Surviving Breast Cancer

Today, Sarah at This Heavenly Life is featuring breast cancer survivor stories. This is the story of someone who fought to be a survivor, of a woman who proudly proclaimed that she was a 26-year survivor of breast cancer. As we were facing the fact that her breast cancer had become a pit bull that was about to devour her, my mom told me that she did not want to give up. How can I come to terms with the fact that she is not a survivor any longer? It seems like I miss her more, not less, as each day passes. I am trying to weather the storm of grief, but it is one long and nasty storm.

Not only am I struggling with grief, but my two daughters are trying to understand losing their grandma. They are so young that the concept of death is difficult to grasp. My little Emmy, who just turned three, has asked me more than once, “When is Grandma going to be alive again?”

I wrote the following paragraphs in March of 2009, while Lily, then four, was trying to understand that Grandma was sick.

Lily has always been very close with my mom. Grandma stayed with her for four days while Ed and I were in the hospital with baby Emmy, and that cemented their bond even more. Before our trip to Iowa, my sister asked if I had prepared Lily for seeing her Grandma. That day, very casually, I asked Lily how she thought Grandma would be when we saw her again. She knew my mom had gone through her “treatments” since the last time we saw her, and was now bald “like Daddy.” What I think took her aback when she did see Grandma was how different various medications had made Grandma’s face look, along with Grandma’s lack of hair. My mom has taken to wearing hats and no wig, just as I did. As soon as she got special hugs and kisses from Grandma, though, everything was all right. Later, Lily confided to me that Grandma’s hair was going to grow back, just like our willow tree will grow back in the spring.

The weeping willow has always been my favorite tree. One stood in our front yard in Nebraska when I was very young. Their tiny leaves and twigs scatter everywhere in the breeze, and yet when a strong wind blows, the willow is more apt to bend, not break. After a storm, it is the maple trees that lose the biggest branches. May we be like the willow when storms sweep through our lives, as good weather is bound to reappear.

Grandma’s hair did grow back, curly and white. The cancer had aged her, however, beyond her 66 years. She died in November, 2009.

During the month of October, Bigger Picture Blogs has been hosting a wonderful event called “Write Pink!” Melissa, Sarah, and Hyacynth, the founders of Bigger Picture Blogs, have been working very hard during the month of Breast Cancer Awareness to spread the news about preventing breast cancer. Not only that, but they have some great giveaways that are still open! Go visit Bigger Picture Blogs to enter!

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8 Responses to Surviving Breast Cancer

  1. It's so sad to see someone you love change so much in appearance. But it's also so good to see how (especially) children seem to be able to look through the appearance and very quickly focus on the person inside. I wish adults (especially strangers) would do that as well.

  2. My heart goes out to you…those feelings are so, so deep. Hang in there. The weeping willow has always been my favorite too, seemingly weary yet graceful and strong.

  3. So sorry…I lost my aunt to breast cancer. She passed on my son's birthday, and I remember arguing with God that she had honored her parents and yet she wouldn't see her grandchildren…only one of her children were even married.(I was quoting scripture back to Him like He didn't know it) She had lived to see four of mine.I will never understand and I know my cousins still deal with the loss.I am glad I know who holds all the answer as you do and as your mother did.Blessings during this time of grief

  4. I know it's hard. And I know right now it feels like the pain will never end. But you're only coming up on one year since her death, so it's normal to still be grieving. Allow yourself to feel the pain because that is the only way it will ever be able to heal. The scar will always be there but it will get easier…I know.Meanwhile, take care of yourself and keep writing about your loss. I find that writing is one way to work through the pain. {{hugs}}

  5. As sad as this story is and as painful as I know the loss is to you, there is something quite cheery about the fact that her hair did grow back after Lily said it would. 🙂

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