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Seeing Cancer for the First Time

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Last week I stumbled across this picture of my mom that was taken on her final day of chemo treatment. Every picture I’ve shared so far has been of healthy people. For anyone wanting to know what life in a cancer family is like, the truth has always been in my writing. I have come to feel, however, that it is equally important to show what it is like as well.

To be honest, I had no idea that this picture even existed. I had no recollection of my mother ever looking that sick. I tried to tap into all of my memories, searching for some image of her face, and I realized that there were none. I remember everything about my mother’s treatment except the way her face looked. I don’t really know, but I think it may be some form of psychological defense mechanism- the brain naturally erases the most disturbing images to protect itself. Whatever the reason for my not remembering, seeing this picture last Tuesday evening was the first time I had ever seen my mom as a cancer patient with a real disease that was a real threat to her life.

I took the picture downstairs to show Mom and she immediately burst into tears. I leaned over to give her a hug and said, “Mama, look how far you’ve come.” I think it was the first time she realized this amazing thing she had accomplished how much she had to be proud of.

What struck me as I kept staring at this picture was just how beautiful my mom is. Despite the cancer and chemicals pumping through her body and taking everything she had, she was so pretty. Behind the tired skin and hairless head was a pair of sparkling green eyes and a smile that cannot be matched. Behind the surgical scars and aching bones is a survivor. Behind it all is my mom.

This picture is the epitome of Mom. She was literally going through hell and yet she put on a boa and tiara and was beaming the entire time. This picture that at first brought tears to my eyes now makes me smile every time I see it. It reminds me that, no matter how hard we hit rock bottom, there is always hope.

Thank you Mom. I am SO proud of you.

*Mom also asked me to note how lovely her teeth look