I am privileged to be the father of three amazing kids, Taylor (19), Kyla (16), and Katelyn (almost 14). These three kiddos are the products of the love Maureen and I shared over almost 25 years of marriage, prior to her passing after an on-and-off 11 year battle with breast cancer on the morning of October 21, 2014.
Every so often they share something with me they have written as part of a school project. The following was written by Kyla earlier this spring for her English class, part of an advocacy project. As a dad, I hate that my kids don’t have their mom. But their love for her shows itself in all that they do and all that they write. I love you Kyla. Thank you for letting me share this gift of your writing with others. Thank you also for the pictures you chose for me to include. I had not remembered the one of you and mom on the couch, the weekend before her passing. Friends, this image captures the essence of Kyla’s word. They say a picture is worth a 1000 words. When you see it, you will know that cancer does indeed suck.
Cancer sucks. Plain and simple. Cancer takes more than 7.6 million people away from their families and friends each year. Likewise, 12.6 million people discover they have cancer each year. That is not fair. No one should ever have to go through that. Those words, “you have cancer” are three of the hardest words one can ever hear. My family heard those words in the spring of 2004. People should never have to hear those words again, because one day there is going to be a cure. I know it.
But for now, you know that after you hear those words, your world has changed, you are not living a life like so many others, you are fighting a battle. A battle against cancer and you are trying your hardest to stay strong every single day. This battle is long and hard, but so many strong and brave men and women fight till they can beat it. Many times though the outcome of cancer is death. This battle, though, is the cancer killing you from the inside and having the chemo trying to beat it and save you. There is nothing you, the patient can do, except live your life to the fullest while there is a battle inside you. Cancer can’t touch you, it can’t touch your emotions, feelings, and mind. All it can do is try to find other cells and metastasize and if it can’t be stopped, kill you. It can’t change you. Yes your life is changed with cancer, but it doesn’t mean your life has to change for the worst. Saying the words, “I have cancer,” does not define who you are; you define who you are. People who knew and those that didn’t know my mom would have never realized she had cancer because she did not let cancer define her.
My mother’s battle started when she heard the words, “you have cancer” at an ultrasound when checking on the progress of my little sister. I was 3. She battled with breast cancer from forty years old to the day she peacely passed away at 50 years old. 11 years. That is too long. However, that number is larger than we thought she ever would have because people found treatments to help breast cancer patients. It let me have more experiences with her. Let me get to know her before she was gone.
The months before my mother passed, my family discovered she had metastasizing triple negative advanced breast cancer, which then metastasized to her armpit and lungs, which is one of causes that contributed to her death. Without new cures being researched everyday, my sister would not know who our mother was, and Taylor, my brother, and I would not have been able to learn from her. Her life though was not all about cancer, for she was a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, an architect, a tennis player, a whole hearted, kind person who everyone loved. Her beauty and grace showed through to everyone she met. She fought like hell through the worst disease, cancer, with the biggest most beautiful smile I have ever seen. She was and is still amazing. Someone that I learned so many things from that I am carrying with me now and always. I can’t put into words how incredible a person and mom she is. She was taken way too soon from this life, by a disease that takes so many other moms, dads, sisters, brothers, and friends.
There are so many different kinds of cancers that kill so many people each year. Breast cancer affected my family greatly, but cancer invades people’s families everyday. Cancer does not just affect the patient but the family as well. My father stood by my mom from the moment they heard the words, “you have cancer.” He drove her to every doctor appointment, every chemo, and radiation treatment. My father cared for my mother during the hardest part of both of their lives. My mother battled cancer, while my father stood by her side, not being able to do anything except support and love her during this time. My dad loves my mom and was willing to do anything possible to get her feeling better. Cancer is so abrasive. It breaks a person and their family. But it does not break the love a family has. It cannot. Love is too strong.
Finding a cure for cancer is hard. There are hundreds of types of cancer that find their way into a person’s body. Finding different cures for all these types of cancer is hard, even finding a cure for one is hard. Even women or men that have the same type of cancer have different types of cancers because everyone has their own unique cells. I think the first step, before finding a cure, is creating treatment options that are less abrasive to a patient’s life. Cancer takes a lot away from a person’s life. Many cancer patients feel exhausted, pain, change in appetite, change in body figure, loss of weight, sleeping problems, and many other side effects depending on the type of cancer. Cancer sucks. Cancer takes good people from this life to early.
I could say all these things about cancer taking my mother way too early, but you can’t change the past. You can learn from the past and change the future. And that is what my mother would have wanted. My mom would not want me to remember her during the times she had cancer but the times she was healthy. That is why there needs to be a cure for cancer, so that people hear the words, “You are cancer free!” instead of, “I am sorry, but your loved one has passed away.”