A thriver isn’t only a person who has overcome cancer, but it’s also a person who was affected by it. Our BA Kacey shares her story about her courageous mother and their journey together.
Can you tell us a little about your Mom’s story and what you’ve experienced?
My mom’s name is Roni, and she was 49 when the doctor diagnosed her with breast cancer. She found the lump herself and scheduled an appointment to have it checked out. The nurse performing the mammogram saw something “off” and notified the doctor. Not too long after, my mom received a phone call about her results and was brought in for a biopsy.
A probe was placed into the tumor so they could get an idea of its size. I remember getting the phone call from her while I was at the gym, she started crying and said: “I have some bad news.” When she said the words “breast cancer” I was shocked and at a loss for words. I didn’t know what to say to her at that moment; I didn’t cry or react, I just listened. It took awhile to sink in. I called my Dad to make sure I had heard correctly, and then I broke down.
That phone call was back in March of this year. I took a train down to San Diego to meet my family and to hear everything the doctors had to say. My sister and I sat in the room with my mom while the surgeon examined her and went through the different procedures she could choose. We asked tons of questions and received a lot of information. I think we spent about 10 hours at the hospital that day just listening to the doctors, nurses, and breast cancer survivors.
The plan was to have surgery, chemo, and radiation, in that order. No matter which surgical option she went with, the rate of survival was the same for each. My mom struggled with which procedure to go with, she asked my sister and me what we thought, and we told her that ultimately it was her decision and there was no way we could decide what was best for her body. My mom received a phone call informing her that she was HER2-positive and would be needing a different treatment plan, which consisted of 6 months of aggressive chemo, surgery, then radiation.
Mom received chemo every 21 days; they informed her that she would lose her hair shortly after starting her treatment. She decided to cut her hair short and then shave it off before it fell out entirely. She was worried that losing her hair would “scare” my younger sisters who are 10 and 12. The more chemo treatments she received, the weaker she became. She was in bed a lot and couldn’t do much, which was hard for her because she never sits still and likes to keep herself busy.
My mom completed chemo this past September, a week before her 50th birthday and had a bilateral mastectomy September 20th, 2017. She is currently recovering from the surgery. She’s in a lot of pain, but she’s a resilient fighter.
What advice would you like to give to someone who may be experiencing this with their family?
The best advice I could give to someone who is experiencing this with a loved one is to just be there for their journey. You never know how limited someone’s time can be and it’s important to be there through the good and the bad. Not being able to be with my mom and support her physically made the experience far more difficult. There’s no way I could ever truly understand the way my mom feels as much as I try to empathize with her situation.
How has your life changed?
I would say that my day-to-day life hasn’t changed all that much because of the distance between where I live and where my mom lives. I will say that it weighs heavy on my heart to have been far away from her and to have had so many obligations keeping me from her during her journey. I appreciate my mom more. We didn’t always have the closest or best relationship, but none of that truly matters at the end of the day. When faced with the possibility of losing someone you love, it’s hard to imagine life without them. You hear people say that they appreciate things more, they love harder, and they live each day like it’s their last. I don’t follow all those clichés, but I do appreciate my friends and loved ones more, and I make sure they know it. I also value the time I have here and plan to make the most of it because you just never know what could happen!
What have you learned about yourself, your mom, your family in this situation?
What I have learned about my family throughout this process is that we love each other no matter what. The dynamic of my family isn’t all that “normal,” but in my mom’s time of need, we came together to lend our love and support the best that we could. We are stronger because of this, both individually and collectively and it’s important to stop and take a minute for one another regardless of how chaotic life may get.
Kacey, her mother Roni and everyone in her family is a thriver. Though this journey was rough and bumpy, they’ve shown that a family’s love and bond holds strong.