Cancer is one of those things that’s just so common, but yet so far removed from everyday life. If it isn’t effecting you or someone you love, you just don’t have to think about it. It’s like this horrible, scary, heart-breaking thing lurking in the dark- it could inhabit your closet or live under your bed, but since you have never actually seen it there, you can pretend it doesn’t exist. But it could strike at any moment, and none of us our safe! We often lead ourselves to believe otherwise. It won’t come for us, right? Because we’re young and/or healthy and invincible.
Before three months ago, I can only think of a handful of moments where I ever gave cancer much thought. When I was a child my grandpa on my father’s side died of lung cancer. I called him pops, but I didn’t know him well. I only saw him once every year or two when we made the trip down to BC. He smoked a lot. I always thought he didn’t like us kids that much; Or maybe just me, because I was the whiney littlest one. I was sad that he was gone, but it was also hard for me to comprehend at that age, cancer and death. I never knew anyone else that had cancer, not well anyway: an acquaintance or two, a friend of a friend, and the brother of a friend of a friend. I thought about it when I saw an ad campaign for the Children’s Cancer Society, or read a fundraising campaign for a cancer patient somewhere in the world. The stories would touch me and I’d shed a tear or two. Then I would feel guilty that I didn’t have the time or energy to do more, but the guilt would be fleeting as I’d go on with day-to-day life. I did the Run for Mom on a couple different occasions, and donated money for the cure. The only other time I can remember thinking about cancer is when I’d read the warning label on a brand new pack of cigarettes, then I’d rip it up and light a smoke.
I remember once when I was complaining to my mom about constantly having to ‘come out’ as being queer and being a woman in a relationship with a woman to everyone I meet, my mom compared it to a cancer patient having to come out about their cancer to everyone. At the time, I just rolled my eyes, I was annoyed by the comparison. – I’m not sick, mom, I’m gaaay, or bi, or pan, or however I feel like identifying on that day. But her point was not that the two of these were similar but that lots of different people have things about them or about their lives or their bodies or their past that maybe define them or maybe don’t, bits of information about them that when disclosed can make others think differently of them and even treat them differently. All these things that can be annoying to always have to come out about or feel like your hiding if you don’t.
My mom is a smart lady. She may not be the best at saying the right thing to me to make me feel better, but she’ll always say the honest thing. She’ll always give me ‘the other’ perspective even if I don’t want to hear it. She is one of my best friends, and she always has been. So much so, that I used to tell her things in high school that she’d be like, wow, Heidi just stop, that’s not the kind of information that you should share with your Mother. I’d be like “Lol, whateva, maaa!” … Even after completing University, and after 7 years of living away from home, I still called my mom on a regular basis (like every other day) just to chat, to vent and rant, or ball my eyes out.
Because of that conversation we had about ‘outing’ ourselves. I didn’t want to ‘out’ mom as a cancer patient on my blog. But then I asked her recently and she said that she didn’t mind, and that everyone is bound to find out at some point anyway.
I found out three months ago that she had had a biopsy come back positive for breast cancer, and two more suspicious lumps. These also turned out to be cancer.
I was shocked. My mom was the last person on Earth I expected to get Cancer. She can literally run circles around anyone I know, and by circles I mean marathons. She runs freaking marathons, and hikes mountains, and skis almost everyday like some kind of winter Olympian. On top of that, she’s always been a healthnut: veggies, veggies, fruit, fruit, no treats ever, except maybe once or twice a year on special occasions and then it’d be homemade bran muffins made with honey or something!
One phone call later, and Cancer came roaring into my life, in a confusing, catastrophic kind of way. Not just anyone had cancer, my mom had it. My sweet, caring, health-conscious, physically fit Mom. I just wanted to cry and throw things and bash a wall because Cancer is so fucking unfair.
I knew right away I wanted to move back home to the Yukon to be closer to her and support her in whatever she would be going through. She told me not to make any rash decisions. So I didn’t. I took a month to think it over and decided, it was perfectly rational to move back here not only to be here for her and be closer to the rest of my family, but also for work and writing opportunities and as a way to save money for our future house.
Mom’s surgery went well. They removed all the lumps.
My mother is a strong, beautiful human being, and I know she can beat this. She’ll run circles around cancer, and climb chemo like a mountain. It will be a difficult climb on a hill with holes and spikes, needles and nausea, a hill that she never ever planned to climb (who would?!), but she’ll make it. She’ll ski down the other side, stronger, and wiser, and more humble then ever before.
It could happen to any of us. That’s what has hit me more than anything. Life is so precious. Health is so precious. Family is so fucking precious.
Mom left today for Vancouver to start her Chemotherapy. I was a little sad that she’d have to go back down there (to my home) when I just came up here. But, I’m also glad that she’s doing it down there where there is so many more specialists. She’s going to get her first two treatments there and then if everything goes smoothly she’ll be back here for the rest.
My whole life, she’s been there for me whenever I need. A shoulder lean on, an ear to cry to, a friend, to depend on, always. I hope that I can be that for her now. And I hope that she kicks Cancer’s Ass.
Please send love and healing vibes her way ❤
Heidi J. Loos