29. When you find out your mother has breast cancer you need to try not to let the constant reminder that you’re not there to help get to you – instead act like you’re not as worried about it as other people because it’s just easier that way.

I’ve been so busy trying my hardest to be a good mother that I’ve become a not-so-good daughter in the process.

We found out that my mother has breast cancer shortly after Clara was born. My parents flew up to Toronto immediately for a visit and it was a bittersweet few days – my mom tried her hardest to enjoy her grand daughter but you could see the heaviness of the news weighing on her. She had moments where she’d think about missing out on Clara growing older and I did my best to assure her that this wouldn’t be the case.

My mom had surgery in April to have the lump in her breast removed. My oldest sister flew home to be there and to help. I did not. I was very aware that I was the only person in my family that wasn’t there and tried not to think too much about this fact but it was hard not too – my sister posted online often about the things she was doing to help my mother. She of course didn’t post these things to make me feel bad, but they did.

Guilt is a bitch, sometimes a really big one.

I, in turn, didn’t post anything online, mostly because while my sisters at home were doing everything, I was doing nothing. Even the one in our family that thinks only of herself was doing more than I was and THAT was a tough pill to swallow. I could have posted SOMETHING about what was going on but it was just easier not too. Maybe writing about it on here would make it too real? I don’t know. Instead I stayed quiet, and thought, stupidly, that not saying much, that acting like my mom had breast cancer was not that big of a deal was an attitude that could actually help. As in, “well if you’re going to get cancer, breast cancer is the one to get because lots of women get it, but very rarely die from it.” And while this is true, and while it’s very, very treatable, it’s not a thought that comes easily to the one WITH cancer.

What must my mother (and the rest of my family) thought of my callous, nonchalant behaviour?

After my mom had the lump removed and the results from the tests on her lymph nodes came back all negative, her doctors recommended 4 rounds of chemo as a precaution, followed by radiation in the fall.

The word chemo scares the hell out of me and so of course, I was very relieved when my mother survived the first round with flying colors. We talked on the phone more than we normally do in those days leading up to and during her treatment. Even afterwards, my mother and I chatted every few days about how she was feeling, about the wig she got, her head wraps, her hair falling out.

And then she had an appointment with the cancer specialist and a second round of chemo and I never called. I read about it on my sister’s blog so I knew that she was fine… But I never called and talked to her myself. And when I finally called today, my mother was pissed and rightly so, as I’m sure the rest of my family is. But more than that, she was upset and when she started to cry on the phone, I realized just how flimsy of an excuse that “I’m preoccupied” was. My mother had five kids, she reminded me, so she knows first-hand how challenging and time consuming it is being a mother. But it only takes a few minutes to make a phone call. And of course she’s right, 100%, and I told her this as we sat on the phone and I felt the shame of being “that” child in my family that up until now, was always Sandra and was never ever me. I boast about how I was always the reliable and responsible one in my family, the kid my parents could always count on (see number eight on my list) but when it REALLY mattered, that wasn’t me. I’ve let my family down, I see this now, and I’ve disappointed my mother and I’ve mortified to have done so.

I’m trying so very hard to be a good mother to Clara that I’ve forgotten that in order to be a good mother, you have to be a good daughter.

And I haven’t been, at all and the worst part? I don’t have any good excuse, or any reason. I’m the QUEEN of finding excuses justifying why I do or don’t do something and I could have spent this blog building my defense with a WALL of reason but I didn’t, because even I can see how flimsy that reason would be.

I hope that Clara is a much better daughter than I have been.

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6 Responses to 29. When you find out your mother has breast cancer you need to try not to let the constant reminder that you’re not there to help get to you – instead act like you’re not as worried about it as other people because it’s just easier that way.

  1. Renu says:

    Don’t beat yourself too much.. You are a great daughter and always have been… just remember that..

  2. Stephanie says:

    You had a newborn baby to take care of and no reason to feel guilty about doing that.

  3. racingto50 says:

    So since you opened this door I’m going to ask (not to be snotty or rude or anything, that is certainly not my intention as I hope you know). Why didn’t you go to Halifax when everyone else was there? Clara was a newborn, I understand. But newborns are very easy to travel with. And I agree with everyone else, don’t beat yourself up too much about it. Just make it right now. Trust me, from someone who wishes she could turn back time and call more, treasure your mom while she is still here. You never know what tomorrow will bring.

  4. racingto50 says:

    Crud, and this is Tina. Sorry I forgot to log out of my other account. 🙂

  5. Tawny says:

    There were lots of reasons Tina. I didn’t really feel it was right to uproot Clara at such a small age for starters. And I wouldn’t know that a newborn is easy to travel with. I was also still working hard to establish my milk supply and was pumping 6-7 times a day. I never got the H1N1 vaccination and so neither did Clara and a plane seemed like a bad idea.

    But mostly I wasn’t THAT worried. I told myself the results would come back negative and my mother’d be fine. And they did. If the results were bad, I could have gone then.
    I didn’t want to act impulsively, especially now that I have Clara to consider.

  6. Pingback: 2010 in review | Five Days in May

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