Even though my mother and Nora never got the chance to meet, they are still connected...connected by their diagnosis.
In 2005, my mother was diagnosed with Stage 3 Ovarian Cancer, ten years after beating Breast Cancer. We didn't know then, but she carried the BRCA 1 genetic mutation. Like Nora, she also felt that something wasn't right. She had no appetite and when she did eat, food tasted bland. She also had the vague symptoms of a bloated belly and lower back pain, all signs of getting older or that is what she thought. My mom's doctors thought it might be a parasite...and they were partially right. The parasite was cancer and it was eating her alive.
When it comes to cancer, I have a tendency to want to focus on the positive but that can be a trap.
Positivity is important but it is worthless without honesty. The honest, hard truth is that everyone doesn't get to graduate from cancer.
My mom was enrolled into CancerU with a major in Breast Cancer in 1996. At the time, I was 13 and oblivious to what that really meant. My mom had a lumpectomy, some radiation, and we pretended like it never happened.
Ten years later, she was re-enrolled for an advanced cancer degree. This time, it was Ovarian Cancer. My mom endured an immediate complete hysterectomy, followed by an intense chemotherapy that was injected into her abdomen every 3 weeks. I was at every one of them, auditing her cancer course, not knowing that one day I would be so grateful for those advanced lessons.
We were able to gain an extra 7 years, but the quality didn't match the quantity.
Cancer is HARD and sometimes it is REALLY HARD but this is why it is so important for us to talk about this. Awareness of the symptoms and signs can help make more Cancer Grads.
Thanks to my mother, a year after her passing, I caught my breast cancer early. I have been on both sides of Cancer, as an auditor/cheerleader and now as a Cancer Grad.
Cancer Grad exists because of my mother and I hope Nora and I can make her proud by sharing all of the lessons we have learned.
My mom didn't get to graduate the second time but my heart feels better when I imagine that she is "Studying Abroad."