I remember everything about the day my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. When she had the biopsy, they said, “It’s probably just a cyst, but we want to be sure.” Then we got the call that confirmed our worst fears. I’ve heard experiencing a trauma can change the way your brain records the memory, and I think that’s true. I can barely remember yesterday, but I’ll never forget every single detail from when that terrible disease was a constant in our lives.
The thing I learned looking back was even with all the bad memories, we had some really, really great ones, too. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, and in honor of my mom kicking cancer’s ass (racy language but much deserved!), I would like to share a few of the good ones with you here.
My Mom’s Survival Story
When my mom started chemo, the doctor told us she’d be getting the form of chemotherapy that would cause hair loss. To make losing your hair a tiny bit easier, they recommend you shave your head before it falls out. I’d heard of people getting their closest friends and family together to “celebrate” the head shaving ceremony, so that’s exactly what we did.
What my mom didn’t know, was several of her family members — five to be exact! — were also going to shave their heads in support. In fact, her brother and sister went first so it wouldn’t be so scary for my mom. I wasn’t brave enough to shave mine, but I did cut off ten inches for charity.
Our little head-shaving party was the most honest display of support and love for a person that I’ve ever seen. We laughed, we cried, and most importantly, we showed my mom that no matter what, we were all in this together.
Dancing the Night Away
While my mom was in the throes of her chemo treatments, she came to visit me in Tulsa. Our plan was to have a super relaxing girls weekend, but there was one problem: I had a crush on a boy. I know, I know! I was selfish! But, I got my mom all dressed up and took her out to some forgotten spot downtown with my friends. I’ll never forget seeing my friends lining up to dance with Jo-Mom — who was absolutely dancing circles around all of us.
Later that night she told me how much fun she had with everyone. She said, “They made me feel like I wasn’t even sick.”
I have some very special friends, and now a very special husband (see! I knew what I was doing!) who all came together to give my mom and me both a night we’d never forget.
The Ice Cream Celebration
Jo-Mom’s last day of chemo was a really beautiful day in Oklahoma City, so we met my grandma for ice cream before heading home. It was the perfect low-key way to celebrate the last round of treatment before she started radiation, and it was so special to be surrounding by the people I love the most for such a momentous occasion.
I was incredibly fortunate my work allowed me to go to every chemo treatment with my mom, but radiation was a daily thing, so I only made it once. I went to see what it was like — it lasted all of 15 minutes. Mom was cracking up that I drove two hours to be there just for that.
That was 11 years ago and counting, and I’m thankful for every one of them.
The World’s Best Oma
During my mom’s fight with cancer, I never thought for a second she’d do anything but beat her disease. I know so many wonderful friends who have not been so lucky, and it makes me even more grateful that my mom made it. My boys are absolutely obsessed with their Oma, and I can’t even begin to think about my life without her.
Even before her diagnosis my mom was so generous with her time as a volunteer. In true Jo-Mom form, she not only volunteers, but has become one of the top fundraisers for her community’s Relay for Life every year.
If you love a survivor story as much as I do, please consider a small donation to the American Cancer Society. If you love Jo-Mom as much as I do, here’s a link to her personal Relay For Life fundraising page!
And please, let this be your reminder to check yourself. I just got two thumbs up after my mammogram this year — make sure you’re healthy too, friends!