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Time to Fight Against Teal and White
June 17th 2009; a warm summer day in Rochester Mass; everything was normal and all were happy. It was 4 days before I was to celebrate my 15th birthday and everything seemed to be perfect in life. Only a month earlier my mother had been rushed to 1 of Boston’s hospitals to be treated for sudden kidney failure. But as the solider she is; she seemed to have trucked through and beaten whatever illness was hurting her body, and this meant life was set to play out again. But when my mother picked up her phone on that warm day, something was different. We were driving home when suddenly she threw a pen and pad of paper at me. I was in the ready position, barely hearing the voice on the other end. My mom relayed a set of numbers to me and I awaited to write down who this number belonged to. Names ran through my mind like cars around the tracks of a NASCAR race; but above all the word oncology was the rod that pierced my mind. As my mom talked and said “okay” about 212 times, I was thinking of any way to press pause on my life, just stop where I was, rewind about 2 months to when I was the little freshman playing varsity Softball, and making a name for myself, having the time of my life or our last family vacation we had taken, when all was normal, even perfect. We had gone to the gorgeous Bahamas to the island of Freeport, our favorite place, where I had always dreamed since I was a little girl of getting married on the beach. We had gone with my, my mom’s and my brother’s best friends. Nothing in the world is better that the warm soft sand of the island sifting through your toes, with the warm Caribbean sun kissing our faces, giving us a golden natural glow. This was the last time I saw my mother have that same glow, or look like the mother I had known for 15 years. But then I snapped back to reality, I looked at my suddenly quiet mom, and saw that there was no pause button on my life, only play. I sat there waiting for my mother to tell me of the conversation she had just had with the mysterious voice.
“Who was that?” I asked anxiously; not wanting my mom to hear the nerves tearing through my body.
“Well that was the doctor, and they know what’s wrong with me. It looks like I have cervical cancer.”
My body became totally numb, as I thought of everything that goes along with the word cancer; the chemo, the looks people give you, and the “I’m sorry” everyone feels the need to say; this was everything I thought I would never have to deal with. My mom and I sat in the car at our castle on the pond for what seemed like forever as we cried; there was nothing else our bodies could physically do. I felt so selfish when my mom called my dad at work as I sat there still crying endlessly. I was the one that was supposed to be strong; but instead I thought of how all of this would effect me. I’m the big athlete at school, who has always gotten the good grades, and done the good deeds. I thought of how my mom wouldn’t be able to attend all of my softball tournaments and field hockey games. How would I have time to ski when my mom was sick to the point of her not being able to walk? These are all questions no one should have to face in life, let alone 1 week out of their freshman year of high school. But then the pause button was pressed on my mind, and I thought now of how my little brother would take the news. He is my Irish twin the one who has always looked up to me, but I still feel years older than him. “How can I be there for him? What if I can’t be the good big sister when my mom is going through hell and back?” These were the questions that zipped through my mind faster than any shooting star.
As I sat in the tree over hanging the pond in our backyard that had always been my tree, I thought of everything that would happen to my Mom. As I sat there hating the doctors for not figuring this problem out a month earlier, I still had millions of questions that ran through my mind. “Would my Mom be at my wedding? Would she watch me play in my varsity games, or get to see my name in the paper? Would she even get to watch me graduate high school in 3 short years?” But again I stopped and pressed pause on my thoughts, and told myself I could be mad at the doctors and even the world for as long as I wanted, but no good would ever come out of that. Now we had to stand up together and fight this disease.
Throughout the summer I watched my mom drain of all life. With each day that went by, another basket of fruit, or vase of colorful roses arrived. They sat in our house screaming “sorry you have cancer, so I figured I’d send you something to remind you of that every time you look at this.” I know many people don’t know what possibly they could say or do when you say your mom has cancer, but no matter how many “I’m sorry cards from people we haven’t seen in 10 years my family and I receive, they were only greater reminders that my mother has an incurable disease and nobody around knows what’s to come.
My brother has always been the “little man.” He’s the typical younger brother, always acting like he was five, answering yes or no questions with a shrug, and always living in competition with me, the “old-souled,” girl. But as we both watched our mom go through her treatments and the endless trips to the doctors, we somehow without words became closer by the day, knowing every moment with our mom was to be cherished. I was always there by my mom’s side, and usually watched my brother sit in the background. I knew he wasn’t too fond of the whole medical thing, but this was his mother sitting here, slipping away. One night we talked about all the hell and roller coaster rides to come and promised not only ourselves, but each other to forever stand by our mom, the one that had always been there to wipe away out tears, and to never give up hope. I knew that when I was away playing sports, my little brother would always be there to look out for my mom, to help her in any way, and when the little man was playing basketball, the thing he saw as being an escape from everything, I would be there to give him support for both myself and my mom.
As the months went on and on, times of fun became more and more limited, the smell of sweet baked goods and dying roses suffocated our house. The place that we once called our castle on the pond, was now a dungeon trapping us inside. But in this dungeon there was no protection from the dangers to face, only the will and pure strength of those within. The more cards of “I’m sorry” and “everything will be okay” now overflows the box my dad had set aside for those he knew would come arrive like tidal waves. Normally any kind of card that was delivered to any of us, will grace the mantel above our fireplace, but none of these prisoners want to have the constant reminder that their once protector and supermom was battling and being pinned down by this fire-breathing dragon that called this dungeon from hell home.
When the rock of the family, the one who makes you feel safe just standing near you beings to crack, there is a serious battle at hand. My dad had always been there for us, no matter what. He was the one who makes you feel safe just standing near you; begins to crack, you know there is a serious battle at hand. My dad, my rock, had always been there for us, no matter what. He was the one who worked 7-4, cooked every meal and brought us to see all the sights of the world. His version of and education was not what we learn in our schools, or in books, but looking at how the world works all around, and seeing how people live no matter how rough life gets. My dad had done all of this while still being there to be the big teddy bear, everyone loves. But as my mom battled this disease his roles seemed to double. He still had all of his previous duties, but also took on the mommy jobs; taking my brother and I to practices or games, making sure the house was clean; and keeping us all happy. But as many could guess, happiness is not exactly in the vocabulary of a cancer battling family. But no matter what was going on, my dad made sure we were everywhere we wanted to be, but for the first time in my life, I saw my dad, the guy I had always seen as indestructible, began to crack, and realized how big these challenges he faced truly were. Each time my mom had a different surgery or was again put into the hospital, he never once forced my brother or I to walk among the miserable world of any oncology floor. My dad always apologized to me for what he said we were “being cheated out of the best time of your lives.” I knew that my mom’s cancer wasn’t my dad’s fault, my mom’s fault or anyone else’s. Time after time I had to remind my big teddy bear of the words my mom had said from the very beginning of this miserable journey; “this is just a speed bump in the road that we have to get over, but no matter what happens in the end, everything will be okay.
My mom’s cancer quickly spread to her tibia, and crippled her from walking. Every year only about 3 women in the Northeast ever see this happen. It all started with my mom having a little limp when she walked long distances, and soon spiraled into her not being able to walk at all. I had told her and the doctors for a straight month that it was probably broken, and maybe they needed to take and x-ray; but what do I know I’m only a 15 year old wanting to one day be a physical therapist. About two months after my mom’s walking problems started the doctors decided it was a good time for a CT scan, no sooner to find out my mom’s leg was broken, and her daughter was right all along. The worst of this blow was that it had been broken from cancer cells destroying the marrow and obliterating her shin. Again I sat and watched my mom go through endless hours of treatments, and continued to hate the doctors for not listening to anything I had to say. I continuously asked myself the same questions; “Why did all of this happen to my mom? Why at 15 am I already going through what most don’t until they are 35 or even never?” There were nights and still are to this day that I sit crying tears bigger than the crocodile tears I had cried after I had gotten a boo-boo, wondering why did God not strike me with this devil. I knew that I was the one that was able to beat this disease, but could now only recognize the fact that my mom was falling in this battle, and all I could do is stand by her and help her climb back up.
As the summer from hell came to a close, my brother entered the big year; his freshman year of high school, and I entered my sophomore year. I was often dealt the question; “How was your summer?” Well my summer sucked, but I would only tell of the good times I had at softball tournaments and field hockey camps. I always put on the same little giggly smile that everyone knows me by, and would just watch as everyone would walk away from telling me of their summers , to never know what I went through this summer, and how it feels to be told that your mom might not watch you graduate high school.
The fall went on and my varsity field hockey team at my tight-knit ORR, became another big family to me. Not only did I get to play with and against some of the best players in the state, and be seen as the “super soph” but we became league champs, and went all the way in the state tournament to be named the number 3 team. Even greater that all of this these girls I called my sisters, and I stood up to the battle against cervical cancer that we appropriately called Time To Fight. We had a benefit home game where most of our school came out to support the only undefeated team in the school against our rivals, and at the game we sold cancer awareness bracelets, painted with the cervical cancer colors of teal and white. Through the game, and the bake sale we held, we raised $1,500 for the fight. It was great that we were able to raise so much money and awareness for this disease that was destroying my mom, but the best part was that my mom was finally well enough to watch me play on the field I loved, with the girls I call my sisters. That one game may not have been the best of days for my mom, but it’s one I will always remember and on that I can look back to and say that my mom never give up her battle, and neither will I. The fall turned to winter and again the fire-breathing dragon blew another set of flames at my mom; we learned the cancer had spread to her liver and lungs. Everyone close to us felt this blow, and proved to be a true test to see the one that would stand by us, after all of the hurt we had felt. My mom continued to go through the draining routine of chemo and radiation, and eventually slipped into her a more depressed stage. These endless rounds drained all of the life from my once bright and cheerful mom, but no matter what I did all I could to stand by my mom’s side, and do any and everything she needed. There were days that I wanted to break and saw “our boys”; my brother and dad, the ones that never let anything bad happen to my mom or I , sit with me as we watched helplessly as my mom face daily tasks, that were now avalanches to get through.
For everyday my mom and dad argue about what she eats, or how many times she walks around the house, there are moments where I think to myself all that we have in life, and all that will make everything okay. We may not know what is to come in the future and what may or may not happen, but I know my mom is and always will be a true fighter. I have accepted the fact my mom has cancer, and there is not much I can do to help, but I know I will always be there to hold her head up through any hard time to come. She had always been there to make my boo-boos better, to hold my hand as she scared away all the bad monsters or just to put a smile on my face; so now it’s my turn to do the same for her. Win or lose in this battle against cancer, we know everything will be okay, and I will never allow this six lettered demon to destroy us.