The Six Letter Word

I’ve never experienced loss or illness before — Guess I’m lucky for that. I decided to get married and leave home at 19, leaving behind my grandparents, my mother and my brother all whom I spent my entire life with. When I was 3, my parents separated, leaving my mother to move back in with her parents. She had several jobs that kept her busy which left my grandparents in charge of raising my brother and I while she attempted to give us a chance at a stable life. She tried her best at every job she had until she was injured on the job and was later fired. She never fully recovered physically or mentally which drastically changed our lives. Addiction rattled our existence and initiated her absence in our lives even more which to this day, she regrets. I chose to move on from it and surround myself with work and school. I fell in love, graduated, and got engaged all while her reigns became tighter. She believed that since she was absent for much of my youth that she could somehow make it up to me while I was entering adulthood. When I made the decision to push up the wedding, she lost it. When I made the decision to move 772 miles away, she was irate. We fought every time we were in the same room. She couldn’t even go to our wedding. (Neither did my father or my brother but perhaps, for another time.) When I left, I left every thing painful behind and I was happy with my new life.

Everyone was “moderately” healthy when I left which made it a little bit easier to leave. I made my weekly calls to my grandparents to tell them how we were and to make sure everyone was OK. I made no calls to my mother that year. It was sort of a mutual unspoken agreement between the two of us. It wasn’t until Christmas of that year when we went home that she grabbed me and never wanted to let me go. She apologized for her behavior and believed that she was wrong. I accepted it because I had already begun to let it go. It took us over a year to build back what was left of our relationship. Repairing the relationship still to this day is extremely difficult. Our conversations will never be the way they used to be and her presence in my life will never be the same.

On our path to repairing the relationship, our occasional phone calls, which lasted about 2 hours due to her long and expressive stories, happen probably once every three months. That year, I kept her at an arms length. Not out of bitterness but because I had my own life that I was working on. And let’s face it, the past is super oppressive. It wasn’t until a week before mothers day that I felt like God had been softening my heart towards her. I didn’t know why but I felt something in my heart. I didn’t know what, either. I tried to get her some special things that I knew she would love and sent it to the house. She texted me the day she got the package. The same day she told me that she had breast cancer.

Cancer? No one close to me had ever had cancer. Why now? Sure, my mom didn’t live the healthiest life. Could it be in my DNA? Will I get it when I’m older? Annnnd, que the anxiety attack. Plus, not only was it cancer, but it was stage 3 cancer. *hyperventilating* There was no way for mental preparation here. This was happening so close to home for me that I broke down. Four years ago, when I still lived at home, she found a lump. Doctors said it was too small and showed no signs of cancerous cells in it and that she should follow up in two years. WELP, two years later, I moved away and she was left to grieve my departure so of course she didn’t follow up. So here we are. Four years later with a stage three breast cancer diagnosis. Part of me wants to be pissed off and bitter because she didn’t take care of it herself sooner. Part of me considers blaming myself for moving away abruptly leaving her to painfully recover from her loss instead of focusing on the lump that was steadily growing each day. So, I had a challenge. I’m mean, clearly God had prepared me for this moment. Out of no where, I had a strange feeling to soften my heart towards her. I mean, where else or how else would I have thought about that BEFORE she told me she had cancer. Nothing changed in our relationship prior to that moment. In fact, we were beginning to talk less and less when I felt the urge to rebuild something between us. My challenge is to continue on without blame, guilt, or regret. Our minds will go in directions that are often dark and messy. I’ve seen the worst from my mother but I specifically remember the moments when my mother had hope. It wasn’t because of me particularly. It was because of God working through me. And I had not seen my mother hopeful in what feels like years. Through this experience, its not about me. It’s not about this horrible cancer. It’s about choosing the better options to go through life. Could I be irritated that she waited so long for treatment? Yes. Could I blame myself for leaving her broken? Yes. Could I be heartless and not care? Yes. But those choices lead to deeper rooted things that affect your life long term. I refuse to continue a life based on choices of negativity in my life.  Does that mean I will never have negative thoughts again? Absolutely not. I will be negative and and anxious mess but that will not define my life like it did hers. I choose to let go of what happened when I was younger because she could never really forgive herself. I choose to let go of her not going to our wedding. She didn’t. And I’ve never felt so free in that.

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