- Posted July 30, 2014 by
Los Angeles, California
This iReport is part of an assignment:
First Person: Your essays
Five Ways My Mother's Cancer Changed My Life
It was April 23, 2014. A day like any other day. My mother was having surgery to remove a cancerous tumor that had been discovered in her ovaries. I honestly did not think much of it. One may ask, "How can you not be worried?" I wasn't because we had been down this road before. When I was in High School, my mother had a benign tumor removed from her ovaries. After that initial surgery, she was tumor free and able to go on with her life. I thought this time around, the same thing would happen: Tumor removed and everyone's happy.
The morning of the surgery, I called my sister because she was at the hospital. (My sister lives in Florida near my Mother, and I live in Los Angeles). My sister said the dreaded words, "the cancer has spread and mom will need chemo." I returned to work in a daze. It had not sunk in yet. The first thing I asked myself is, "how did this happen?" My mother has always been pretty healthy. She eats fruit and vegetables and exercises. She looks ten years younger than her age. On top of that, she is in the best stage of her life. She received her Master’s Degree later in life, and started a new career as a counselor. She recently got re-married in 2010. She is fulfilled and happy. So many thoughts ran through my head, “This doesn’t make sense,” “This isn’t fair,” “Why her?” I’m a fairly logical person and know that sometimes things happen that don’t make sense, but my reaction to this had more to do with me than to her.
During these past three months of my journey, I have learned five important lessons:
1. Stop and Smell the Roses
I have a workaholic tendency. I have worked up to 60 hours a week, and sometimes don’t know how to let go of work when I get home. My husband has had to remind me countless times, “Let the office go. You’re home now.” I never completely listened until my Mother’s diagnosis. All of a sudden, I got it. Now every weekend, instead of ruminating about some unimportant event that happened the week before, I am the one reminding my husband (and myself), “Let’s let go of the week and enjoy each moment we have together.” I am reminded that life is precious, and no longer do I have the time to obsess about what is not important. Next time you are tempted to clock in another hour for work, step back and remember what is important. Work will be there tomorrow, but every moment with those you love is precious.
2. Let Go and Forgive
My Mother and I have not always gotten along. We would talk to each other from a far distance, but I never had a close relationship with her, mainly because we differ very much in our religious and philosophical beliefs. There were things she said or did in the past that I was still hanging onto. I had not completely forgiven her because she was not acting according to how I expected, or wanted her to act. However, once she got the diagnosis, all of the issues, everything that happened in the past, melted away. I started to appreciate her for who she is, and all of her good qualities. I began to reminisce about the good times of my childhood, and appreciate her for all of her sacrifices she took to raise me and my sisters. Letting go of resentment opened up room in my life for love and acceptance.
3. Appreciate What You Have
When I was eight years old, my parents divorced. Overnight my Mother became a single Mom with three daughters, ages 8, 10 and 12. She raised us by herself, sometimes working four jobs to make ends meet. I have always felt appreciation for what she did, but the appreciation increased 10-fold after her diagnosis. For the first time in my life, I was honest with myself. I may be a grown woman who has lived almost half my life away from home and have gone years on end without seeing my mother, but the truth is I have drawn security in the fact that she was still there for me and I could see her anytime I wanted. I was still dependent on my mother for comfort. I had spent many years learning to be on my own, but she was still the most important person in my life. Just the mere thought of losing her terrified me. Over time, however, I have learned to channel that fear into action. I call my Mom more often, just tell her I’m thinking about her and love her, and have visited her, taking her shopping and helping her run errands. We don’t know how long those we love will be around, so it is better to treat each day as if it’s our last.
4. You are Stronger Than You Think You Are
When my Mother received her diagnosis, she was the strongest person among her family and friends. Those around her were having panic attacks, dealing with shock, and crying, but she held her head high and said, “I’ll get through this.” My Mother has always been very resilient in the face of challenges. She showed the same resilience when faced with something that normally results in vulnerability, even among the strongest people. This taught me to tap into the strength that I didn’t know I had, for not only this life event but for every event in my life. Now when faced with a challenge, I ask myself, “how much strength do you have that you didn’t know about?” and tap into the strength inside me. We are stronger than we think, we just need to realize it and let our strength shine.
5. Attitude is Everything
Many things happen in our lives that annoy us, or test our patience. The outcome of every event in our life is not determined by outside factors, but by one thing - our attitude toward that event. We can either feel sorry for ourselves, or ask ourselves, “what can I learn from this experience?” Throughout this entire journey, my Mother has had a good attitude. While others around her are worried, she is strong and full of faith. She is not sitting at home, feeling sorry for herself. Rather, she is living and treating every day as a day to do what she enjoys. This has taught me to keep a good attitude through every situation, and not let petty occurrences affect my attitude and well-being.
Throughout this journey, I have learned many valuable lessons, but most importantly, I have learned how to appreciate the one who continues to teach me lessons about life simply by the way she lives.