Cancer, You’ve Been Warned

An Open Letter to the Cancer Inside My Mother,

How dare you? Seriously. She’s a good person. She wasn’t promiscuous, put up with my father’s bull. She was healthy; wasn’t overweight, or smoked, didn’t do drugs. Her one vice: coffee. Who can blame her, living in this never-sleep-gotta-push society.

She is a wonderful mother. She taught my sisters and I to be ladies. To be good. She taught us about kindness. To not be catty.  My mother taught us about the wonderful relationships women can share with each other. She showed us how women should look at each other as competition but as sisters. She taught us this as girl raised only with brothers. She taught us about sisterhood, and now she teaches this to girls who are troubled. She has taught us what it meant to be a woman, how being a woman is important.

She watched as her mother, too, was ravaged by a brain tumor. Her mother was a guinea pig for the doctors twenty-seven years go. Twenty-eight years in December. My mother used to tell me about how they had cut out so many parts of my grandmother’s brain that she could not express emotion anymore. How she was blind, when I was born (her first grandchild), and would put her hands on my face to figure out what I looked like.

Maybe this is our curse. Our heavy cross to bear. Thankfully, Cancer you’ve decided to spare her brain. I do feel grateful for that. I don’t know if I am strong enough to witness that kind of pain. I’m selfish that way.

My mother is not.

While she’s been fighting you, some battles she’s won (she kicks your ass when it comes to chemo), some you’ve won–nice work taking her lungs you piece of s*#t–she’s also helped my father come back from a quadruple bypass (there’s another health issue that makes no sense on a man as healthy and fit as my dad), she’s taken my Black Sheep Sister into the house having faith that Black Sheep Sister will overcome her drug addictions, relationship with our father, and other issues. She’s been standing by me as I prepare to enter the sacrament of matrimony. My mother has helped my father grieve the deaths of both his parents, and has watched her father slip into the deep depths of Alzheimer’s. Meanwhile, she’s been to prayer groups, prays the Rosary everyday, and still works.

If you were looking for a good person who doesn’t deserve to suffer, you found her.

Throughout life, we hear phrases like, “life isn’t fair.” Really? You’re kidding? My mother is walking proof of that. What I don’t understand, is why her. What did she do to deserve this?

Maybe that’s just it. Cancer isn’t something you earn. Cancer is evil. It’s calculating and cold.

Cancer doesn’t pick its victims the way society wishes it would. How often have you heard, “Poor thing, she doesn’t deserve this.” Who does? No one deserves to suffer this way. No matter what wrongs have been committed.

I think what makes Cancer so evil is not that it randomly selects its victims. Not even that grows so quickly, taking over like a horrible weed. Showing up as spots inside someone’s lungs, eventually running through their veins, in and out of one’s arteries and veins. It’s how it inflitrates and infects families.

I’ve watched as my father cried worried about his wife not being able to sleep in her own bedroom because of renovations. I’ve watched as my sisters worry that they too will be infected by Cancer. I’ve seen the horrible pity in the eyes of my friends when telling them about my mother.  For a while, I felt horrible that you might make me miss moments like picking my wedding dress or anouncing my engagment to her. Cancer, I worried you’d take that from me. Luckily for me, she is fighting bravely.

I pray my sisters will be so lucky.

The thing that bothers me most is that while I worry and pray that my mother will defeat you (don’t worry, you prick, she will), I also worry that you are stealing moments from her. Moments she deserves. Watching my sisters graduate, seeing all three of us marry, meeting her grandchildren, and knowing her great-grand children.

I’m not writing to beg you. I’m writing to warn you. She’s been fighting for five years and if there is one thing I get from my mother it’s that when I want something, I go after it. And you bet your ass, I won’t stop until I have it.

And Cancer, I want my mother around for a long time. I strongly suggest you pack your things and leave. We’ve all had enough of you.

I’m not kidding asshole.

You’ve been warned,

One Mean MFA


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