Fighting cancer in families is an all-consuming effort while living each day rife with all the normal details like raising kids, dirty laundry, and dishes. The normality of life is interrupted only by increased doctor visits and the dreaded chemotherapy.
It started with my mother in 1978 when I received a call from her in December telling me that she had breast cancer and was going to have surgery. What she didn’t tell me at that time was that she had found a lump six months earlier. She spent the next months cleaning the house from top to bottom including closets and drawers before telling my Dad or anyone else about her finding.
When I received the first call, I was eight and a half months pregnant and on bed rest. In other words, as her only remaining child, I was basically useless to her in such a vulnerable time. But this was my first brush with cancer and I was optimistic about her survival. The reality of her situation was that the cancer spread into her bones and slowly but surely took over her life. It’s hard to remember her being so weak that I had to help her walk from her bedroom to the bathroom. She held on until her first granddaughter was born but slipped quickly into death only five days later.
In 1994, my husband was diagnosed with colon cancer with the subsequent surgery giving him a pronouncement of being cured. Even though the early diagnosis and subsequent surgery gave him high odds of survival, by 1997, he was pronounced terminally ill since the cancer had spread into his bones attacking his spine with relentless speed. It was only nine months later that I was diagnosed with breast cancer putting us in the unique position of being a husband and wife having cancer at the same time. Surgery wasn’t an option for Leo, but it was my only option for survival.
I’m celebrating nearly twenty years of survival while remembering the death of my husband in 2001 and my mother in 1982. However, the curse continues with my cousin, Jeanette, diagnosed with stage four breast cancer and fighting for her life. (Her story is at https://jspencer2016.wordpress.com/) Optimism and faith carries her each day as she continues fighting for her life. Keep up the good fight, Jeanette.