How Breast Cancer Changed My Life For the Better

Though my grandmother on my dad's side had breast cancer over thirty years ago, it wasn't until this year when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer that I started to see how supportive brands are of people who have experienced breast cancer in their lives.  Elaine Turner was kind enough to send this lovely purse to me to help me promote awareness of breast cancer this month since it is national breast cancer awareness month.  For all of October, she has been donating 50% of all of the sales of these purses and matching bracelets to cancer research.  Pick up yours before the month is over!

My mom was diagnosed earlier this year with breast cancer and boy did that change everything for my family.  To be honest, my mom and I have had a very rocky relationship for my entire life.  She experienced incredible amounts of trauma in her younger years that made it very difficult for her to be a well balanced mother for most of my life.  This is not the space for me to go into detail on the pains of her life, but I couldn't even explain clearly if I had the space to describe how incredibly traumatic her life was growing up.  And unfortunately, because of all the layers of her own hurts, it made for a very hard upbringing of my own on top of the other trauma I experienced as a child.

By the age of 9, I had known a LOT of people who had died already.  I've probably been to at least 30 funerals in my life and a fair amount of those were funerals for people I knew very well and of all ages.  On top of that, gosh, I must know at least 50-70 people who have died in my 27 years.  My childhood had some sincerely magical and beautiful moments but those sweet and memorable moments were equally balanced with heartache and pain that caused me to grow up very quickly.  I remember being 4 and 6 and feeling heartbroken because I had failed at being responsible...and as an adult, I recognize that the worries I held on myself as a child were too weighty for my age.

At age 8, my family moved to the US suddenly and I could only bring very few precious items with me; a dollhouse, a doll, and a teddy bear.  I felt like all I knew was being erased, my childhood had officially ended.  As soon as we moved to the US, a little girl from my church in England died 8 days after we had arrived in California.  After having to switch schools my first year in the US because of just feeling completely culture shocked going to a public school here, I went to a private school with my grandparents support.  Sadly, the girl who sat next to me in class at my private school drowned in a hot tub the summer after my first year in the US.  Just six months later, my best friend's older sister was hit my a car and killed.  I still regret not going to her funeral, but my little heart couldn't take another funeral during that dark season.  And six months after that, the elderly woman in my new hometown who took me under her wing and brought me so much comfort, passed away.  The fragility of life was constantly in my face as a child which left me with a lot of anxiety, a worrier attitude, a lot of fear, stress, depression, and an overall weight that was too heavy for my stature.

I can't even imagine how difficult that period of time was for my parents watching me go through these things, one after the other, while I tried my best to act like a responsible little grown up sadly incredibly clouded with depression and sadness.  I was in a haze of depression from then until college as I sat in a cycle of fight or flight mode, high highs and low lows.  My good friends from junior high, high school, and college can all say that I have a very strange life that is balanced with extremely traumatic things that happen along with incredibly wonderful and insanely lucky things that happen.  And with my mom, for most of my life honestly, our relationship was traumatic, tumultuous, and heartbreaking.  I know that almost every girl has a rocky relationship with their mom growing up but this was a different thing.  It was very heavy to say the least.

But because of cancer, I could cry a million times over at how healthy and loving our relationship has become.  Really, lights have finally come on for the both of us.  Compassion that felt like it flowed with no reciprocation has finally turned into true, balanced, open and kind love.  For the first time in my entire life, I can accept my mom's love as truthful.  I have no more fears with her or of her.  Because of breast cancer, all of the traumas of our past mean nothing to me anymore, and I am ready and willing to do ANYTHING to bring happiness to my mom and to show her I love her and need her.  Because of breast cancer, she is her very best self and I trust her.  I trust her, that is the first time I've probably ever said that in my life.  How can I be more grateful for that?!  For the first time in my life, I need my mother, I do not fear her, I trust her, I see her best self and it is so vibrant.  For the first time in my life I feel respected by my mom, I feel appreciated, admired, encouraged, and loved by her.  This is the mother I have hoped for my whole life, and she is here.  She is the mom I have always wanted.

Breast cancer didn't hurt the important parts of my mom.  It took away her hair for a time.  It made her physically weak, took a toll on her cognitive abilities for awhile, it tried to break her emotions, it tried to take her away.  But cancer has not won.  My mom is winning.  My mom is her best self, my family is the most stable it's ever been, my relationship with my mother is by far the best it's ever been.  And when she calls me now and I hear her softer side, the purest and truest part of her that grows more vibrant everyday, I cry every time.  Finally, the fearful little girl in me has her strong momma.  Though breast cancer attacked her body, this is the first time in my life that I know I am not her caregiver and I don't have to take care of her in the ways I used to.  She is in control and I get to give to her knowing that she is filled up with love already, she is not in need, and my gifts and love gets to be overflowing love on top of all the good she is getting right now.  Cancer is nothing compared to the power of goodness in her life.  Take that breast cancer!

This is the power of experiences with cancer.  It tries to break us down, and sometimes it takes away such special lives.  But it doesn't take away our love, it spurs us with fervor to rise to the occasion naturally.  When cancer hits, nothing is forced.  You are cut raw, your your heart falls open, and sure, shit happens, but wow such beauty rises up too.  In my eyes, my momma is more beautiful than ever.  She was a model when she was young and quite a beauty.  But this year, I see beyond the surface, that layer that breaks down over time.  This year I've had the privilege to SEE my momma and her truest beauty, the mom I've always wanted, the mother who is here.  My mom is here, she is present, she is alive, she is beauty, she is love, she is my mom.  I've never loved her more.


Laura Mazurek said...

friend, i just fell in love with yet another layer of you. you inspire me so much with the things you have faced and your attitude about them. thank you for sharing your heart.

charissa said...

Thank you for your honesty and truth!

Shell (Kitty & Buck) said...

It's always amazing to see the light that shines from bad times. xo

MamaMandolin said...

Beautifully written. Thank you for always being so open and honest here.

Roni said...

wow such a great piece, Moorea. My mom had breast cancer when I was young and I am forever amazed at how strong she was to continue raising us despite all the physical and emotional pain she was suffering. Cancer really does reveal a whole new level of depth and beauty to those affected by it.

Kait said...

Such a wonderful read, you brought me to tears. Thank you for sharing this. Cancer is truly an awful thing and I do wish it didn't exist but you are right.. it is kind of amazing how it can at the same time bring people so much closer & cause you to see people so differently. I've lost quite a significant amount of people to it. One lady who I worked really close with had a very rare type of cancer. It was essentially the same genetic make up of breast cancer but it appeared in her lungs and was much more aggressive. I think it was documented as the first case in Canada, and the 10th in the world. It was very hard at times watching her go through it. Her and her husband both worked at the museum with me and that was her passion. She wanted to continue to work until she physically could not anymore. It was very hard to watch at times but she was still so beautiful as she was going through it. She was such a remarkable person and I'm so glad to have been able to know her and her husband so well. Thank you for sharing this with us ♥.

Aja said...

What a beautiful, touching, heartbreaking post. I'm lucky not to have experienced too much death in my years however this year I lost my dear sweet Grammy who is absolutely irreplaceable. (She passed from a stroke). Sending warm thoughts your way for you and your Mum. xoxo