October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
If you recently discovered that someone you love has cancer, then you probably feel hopeless and alone. But you do not need to face this tragedy on your own. Seek help, so that you too can heal from this wound.
Mom Wasn’t Okay
I couldn’t figure out why Mom was crying all the time. To be fair, it never took much to make Mom cry – TV commercials, birthday cards, music, poetry, you name it.
But this was different. This was a deeper cry, a desperate cry, a hopeless cry.
One day after church I heard her whimpering in the background. I turned around, and I saw her standing with Isabelle, a dear family friend. Isabelle was comforting her and telling her that she did not need to despair.
I could not understand why Mom felt so hopeless.
That day, as she was driving my sisters and I home, I turned to her and asked her why she was crying so often. She looked at me, perhaps realizing that she hadn’t been as secret about her despondency as she had hoped to be.
“I’m not crying all the time,” she said. “Why would you say that?”
“Yes, you are,” I responded. “And I saw you after church with Isabelle. Something’s wrong, and you won’t tell me what it is. But I can feel that something’s wrong.”
She could barely speak, and tears strolled down her face. That Brazilian summer’s day became heavy with sorrow. She tried to juggle my worry while also maneuvering through windy street corners in the middle of São Paulo's traffic. But the heat was too fatiguing, the congestion was too frustrating, and her daughter was too forthright. She couldn’t hold it in.
“Honey, I have breast cancer,” she said. “But it’s going to be okay. It’s going to be okay. Okay?”
“Okay, but you don’t sound okay. What did the doctor say?”
“He said I’ll be fine, okay?”
But things weren’t okay, and I knew it. Children know that adults don’t cry without a good reason. As her eldest daughter, I knew that Mom was afraid. And that scared me.
A Nighttime Spell
Just like every other night, Mom came to my bedroom to tuck me into bed. But this time, I could feel that her cheeks were wet with tears. I didn’t say anything, hoping not to ruin the magic of having a mother who loved me so dearly.
I didn’t want to welcome this unwelcomed visitor into our home, but my efforts were in vain. Night after night, the rooms of our house became filled with melancholy. Breast cancer had cast a spell on my family.
A Lesson on Brazilian Poetry
One early morning after a sleepless night, Mom packed our lunches and rushed us off to school. My first class of the day was a lesson on Brazilian literature. Brazilians tend to write about one of two things: heated romances or melancholic hopelessness. That day we read a poem about the latter.
The poet’s desperate pleas for a happier ending eventually made my lips quiver. I soon found myself in the middle of the girls’ washroom with my best friend, Flávia. She tried to help me wipe away my tears by splashing my face with cold water and telling me that Mom would be okay. She told me to stay strong and that I did not need to be afraid.
We walked back to class, and we sat down together. The whole class was staring at me, as my face was still flushed and my eyes were still watery. My teacher wasn’t sure how to respond, and so she just continued to teach her lesson on poetry.
Flávia would occasionally glance back at me to assure me that everything would be okay. But the look on her face said otherwise. We were just children trying to figure out how to face an adult world. Yet despite our childlike ignorance, we knew that not even grown-ups could assure us that everything would be okay.
I felt alone. And the last person I wanted to tell that to was Mom. She was always the person I turned to when I felt sad and afraid, but this time I had to feel alone all on my own. I felt sick with sadness.
Can You Relate?
Have you recently discovered that someone you love has breast cancer? This kind of news is difficult, overwhelming, and often unexpected. But you do not need to face this alone, though I thought that I needed to face my sorrows on my own.
When you care deeply for someone else, you can feel their pain and sorrow. You also wish alongside them that they will heal, and that life will get back to normal again.
Do not forget that you also need to process your emotions, including sadness, anger, frustration, anxiety, and despair. You might also experience difficulty doing normal things, such as sleeping and concentrating on work.
There are counselors and therapists who are professionally equipped to help you express your grief while also helping you remain strong - even when you feel that your normal life has been shattered.
Cancer casts a spell on everyone – not just the person who is ill. So take the time to care for yourself as well, so that you can also find healing no matter what the outcome.