My Mom Is Awesome   1 comment

This was by far the hardest reading for me, mainly because it hit the closest to home. In 2004 my mother was diagnosed first with ovarian cancer then with breast cancer. Several surgeries and several hundreds of pills later, she is almost fully recovered, but the last thing she wants to be called is a “survivor”.

I just got off the phone with her, and we had a long, rather amazing discussion about how much she hates the cultural narrative surrounding this disease. Its as if the term “cancer” has gained so much awe and weight that in order to beat it, we have to reimagine the cancer patient as mythic hero battling a demon in their own body. My mother disagrees.

“I was drugged up most of the time! I barely felt it!” she laughed as I described the first part of chapter one: Heroes. “I felt worse for you guys. You had to actually see what was happening to me. If I felt anxiety or anything, they gave me pills and I fell asleep. You guys couldn’t do that.”

But this attitude wasn’t just my mother being modest; she was outright hostile toward those who would try and act out the narrative when dealing with her. “You remember when you would visit me and the (religious individuals)* would come in and tell me ‘everything will be ok’ and ‘God doesn’t give you more than you can handle’? Remember how I told them to (please leave)*? I hated that! Hell, I hated it when you did it too!”

She even rejected any chance to socialize with other cancer patients in help groups or online forums or to read books from cancer survivors. In fact, the only cancer book she read was Cancer Schmancer by Fran Drescher because it “didn’t have any bull*” in it”.

Buy why did she feel this way? Why reject this narrative that so many others find so comforting. While we were talking, I mentioned the video Kathryn posted, “The Best Gift I Ever Survived” and her response was decidedly negative. “It’s not a gift! Diamonds are a gift! A million dollars is a gift! Cancer is cancer!”

There was a pause, and then, “people are weird. They need to feel like there is a purpose to everything. There isn’t; it just is. When you’re a kid and you fall down, is there a reason? No. Did God do it? No. You’re a kid. You fall down. You get back up. That’s all. I had cancer. I got over it. I’d like to not think about it, not be reminded by everyone that I’m a ‘survivor’.

“It’s not like cancer is the only thing that could kill me. I could go out and get hit by a bus. Then what? I’m some sort of ‘bus survivor’? Its something people have to deal with. I shouldn’t get special treatment for it. (That’s why) the worse part was losing my hair. I could hide scars under clothing, but everyone can see a wig. I knew I was wearing a wig. I had to be reminded. I don’t want a reminder. I want it behind me.”

Of course, this did not stop her from using this opportunity to invite herself over for the weekend. How could I say no? After all, my mom is awesome.


* euphemisms as needed, because my mom is more awesome than yours

Posted October 26, 2010 by capochetta in Uncategorized

One response to “My Mom Is Awesome

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  1. Your mom RULES. You and I have talked about this a bit in the past and I so appreciate your mom’s frankness about the disease. My mom embraced the narrative a bit more, but the reality is that cancer is cancer. It’s not a gift, it’s not your fault, it’s a gamble–you get it or you don’t. For some people, it provides a purpose they didn’t have; for others, one they didn’t want or need. For your mom, it provided an obstacle she got over. And like it or not, she’s a survivor. But I won’t call her one to her face. 😉

    A strangely light read…thank you.

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