lumpectomy. The results: more cancer in a different part of her breast. Mastectomy it is.  To throw an added wrinkle in the story. We were about 6 weeks away from our Italy trip. Does she have to miss the trip? Can she recover in time? Or…can it wait? It seems like such a trivial thing to worry about, but it wasn’t. The trip was an all-girls trip, comprised of family and close friends. Ten of us in all, exploring Sicily and sharing an experience that cannot be duplicated. More on the trip itself later, but my mom brought it up to the doctors. They told her they caught it early, very early, so if she wanted to put it off for a few more weeks it would be ok! We all breathed a sigh of relief. Cancer is a bitch to begin with, but don’t start messing with our trip of a lifetime!

Then came the hard decision of which doctor to choose, and the harder decision of whether she wanted to have one breast or both removed. So many woman have both removed, even though cancer is not in the other breast. It’s done for cosmetic reasons only, the chance of getting it in the other breast isn’t any higher than getting it in another part of the body, but it’s a very personal decision. Each woman has to do what is right for her, and there’s not always a clear answer. After much deliberation and discussion with suvivors who’ve been through it, she finally decided on her team of doctors (one to remove the breast and another to do the reconstruction after) and she finally decided to only have one removed. Neither was an easy decision.

The day before the surgery I went down to be with her. She was scared. Have you ever seen your parent scared? It’s not easy. But I did my best to keep her in good spirits and distract her from what was to come. Her surgery lasted about 4 hours total (to remove the breast and then to have the expanders inserted to begin the reconstruction process). My dad and I waited in the waiting room and they called us back to give updates after each part of the surgery. The best news we had received was that they tested her lymph nodes in the process and they came back clean! The cancer wasn’t spreading to other parts of her body! Once she came out of surgery we were able to see her in recovery. THAT was an experience! She was supposed to spend an hour or two there and then be moved to her room where she’d stay the night. They kept saying they’d be moving her soon. After 4 hours they said it was a shift change for the nurses so it was going to be a while longer. Two hours later the nurses in recovery were on the phone to the cancer floor demanding to know why my mom was STILL there. The cancer floor was understaffed and they didn’t have a bed ready for her yet. She finally made it up there and was given the first-class upgrade! Her private room was nicer than any 5-star hotel and her view of the 59th Street bridge was amazing!! It was worth the wait!

She spent one night there and we took her home by noon the next day. She was given exercises to do (to prevent her shoulder from locking and to keep her range of motion) and we were given instructions on how to care for the drain that helps remove all the gunk that accumulates after surgery.

I was able to stay a few more days and then had to go back to work for commencement. College graduation waits for no man or woman who works hard to help organize and distribute diplomas to the graduates! My boss was so understanding and would have let me skip it, except that we are short staffed and I just had to be there. But I headed back to my mom’s the next day and spent several more days trying to get my mom to sit down and relax and not do too much. Do you know what it’s like trying to prevent your mother from taking care of chores and doing little odd jobs around the house? It ain’t easy!

It’s been 3 weeks since her surgery and she’s making a good recovery. There are ups and downs, both physical and emotional. I think the emotional piece has been the hardest for her. She didn’t want this to happen (who does?) and it’s really a grieving process to get through it. I think she’s overcome the hardest parts (I hope anyway) and she continues to be a fighter and be strong.

To be honest, I haven’t worried a whole lot through this whole thing. I guess I just know that my mom will fight however hard she needs to. There’s a reason I’m capable of overcoming all the obstacles in my life, and I thank God every day that I’m becoming more and more like her and that I have the pleasure of still having her here to help me through my stuff, even while she’s fighting her own battle. I don’t mean to imply I’m not worried at all, just that in the back of my mind I know she’s going to be fine. She’s a fighter and she will survive.  

 photo MomandmeinItaly_zps838ce038.jpg
Italy 2014



  1. You two look incredible. I'm so sorry you (and she!) had to go through such a scary situation. Happy to hear things are looking good now. Can't wait to hear about all the rest!

  2. Wow - what a story, Lily. I'm SO happy that your mom caught the cancer early and that everything is going well. You are an amazing daughter and I'm sure you mom appreciates the H E double hockey sticks out of you!