I knew I had cancer when I received a voicemail requesting that I “please call back” a doctor who had never asked me to call back in fourteen years. My initial external response was an incredibly less than profound statement to my friend Adrienne: “Oh great, I have cancer”. I shared three other short thoughts with her and decided there was absolutely nothing I could do about it at that moment and we went on to eat lunch.
I didn’t feel the sense of suffocating panic or fear I’ve heard other diagnosed people talk about. I didn’t burst into tears internally or externally, and I never felt, said, or asked God “Why me”? What I did feel was a total lack of surprise mixed with disappointment, sadness, guilt, and grief.
I wasn’t surprised because I am my Mother’s daughter. My Mom died of breast cancer. Like hers, my diagnosis was preceded by a series of ‘female issues’ that resulted in a number of surgeries and a variety of medical treatments to deal with those issues. Obviously they didn’t work.
I was incredibly disappointed in myself because I watched my Mom hold a disease at bay for a period of time by radically changing her lifestyle and somehow, even given similar health patterns, I apparently thought I was invincible and kept certain habits, foods, and stressors as a part of my lifestyle.
I felt a crushing sadness knowing my having cancer was going to cause the people I love the most- my family, friends and team- to experience fear for their own personal reasons, and pain in having to re-live the loss of my Mom (or their loved ones). I felt sad knowing even though I was the same person, with or without cancer, some people and things would change once my diagnosis became less private.
I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt over my third shared thought, which was: “I am glad my Mom isn’t here to know I have cancer”. WOW! My thought stemmed from the fact I knew my Mom would have felt a completely unfounded guilt had she been alive to see I share the same genetic mutation that likely caused her cancer. Regardless, it was and is a horrible feeling to even think those words and I remain filled with grief for the loss of my Mom whom I miss every single day.
So for me, the hardest part about having cancer had very little to do with the disease itself. It was more about the damage it causes to other people and the emotional scars it leaves behind.
However, remember I am blessed beyond measure. Whether I was inviting Him to lead me or not, God has prepared me for this journey through simple and extreme experiences, and through the gift of the people He has placed in my path.
The emotions of disappointment, sadness, guilt and grief are not conducive to a healing environment. I choose to focus on the blessings and gifts I have been given which are healing to my mind, body and spirit, and for which I am eternally grateful.
Note: This post was written December 14, 2012, which was my Mom’s birthday. The events of the day made it impossible for me to complete the post as I intended on that date.
Many of you know my Mom worked at Campion Academy where she loved and treated the students as if they were her own children. She saved money to buy a large beautiful oak table so she could invite at least eight of ‘her kids’ over for dinner after Church each week. My mom spent hours investing in kids who didn’t fit in, kids who needed a non-judgmental adult to listen and offer objective advice, and kids who simply needed an adult to be present and care.
I can’t count the number of times kids came up to me while I was still attending Campion and after graduation to tell me how lucky I was that Mrs. T was my Mom. I know she made life-changing differences to many of these kids, as she did for me personally.
She used to tell me, my sister, and the kids at Campion she was “accountable to God for how she raised us”. That pretty much gave her the ‘win’ for every teenage argument, as you can’t beat a Mom and God combo.
When my Mom was diagnosed with cancer, she told me: “If my getting cancer brings one person in our family back to God, it is totally worth it”. I know factually that it did, and not just for one person.
The massacre in Newtown, Connecticut would have broken my Mom’s heart. If you knew my Mom, you know she revered God above all. She loved her family more than herself, and would lay her life down for another without giving it a second thought.
I pray I live my life with the attitude and spirit of my Mom. I pray for her strength and total reliance on God, which saw her through every trial she faced. I pray I can be a servant leader as she was and impact the lives of the people around me as she did the lives around her.
Dedicated to the children and adult victims of Newtown, Connecticut, and my loving Mother Donna Jean Trujillo.