My Mom Should Be Here

Virtually everybody I know has been affected by cancer at one point or another in their lives. Whether they themselves have had cancer, or know someone else who has. Some people are living with it, and many others have buried loved ones because of it. Cancer is a rampant disease and it seems to be only getting worse.

A few days before my 19th birthday, my mom told me that her doctor found a suspicious lump in her body that they wanted to look into. I felt paralyzed by the sudden threat of a serious illness. I had a distant relative die of cancer — but my mom? Surely not her! I had just started my second year of university, and life was going well. Three days after my birthday, the doctors confirmed the one thing I wish no one else would have to hear: my mom has cancer.

It has metastasized to various areas in the body. Surgery is no longer an option, but here are a few alternative treatments, the doctor said.

He then gave us what seemed like a library of binders and pamphlets to read about lung cancer, life expectancy, and treatment options. It was overwhelming.

The next few months were a whirlwind of non-stop doctor’s appointments. There were X-rays and CT scans, alternative therapy, and aggressive medication. Every day seemed worse than the last, and joy was so quickly robbed out of our hearts. My mom would react well to some forms of treatment, and then a few weeks later, her latest scans would show new growth elsewhere. There was no stopping the cancer beast. It had a ravenous desire to devour so many of my mom’s healthy cells. My mom battled cancer for 14 months, and died on a cold Sunday afternoon in January. My life was forever changed.

My mom missed my college graduation, my wedding, and she’s going to miss the births of my children. This is one of the most painful realities of being the one left behind. You can’t make any new memories with the people you love. From now on, they’re going to miss every birthday, every anniversary, every Christmas morning.

Most people say it gets easier with time. In some sense, that’s true. Life goes on, new memories are made, and new relationships blossom. But there will always, always be a hole in your heart. I used to think that this hole had damaged me in many ways. For a long time, I defined myself by the absence of my mother. I justified my emotions, my decisions — even my sour behavior — by the fact that I was a wounded and damaged person, weathered by the storms of life.

This is one of the most painful realities of being the one left behind. You can’t make any new memories with the people you love. From now on, they’re going to miss every birthday, every anniversary, every Christmas morning.

Grieving the loss of a loved one is a life-long process. Sometimes, you’ll be able to genuinely smile through painful moments and you’ll feel like you’re kicking butt at this “grieving thing.” But sometimes, you’ll fall flat on your face weeping like a child at a graveside, completely lost in grief.

For a long time, I felt set apart from the people around me. I felt as if I did not deserve the joy that others had. This was my lot in life. I reconnected with one of my high school friends and she told me about her experiences in losing her mother when she was a toddler. She even told me about a few resources that have helped her. Her initiative to connect with me opened my eyes to the innumerable number of people around the world who are experiencing the same struggles as I am. Reading and learning about other people’s experiences did not mute my own struggles; it helped me realize that I’m not the odd one out. I may feel odd and incomplete, but I don’t have to feel alone.

Nearly every single person has been impacted by loss. If you have lost someone, we want you to know that you are not alone.

Grieving is not a skill you can learn from an app, or a book, or a video. There are no “grief champions,” just people who face one day after another in the wake of tremendous loss. Grief is a difficult road, so please do not journey through it alone. If you have any questions about life, death, or anything else in between, we would love to engage in conversation with you. Please leave your contact information and someone from our team will respond to you. Let’s face this together.