Saturday, December 5, 2015
It came as a surprise.
It was never supposed to happen, and it was never prepared for. My mother was untouchable, she was immortal. She was the all seeing and healthy mom, the one who needed to be there for me. She needed to drive me around, and buy me things. She needed to cheer at my competitions, and support me in school. But my mom was sick. Cancer is a brutal beast, stopping for nothing and halting for no one.
The cancer doesn't care. It doesn't hesitate to dull a childhood or take a life. And we knew that, my brother and I. Cancer was no stranger to us at 10 and 12 years of age, and we had seen our fair share of the monster it could be. So naturally, we were afraid. We were too young to lose our mother. She had yet to see us graduate from middle school, much less get married and have children. We wanted her to live, we needed her to live.
She wanted to live too, of course. She had two children and a husband, and a life to keep living. She knew that the cancer would fight, but she vowed that she would fight back harder.
The result was much better than expected. The stage was small, and the relief in the air was obvious. 'It will be okay' we were told. 'Don't worry'. So we didn't worry much.
But the doctors don't mention the side effects. The important things. That just because your mother isn't going to die, doesn't mean she isn't going to suffer. And that just because you are lucky doesn't mean you are free. Treatments and surgeries began, and by my 13th year, I knew more about the medical system than most adults do in their whole lives.
My mom was alive, yes. Yet mom could no longer take the kids places, and mom was always resting, always crying. My mother had changed, and we all knew that she could never change back.
My father was wonderful, but no one can protect their children from something that strong. He fed us and kept us healthy while mom went from one surgery to the next, getting a double mastectomy and reconstruction. Purchasing scars with painkillers on the side.
Soon cancer was gone, and it was time to go back to normal. Just as quickly as it had all started, it ended. That's the other thing the doctors don't mention- the struggle of going back to normal. For normal was impossible to achieve for us now, after facing such a shock. We were supposed to feel relived, and lucky. But how can you feel lucky when your mother cries every time she looked in the mirror, and your father has aged many years in mere months?
We tried desperately to scrub the cancer from our household, in vain. The vile scent lingered in the air and in the hushed whispers between parents while kids were asleep. The worry of recurrence hung heavy over us, seeping into our bones like cancer itself. But the cancer was hidden, and the only signs came in forms of tears behind closed doors and into pillows.
And as for the 14 year old, she was now wiser than anyone had ever wished her to be. For the cancer had torn through her life like a tornado, tearing everything up and flinging it around, and when the storm had ended, they had picked up their things and put them back again. But you can never forget a storm that big, no matter how hard you pretend it never happened, and how much you wish it hadn't.