I’ve lost people I’ve loved before so I thought I knew how it felt to be incredibly sad. You know, the kind where your heart physically aches and it feels like the world stops for a moment. I dealt with unexpected death when my aunt Kim died at age 49 in 2011 and my grandpa died at age 76 in 2013. I experienced the loss of someone who significantly shaped my personality when my grandma passed away at age 91 in 2012. But, for me, finding out my mom has stage IV lung cancer has been a new kind of sad. I haven’t yet found the words to describe the devastation.
I found out about my mom’s cancer the day I returned from a work trip to China. My mom told me over the phone and it was the kind of conversation where my brain shut down and refused to absorb anything she said. I thought it was the jet lag, but now I know it was the beginning of my emotional rollercoaster that has included denial, hope, anger, and frustration. I never really understood in movies how people’s first reaction to sad news is to be destructive or completely lose all self-control, but when I found out my mom had lung cancer I wanted to smash something. Or throw something. Or both.
I knew it was bad that first day when she told me it had metastasized to her bones, around her heart and along her spine. But, I’ve tried to maintain hope. I had hope that they missed something and it really wasn’t in her bones… but it is. I had hope she would have been in the 7% who are candidates for targeted chemo drugs… but she isn’t. Now I have hope that the chemo will shrink her tumor and the Mayo Clinic will have some cutting edge treatment that will completely cure her.
Deep-down I know that, short of a miracle, the best we can hope for are a few really good years with my mom. It feels like a betrayal to her to say that because I know she needs our strength and positivity to fight. But, when I let my guard down and really think about what we’ve learned about her situation the past few weeks my sadness inevitably creeps in.
I am sad because it’s not fair.
My mom is only 56 years old. She has been to the doctor countless times for back pain or a cough in the past year and they never thought to check for cancer. She quit smoking 16 years ago, lost 50 pounds and became very health-conscious. My grandma smoked for over 75 years and lived until she was 91. This is why I just assumed my mom would live until 90 because that’s how it should work.
That is what is fair.
This is not fair.
I am sad because I just started to understand how much I appreciate her when I had my son last year.
I’ve always loved my mom but I haven’t been great about prioritizing my mom. One thing those closest to me know is I am guilty of living in my own little world. I like to set goals and I become immersed in achieving those goals. School. Work. Running. This means I haven’t always made time for my mom to chat, go shopping or have lunch. I was too busy living in my own world. I realized this last year when I had my son, Luca. I understood that all the love I have for him, she has for me. Having my son has strengthened my relationship with her. I’ve loved sharing my life as a mom with her.
I am sad because my kids won’t get to grow up with such a vibrant and loving grandma.
This has been the hardest for me. I’ve had many wonderful memories with my mom and know we will still have many more together. I will get to cherish those for the rest of my life, but Luca is still so young and will likely know my mom mostly through stories I pass along, pictures I share, and videos we’ve taken.
I am sad because I just am.
I am usually a very positive person. I genuinely believe good things happen to good people. I think society is getting better, not worse. I don’t dwell on what isn’t within our control. So this is new for me. It’s an emotion that is difficult to accept but also difficult to deny. I am trying to cherish the time and memories I have with my mom but also grieving that she could be taken from this world way too soon.
Now, I must wipe my tears away, focus on the good times ahead with my mom, and hope that modern medicine can work its magic.