It was May 10, 2020. I remember standing in the backyard with my son and my two nephews. We were taking selfies to commemorate this special day. Suddenly, my eyes welled up with tears. I thought, “Please God, don’t let this be my last Mother’s Day.”
A few weeks before, I found a lump in my breast. I knew it didn’t feel right, which is why I didn’t want to see my doctor before Mother’s Day. So instead, I scheduled the appointment four days after, on May 14th. Something inside of me knew it was going to lead to bad news, and I couldn’t bring myself to face that news before I had this last, blissful moment.
Unfortunately, I was right. My life was forever changed when I saw the nurse practitioner’s face change when I guided her hand to the lump. She didn’t have to say a word. We both knew it didn’t look good.
Less than a week later, my worst nightmare was confirmed during a mammogram and ultrasound. Only, it was worse than I’d imagined. The breast cancer was in both breasts, and it had already spread to my lymph nodes. I was at stage three.
After the radiologist coldly told me the news, I had to go face my sweet son, Ayden. I have tears falling down my face just writing about it. It was one of the worst moments of my life.
I didn’t have to say a word to him. I looked at Ayden and he intuitively knew just by looking at the expression on my face. He started screaming, “No! No! No, no! No, mom!” He then curled up into the fetal position and began rocking in pain. I placed my arms around him and we both cried until there weren’t any tears remaining.
Ayden was already facing the frightening reality of the pandemic. He’d been isolated away from his friends and family for two months at that point. Now, at just 13 years old, he was also dealing with his mom having cancer. It was too much for anyone to have to endure, let alone a child.
That was nearly a year ago and honestly, I’m glad I didn’t know then all the difficult things I would go through over the next year. It’s a hell I wouldn’t wish on anyone. The pain is unimaginable. On every level. Physical, emotional, mental, spiritual. All this while being a solo mom.
The most difficult thing about this happening during the pandemic was that we couldn’t have the people in our lives physically available to support us. It was far too risky for me to have anyone around me while I was sick. I even ended up in the emergency room last November, fighting for my life, with a white cell blood count of 400. The normal range is between 4,500 to 11,000.
I was hospitalized for several days, and because of COVID, my son wasn’t allowed to visit me. I don’t even want to think about what he went through. Those moments are forever carved within him. They changed who he is. They changed the way he sees the world. This past year has not been an easy fight.
Fortunately, my mom lives with us. I was so incredibly blessed that my mom was able to step in and help us. She made Ayden meals when I was too sick to even see or smell food. I don’t know how we would’ve made it through this without her. I realize how fortunate I am. I might not have a partner by my side, but I have friends and family who more than make up for it.
After my double mastectomy, my mom changed the bandages on my chest when I was unable to look at myself in the mirror. I was absolutely traumatized to lose my size D breasts. When I woke up from surgery and they were gone, I remember screaming. It was a guttural, heartbreaking scream. “My breasts are gone! My body! My body’s destroyed! Oh my God!!!”
I kept screaming over and over, until they injected me with fentanyl, causing me to lose consciousness. Before I fully went out, I noticed that the female medical assistant standing to the right of me was wiping a tear from her face. It was a moment I never want any woman to ever experience.
Then, came my hair loss. In the beginning, I tried to wear hats to protect my son from how sick I looked, but I couldn’t handle how hot they made me feel. You see, my type of breast cancer was caused by excess estrogen. My body was producing far too much of it. That meant I had to have my ovaries removed to prevent the estrogen build-up. That meant that on top of chemo, I was going through early menopause.
Eventually, I had to allow Ayden to see me without my hair. I’m not sure if he’s simply good at pretending, or if he truly did adapt to it with ease. He was so supportive. He would always tell me how beautiful I am. He told me that none of the things on the outside defined me. He told me I was still his mom. Everything was the same. I was still funny and silly and the mom he’d always been thankful to have. He really said these things to me. He has such an incredible heart.
As courageous as Ayden was on the surface, I know he was terrified. I know he’s still terrified. There’s a high chance of recurrence. My chemo just ended on March 3rd, so I’m still very new to the after-care process. Every blood test and PET scan I get, I imagine I’ll be waiting with bated breath. That question of “Will it come back?” is playing in my mind with an ugly vengeance. I’m doing my best to push through and find some sort of normality again, though.
Ayden doesn’t have another parent to lean on. I’m it. I’m the only parent he has in this world. If God forbid, I experience a recurrence, he’s… I’m not even going to finish that sentence, because I refuse to allow that to happen to him. I will be okay. I will survive this. I will put this in the rear-view mirror and move forward.
This might be my first Mother’s Day as a woman impacted by the ugliness of breast cancer, but this will also be my first Mother’s Day as a woman who has beautifully overcome the odds.
I’m not just a solo mom. I’m a survivor.