It’s Mother’s Day again. How many years has it been since I spent one with Mom? Forty-three years? Something like that?
It’s a long time, that’s all I’m saying. While I have now shared some of the same journey, I still wish I understood what this dear woman went through as a mother with metastatic breast cancer. What was in her head? What was she feeling? How do you face your own impending death? How do you face leaving your kids?
I truly don’t know. But I have had some clues.
At my wedding reception, my dad took my bright, shiny new hubs out to the patio at the hotel and had a long talk. When I asked later what they talked about, the hubs told me that dad talked about my mom. How distraught she was when she knew that the end was coming. She wasn’t worried about herself. She was fretting over my brother and me. That she wouldn’t be able to be there to watch over us, teach us, protect us. She made dad promise that he would always take care of us. (Which he did spectacularly, by the way). That night, as my hubs and I started the next chapter of our life together, Dad told him that he was trusting that hubs would take the reins of Mom’s mandate, that he would protect and care for me in her absence (And again, he has followed through. What guys I have in my life).
It breaks my heart to think of what Mom must have been feeling. That her job on this earth, to ensure that her children had a safe, happy existence, was being ended far too early. That she wouldn’t be there to watch us grow, graduate from school, marry, have kids of our own. Again, I don’t have kids, so I still can’t grapple of the magnitude of these things, but I know it was devastating.
I recently read Left Boob Gone Rogue by Dr. Uzma Yunus. I followed Dr. Yunus for several years as she openly shared her experiences with metastatic breast cancer. She died earlier this year, leaving behind two young children of similar ages to my brother and me when we lost Mom. I found her book insightful, not just in how she handled her mbc diagnosis as a woman, but also as a mother. I think she sums it up, “I feel like a lame-ass mother.” (p. 116)
Would Mom have used that term? Probably not in those words, but certainly in their spirit.
I realize now that she probably felt like she was failing us. Or that she blamed herself. Uzma wrote, “When a mother suffers, a family suffers. I feel guilty for the suffering that all of us may be destined for. But I don’t know how to protect them…Motherhood, as much as the joy it brings, has also started to haunt me, for I feel I am failing my children.” (p.117). This confirms what I have feared for some time. That mom felt guilt about the toll that this would take on us as we embarked on a life without her. I actually understand this, as I have felt similar guilt, for how I have derailed the hubs’ life, and for making my dad and brother and grandma go through this whole process for a second time. I hate that I have wrought all this chaos on our lives.
But it must be so much more intense as a mother. And it breaks my heart that she probably felt that way. And that is why I want to say this to her:
Mom – I love you. You shaped my life forever. But it’s not your fault. None of it. I don’t regret the short time we had with you, because even a moment is better than never having you as part of my life. You did your best for us, but sometimes life plays cruel tricks. I think you would be proud of us, me, my brother, the beautiful granddaughters you never got to meet. We think about you. We wish you were with us. But we would never want you to feel guilt. We are ok. I want you to know that. We try to honor you with our lives. Believe that, and know you did good things by us. You were amazing.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there. And for those of you moms with mbc, this is your time. Enjoy it with no guilt.
For more information on living with breast cancer, please see our website http://www.driventosurvive.org
Find Dr. Yunus’ book on Amazon: Left Boob Gone Rogue