A Little OCD and Anxiety When Your Mom Get's Cancer

It's been 3 months since my mom was diagnosed with Breast Cancer.  It's crazy to think that it has been that long already.  She just started chemo over 2 weeks ago and she is doing well so far and keeping a positive attitude, just experiencing the hard bits that we were expecting.  I feel like I've finally gotten to calm place of dealing with it in the last few weeks.  I guess you could say that my initial way of dealing with the facts at hand were by going a little extreme with my research on health and wellness.  But thankfully, during the last 3 months, I have been very aware of how I was trying to cope and tried to remember to humor myself as I got a little OCD about things.
I know myself pretty well.  I am my best when I am busy, and the healthiest way I have found for me when I am dealing with deep sadness or depression is to get into action by being productive in someway.  I'd rather do that than sulk non-stop.  I knew that when my mom told me that she had breast cancer that this would shake me up in a few ways.  So I also knew I needed to find some sort of way of coping that would make me feel like I was doing something good with my heartache, even if it was anxiety driven.  I think letting myself just experience mourning and worry in the ways I best understood how to was important.  And I hope sharing my experiences might help other people who have, are currently, or will go through seeing one of their loved ones being diagnosed with cancer.

I cried.  Of course I cried, because sometimes when you can't fully understand a situation the water works just come.  It took me awhile because I was in combination shock of her diagnosis and expecting the impending passing of my grandfather at the same time.  So it did take awhile for everything to hit me, but once my grandfather died and I had done all I could have done to prep for my trip to his funeral and to see my family, it all hit me really hard.
Coping for me found it's way through trying to learn more about my body and my health.  I started going to yoga.  I went back to my therapist for a few sessions.  I decided to do the DNA test 23andme to learn more about my body and health on a genetic level.  One week I went on a Netflix binge of watching tons of documentaries and movies about health, vegetarianism, veganism, how food is grown and processed, and more.  I switched to using organic/natural deodorants.  I impulsively bought 4 books about vegetarianism and about the food industry.  Have I read more than 10 pages of each of them?  Nope.  But I just needed these actions to feel like I had some sort of control or connection to by body when I suddenly felt so disconnected from it.

When my mom was diagnosed, the hardest part for me was that I really see my body in hers.  We have almost identical bodies in their bone structure, curves, our allergies and more.  We both are, ahem, well endowed with a lot of boobage.  And because with my mom's breast cancer it felt like her own body was attacking her, I suddenly felt for the first time that I couldn't trust my body, even though I've felt so in tune with my body the last few years.  My anxiety over cancer and how it's like this thing within ourselves that just pops out and attacks us was really overwhelming for awhile.  The only way I felt like I could handle the whole experience of trying to process all this was to get a little obsessive compulsive about trying to understand my own body and genetic traits.  Now, three months later, I haven't learned that much about my own body and health, but I needed to go through these set actions that I had created as a map in my mind to come to a healthier mind space.  And I think that that obsessive way of thinking is something a lot of people can click into with trying to cope with trauma.

Two months after my mom's diagnosis, I got my test results back from the 23andMe DNA test.  Thankfully, I have never been freaked out by tests about health or genes and was more just incredibly fascinated and excited to discover things about my health & body that I didn't know before, things that had always been there.  But a week before I got my 23andMe test back, my mom found out through the hospital's genetic testing that she is a carrier of the BRCA1 & BRCA2 genes that "belong to a class of genes known as tumor suppressors.  Mutation of these genes has been linked to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer." as stated on the National Cancer Institute's site.  Learn more about BRCA1 & BRCA2 on the National Cancer Institute's website.  That was when I just really wanted to know if I was a carrier too.  I've heard from lots of people that they would never want to know if they are carriers of things like this.  But I'm the sort of person that would MUCH rather know so I can at least try to help my body out in whatever way I can and heal my mind from the worrying.
I got my 23andMe test back and it said that I did not have any of the common strains of BRCA1 or BRCA2.  There were plenty of other fascinating things I learned about my genetic traits from the test but I'll talk about those another day.  The fact that I don't have common strains of BRCA1 & BRCA2 didn't actually relieve me of tons of suppressed anxiety or anything because really, I still could have a less common strain.  But just simply getting the test results back gave me a sense of peace, knowing and trusting that I had made effort in my own life to learn about my body in more depth.  After excitedly obsessing over my test results for a day or two, all of my anxieties and obsessive feelings faded away.

In addition to sending my mom gifts and telling her I love her and care about her more than I did before she was diagnosed, I had also really needed to process my own relationship with my body in a deeper way.  I needed to regain some sense of control, and for me that came in an expansion of knowledge.  In all that I do, what brings me the greatest sense of peace is remembering that the more I learn, the more there is to learn.  The more I understand, the more mystery there is in the world.  And going through the obsessive and anxiety filled motions in February, March, and a little of April did help me get back to a healthier place.

I don't know if you can call coping in itself healthy.  But it is something that most of us experience when we are amidst trauma or deep sadness.  And hopefully, each of our ways of coping eventually come to an end in a way that puts us on a new healthy path of living and thinking.  If you feel like you are just in a state of coping right now, try using a productive attitude and actions to push you along.  I can't even express how PRO therapy I am.  In the most traumatic times in my life and during the quiet times when past traumas started effecting my day to day in unhealthy ways, therapy was a huge sense of comfort, release and healing for me.  You are not pathetic for seeking help and guidance.  You are wise and strong for allowing someone outside of your experience to help you on your path.  Allow yourself to morn, allow yourself time to cry, time to get a little obsessive like I did.  But know there is a way to heal from every painful experience.  And you have the right to pursue it.

My mom has her second chemo treatment this week.  And she is going to a class about how to feel beautiful while experiencing the physical losses due to chemotherapy.  She will get to play with some more of the goodies I sent to her in her chemo care package which she has really been enjoying.  I am SO proud of her for her positive attitude and her trust in this all of this.  And I KNOW that your thoughts, prayers, and kind words have mean't a LOT to her.  One of my blog readers was sweet enough to send me a card to deliver to my momma.  It made my mom feel so very special knowing that people all over the world are thinking of her.

So if you would like to send her a card, please feel free to send it to:
Moorea Seal
c/o Momma
PO Box 31686
Seattle, WA 98103

Thank you everyone for your love over the last few months especially.  And keep sending your warm and comforting thoughts our way as she keeps going to chemo over the next 3 months.  Let's hope that chemo works it magic and gets that cancer into remission asap.


Kelli Murray said...

Praying for your mom Moorea. I know it must be so tough.

Sabrina C. Fotografie said...

Moorea courage! to my boyfriend last year were diagnosed a lymphoma ... I know what you mean.
I embrace you! and I will pray for her.


Jess Craig said...

i feel for you moorea!

Anonymous said...

I have recently had to cope with similar very tough issues in my family. My response was almost identical to yours as far as the Netflix food/health documentaries! I am now eating more vegan, throwing out my plastic containers, and going to farmer's markets! I've also become more spiritual -- reading all sorts of psychic and afterlife books, and studying Buddism. It's somehow comforting to know there are others out there going through similar struggles. And, to know that I'm not just being neurotic about food, but maybe it's a natural response when you see your mom struggle with illness.

Thanks for sharing your experience. Hang in there!

Rebecca Lynn said...

Huge hugs to your momma! She's doing a great thing for herself by staying positive and learning to adjust to her body. And hugs to you too, lady! I've been where you are and even though it was year ago, I can still remember the anxiety, confusion, and sadness that surrounded my mom's treatment like it just happened. She is years into remission now thank goodness!

I reacted in a similar way, reading and obsessing over health. Of course since you've watched the documentaries, you'll know how much cancer rates have sky-rocketed in our society. The thought to me is extremely alarming and made me change quite a few things. I'm now thriving on a plant based diet (and yes, that took some work) and am trying to use only natural and organic products on/in my body. I never again want to aid abnormal cell growth with chemicals and daily toxins.

Whoops, I went on a tangent there but whole living is something very near and dear to my heart and I love talking about it. I'll be keeping your family in my thoughts!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your words. My mom was diagnosed with a brain tumor last July and passed away this past January. My expression of grief has been so different from the norm. I am frustrated with her for dieing, I am sometimes numb. Occasionally I am sad like this week, Mother's Day. I have developed the oddest habit of chewing on ice chips as a comfort... obsessively. My sister sleeps all the time. She moved to be closer to our mom and now she is gone. She regrets moving but is thankful for her time. I still live far away, am thankful for my community here but wish I had been closer. Sometimes there isn't a right answer. I am praying for your mom. All the crazy ways we channel stress and sorrow continue to amaze me. Really there is no norm, just crazy unique journeys.


rebecca hill said...

Hey Moorea! My mom was diagnosed 2 years ago and has been in remission for about a year now. I totally know how you feel! I went through much of these same realizations & anxieties. Sending so much love to you and your mom!

Ashlee said...

Love & prayers to you and your momma today, Moorea. Thank you for sharing this piece of your heart and story with us.

Alice said...

Me and my mom cried too,... but what I did after is I devoted all of my time to her, making sure she feels good, that I cook her things she likes to eat or buy her those things, that the home is stress free. I really supported her, talked to her and listened to her, making sure everything is not about the cancer. Because we all knew how serious things were, but I wanted to treat her like a normal human being. So if she had the energy, I'd still let her cook her own lunch, etc.

I also did some more research on the foods that would be good for her, ... and I read a lot about cancer online. So I just combined all of that with my previous knowledge of food, the food industry, ...

And because cancer can change a person's appetite, I would let my mom eat whatever she wanted, when she was having one of those days. Even if it wasn't the healthiest choice, it still wasn't bad.

I hope I never have to deal with cancer again. I'm still just learning how to talk about this sad part of my life.

Sending hugs to all of you

Audrey - This Little Street said...

Thanks for the update, darling -I've been wondering how you and your mum were doing. You're such an incredibly strong woman, and like many people said, there is no right or wrong way to reacting to this. Do what you think you need to do to cope. I was too little when my own mum was diagnosed with cancer and had her surgeries and treatments, my parents sheltered us from information really and probably for the better since we were too little to really understand. I mean, even as adults we still ask "Why?" But yes, like you I am a bit obsessed with my health, we just can't ignore the things that hit so closer to home without doing anything. I am due to be tested for cancer genes soon as well, and actually looking forward to it. LIke you, I'd rather know. Xx

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this! I lost my mother to cancer when I was 5, and I'm only know realizing the full psychological effect of that. I realized some things while reading about your experience, and I wanted to thank you so much for sharing it! I am sending all of my positive thoughts to your mother and your family, and I would SERIOUSLY encourage you to (as part of your documentary kick) watch this TED talk from a professor named Paul Stamets( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXHDoROh2hA) *it's only 11 min. and definitely worth watching, but you can skip to 7:50 for the part on curing breast cancer with compounds from the Turkey Tail mushrooms which grow in old growth rain forests. His mother was stage 4 metastatic breast cancer and was told that treatment wasn't an option. She participated in a trial and didn't have to suffer through chemo and radiation, and was cured. Worth a look, you never know!

Anzouya said...

Stay positive and keep the faith. The storm will pass and you and your family will be facing life stronger and wiser. A big hug to all of you!

Earmark Social said...

Oh Moorea, I am so sorry for all the pain and sadness you have gone through. Family stuff like this is never easy. The only benefit is that we all come out of these situations a little bit stronger than we started. It can be really hard to stay positive and keep your chin up during these times. It sounds like you are coping magnificently as well as your momma. Please send her my best wishes. If you need anything you can always call or write me. I am always around no matter what!!! If you want to cry or scream or talk, I'm here. Wishing you all the best in the whole-wide-world. XOXO - Bridgette P.S. Your mom is lucky to have you!

selfiesandsweatpants said...

I don't know you, but I kind of feel like we're long-lost friends. I just found out that my mom too has breast cancer. I know it's okay to feel sad, but instead i just feel so afraid and helpless. After more than 25+ years, I've placed my mom on a pedestal, who is strong, confident and always there to tell me things will be alright.

Anyway, it's kinda of comforting just to be able to read how someone else is/has coped with this. So, I just wanted to thank you for being so brave and sharing your story here.

Moorea Seal said...

Aww, my love goes out to you my friend. I'm sending warmth and love out to you and your momma and family right now. This will be a powerful journey, but honestly it was one of the best things that ever happened to my family, bringing us closer than I could have ever imagined. Sometimes heart breaking seasons are the most revealing, honest, and filled with warmth and love. You've got this girl. <3