Think Pink

I am on the road for work (or on vacation as my wife would say) and I needed my coffee fix so I ducked into a Caribou Coffee (no I did not get a free latte for mentioning them). My mind was elsewhere as I distractedly ordered coffee and settled down at a corner table to hop on the free wifi so I did not notice how pink my coffee cup was until I took a sip. In the back of my mind I knew this was significant and as I looked for more clues I had a “smack-your-forehead-duh!” moment: Breast Cancer Awareness. I felt stupid for not remembering right away. Not because it is not a great cause, but because it is one that I am intimately aware of since my mother is a survivor.
I will never (and hope to never have to) truly understand what it is like to do battle with your own body. What I can tell you about is what it is like to be near someone who is fighting for their life. There are many phases you go through and they do not always mirror those of the person who is suffering the most. There are many phases and those who witnessed a loved one go through this ordeal know what I mean.
I can only speak for myself and tell you what I felt and thought. At first I was in shock. So much so that I was not even fazed by the news. My attitude was “women beat breast cancer ALL the time” and so will my mom. My mom is a tough cookie so she did not outwardly betray any fear when she delivered the news nonchalantly, so I felt that my lax attitude was validated. We then sat down with the oncologist and he gave us the run down on all the things that my mom had to do such as surgery, chemo, radiation treatment, the works. I sat in the meeting a bit deflated even as I watched my mom asking questions and even joking with the doctor. It didn’t hit me until we walked into the reception area on a very early November morning in 2001. I tried to stay calm, but I was totally freaked out. It was all true. My mother had cancer – for real. World events that were particularly near and dear did not matter to me in that moment. I felt very lost as my sister and I kissed my mom and squeezed her hand as they rolled her through the double doors to the OR, just like in the movies.
The next thing I remember is standing behind my mom shaving her head after the first couple of rounds of chemo made it impractical to keep what was left of her hair. I also remember how thirsty the chemo made her. The blisters in her mouth and throat that made it almost impossible for her to swallow anything. The shivers. The ashen skin. There was terrible suffering in her eyes, but never in her voice.
Her hair grew back and she is back to playing tennis and bridge as if nothing ever happened to her. For this I am eternally grateful. She does not really talk about it much, but I cannot imagine how much strength and determination it takes to confront the beast. One wishes that the ending to these stories was always a happy one as in my mom’s case. This is just one of the many worthy causes that I urge everyone to keep in mind especially if they are lucky enough not to encounter anything like it in their life. I’m sorry if I bummed anyone out, but as much as I like keeping things “lite” it is part of my story and one that I hope brings even a small amount of awareness to cancer and a virtual hug to those going through a similar moment. And to those who are fighting, keep fighting!

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