Diary of… the daughter of a survivor

Megan Mortman is a junior communication studies major, and a contributing writer for The Current. Whether it is writing for a magazine or working in entertainment, Megan aspires to build a successful career in journalism. 

“You have breast cancer.” That’s what they told my mom.

“I have breast cancer.” That’s what she told me.

She was diagnosed two years ago, and it was the most difficult experience my family and I have been through.

I vividly remember the day she was diagnosed, because that was the moment all of our lives changed. All at once, I had this indescribable feeling of panic, anger, and shock. Why was this happening? Why was it happening to my mother?

She had surgery the week of Thanksgiving, and that year, my family a lot to be thankful for. We are always in the kitchen on Thanksgiving, especially my mom, but that year she couldn’t be. We made sure everything came out perfectly just for her — turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and all the other foods that make it worth spending all day in the kitchen. We went around the table to say what we were thankful for, and it was an emotional experience for all of us, because we realized we were thankful to have each other, especially our health.

The holiday season of 2012 was bittersweet. We assumed the cancer was gone because she had the surgery, but we were wrong. Around New Year’s Eve, we found out that  my mom needed chemotherapy. It was hard to look forward to a whole new year, filled with new beginnings, when things felt so wrong. I had never made resolutions before but I decided on one: for my mom to get better.

I’ve watched movies and heard stories about chemo. I had a vision of sickly women connected to machines and couldn’t fathom my mom having to go through that. She sat, connected to machines, every three weeks for six months. A few times I sat next to her, watching her pale face and the medicine go into her body. It was a small room with a few other women going through the same battle: one recently diagnosed, another facing a reoccurrence, both wearing wigs or head scarves.

I kept a brave face throughout her surgeries and chemo because I had to be strong for her; we all did. We were all struggling and dealing with one event after the other, like a neverending nightmare. Between surgeries and how exhausted my mom felt from the chemo, six months felt like an eternity. There are so many facets of having breast cancer that most cancer-free people don’t know about, like just how many medications you have to remember to take, the pain your upper body has to go through — even months after surgery — and the emotional highs and lows that change week to week. We were overly protective of my mom and made sure she had the best care wherever she went, especially at home.

This experience was a life lesson that opened my eyes and gave me appreciation for what anyone with cancer has to go through mentally and physically. My family and I endured so much, but we were made stronger because of it. I commend my dad for being there for my mom every step of the way, no matter what. He truly represents a husband who would do anything to help his wife get better, and I admire him for it. It was a long journey, but my mom has now been cancer-free for two years.

I always knew my mom was strong, but I didn’t realize how strong until she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She is the only person I know who would make sure to have her lipstick on after going through a whole day of surgery because everyone would be visiting her. She is a role model, not only for my family and me, but to other women. She started a breast cancer support group, Power of Pink, at Westside Regional Medical Center and started changing women’s lives. My sisters and I are involved with the support group and seeing my mom talk to these women and be there for them is inspiring.

I was the girl always buying pink products and wearing pink to support cancer research; I became the girl who buys it and wears it proudly because it represents the continuing fight to find a cure for the women undergoing chemo, the women at the support group, and for my mom.

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