Mother's Fight with Cancer Essay Example


The day I found out my mother had cancer was not in itself a life-changing day. There are only a few moments of my life that I remember in as vivid detail as that day. It was the day before my first Winter Wonderland dance, and I remember sitting on my parent’s bed discussing the classes I would take the next year. Suddenly, my mother received a phone call,  she answered the phone and I continued talking with my father thinking it was only her best friend on the phone. In the back of my mind, I was waiting to hear her infectious laugh and to notice her face light up, instead, I saw her face fall and a look of dread exchanged with my father. 

As a nosy kid, I was rather dismayed to be rushed out of the room so suddenly and told to wait in the living room. Only ten minutes later I was left alone in an empty house, questions brimming from my lips and worry furrowing my brow. My grandmother entered the house about an hour later, with a flurry of motion she sat my brother and me down on the couch and immediately started to cry. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”  She kept saying over and over, unable to share any information with us. 

It would be hours until my mother and father returned from what I later learned to be the first in a long string of hospital visits. The news they dragged in behind them was not good but in my child-like naive brain,  I could not accept that my mother’s days were limited. 

The six months of my life were marked with copious amounts of stress and worry for my mother. However, through it, all my mother assured me that she would not leave me. “Alyssa Bear,” She would say using my childhood nickname. “I have so much to fight for.” In the months that followed my mother’s diagnosis, I remember a feeling of an endless spiral, sucking me further and further down.

I was an inquisitive child, and I had an innate desire to know and learn everything around me. I could not comprehend the unknown, up until this point my life had been a series of immovable certainties. If my life was a turbulent sea certain certainties became a lifeboat that I clung onto to stay afloat. Certainties like my parent’s unconditional love, the fact that my parents will always come home at the end of the day, I had a loving supporting friend group that I could tell all my deepest and silliest middle school secrets to, and no one in my family would ever die. It was a naive and childlike thought process, however, when confronted with a stage 4 malignant diagnosis, it is difficult to cling to these certainties. Life was a dark and frightening place and suddenly, the certainties that had kept me afloat were pulled away. 

The days dragged on as I was drowning silently in a sea of worry and dread so dark and hopeless I could not find the light. There were multiple nights I lay away and wondered how this chapter of my life would end, and if it would end with the same amount of characters it started with. 

Time is a funny concept, when confronted with a grim diagnosis you are often told to enjoy the time you have left and not to think too much about the numbers hovering over your days. I tried to enjoy every second I had left with my mother, but it was so strenuous to ignore the ticking time bomb that followed in her wake, I often had trouble mustering the effort to do so. 

During my mother’s struggle with cancer, there were 3 distinct hospital visits that I remember quite clearly. My mother hated these hospital visits, she hated being unable to move, being taken away from her family, being caged. I could recognize that my mother was getting worse every day, her strength was fading and her laugh sounded weaker and weaker. It was impossible to ignore anymore, my mother was dying. 

The next moment in my life I remember in vivid detail was the day my mother had a stroke. My memory is somewhat hazy for most events in my life. I can only assume that in response to the stress my brain tried to protect me from my memories, and the only way to achieve this was to settle a thick coat of swirling grey fog over my memories. What I wish to convey is the fact that while I remember exactly how I felt I do not remember the details of the scenes. 

The first detail I remember from that day was my room, I do not remember what day it was or what I was exactly doing. What I do remember was that this was my mother’s last coherent day alive, and she had spent it with her friends. When she got home, she sat with my father and my aunt at the kitchen table. Even downstairs I could hear her laugh floating through the house like bright wind chimes, soothing me in a way that I miss terribly. If I had known that would be the last time I heard her laugh I would have joined the conversation, but It is hard to recognize the last’s in life until it is too late. I did not notice when the laughter stopped or when the panic began, however, I did notice a banging on the floor which was my parent’s customary way to summon their two unruly teenagers who liked to listen to music too loud. At this point, I did not know something truly terrible had happened so as I had a thousand times before I trudged up the stairs slowly to observe a scene that still haunts my dream. My mother slumped over the table glassy-eyed and open-mouthed, she looked to me like a fish out of water. My father was frantic and my aunt was still trying to convince my brother to come upstairs. What happened next was a flurry of information that my confused brain refused to process. The ambulance arrived quickly and I could read the tension written in the lines of my father’s body as he looked between the glassy eyes of his dying wife and the wide frightened eyes of his two children. 

As I have previously stated, the details of this day are hazy. I do not remember whose car I rode into the hospital, only that I ended up there. At some point someone called my grandmother,  she arrived at the same time as the ambulance, and distantly I recalled that there was no possible way she made it in that small amount of time. 

The days after that are hazy, the deep and endless fog that covers my most painful memories seeps through the cracks in this part of my brain. I do not remember the ending of my freshman year, the first days of summer, or the several days of summer I spent at my mother’s side. I do remember looking out the window of her care facility and thinking how we used to walk in the sun to the park. How she used to push me on the swing sets and how our laughter melded together to float up through the bright summer sky. 

I could tell my mother was growing worse by the day, I could tell that the days of walking with my mother in the sun were over. When our marching band was set to go on a three-day trip I almost refused to go, I was worried my mother would slip away in the night when I was miles away. 

When I returned, much to my relief, my mother was still alive. Still, she could not talk to us, her speech was not improving, and she could barely walk. My father spent almost every waking moment by her side and she barely recognized him, she was often startled by her own children. Two weeks later, she passed away, my father by her side. That night he had sent me to stay with my grandmother and I remember being unable to sleep, I had known something terrible was about to occur. Finally, when a fitful sleep claimed me I was awoken to crying. 

The next few months held little relief from the ceaseless flood of emotion choking the members of my household. I could not let go of the hope I had that maybe miraculously my mother would appear out of the blue. That one day she would return to swallow me in a great hug and we could laugh together about the events of the past six months. “A terrible dream,” she would tell me, “I would never leave my Alyssa bear.” Life would continue as nothing had ever happened. Still, 3 years later I feel myself slipping back into my old daydreams, the sun pulling me into its warm embrace and my mother’s laugh blanketing the world in golden light. 

But part of moving forward is letting go, something I have been terrible at. I have always been a control freak, every aspect of my life is neatly planned out, color-coded sticky notes, and spreadsheets of important life events. Losing my mother was like putting my life through a paper shredder and trying to piece together what was left. I have learned after months of trying to fit the pieces together that one might not be able to recover what was perfect, you can build something back from what you have lost.

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