The Power of Positivity
My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was only 13 years old. I was in 8th grade, my older sister (14 at the time) was away at her first year of boarding school and my younger sister was only nine years old. My young mind was not formed enough to comprehend the complexity of the situation. All I remember being told before she began chemo was that she was sick and she would be in the hospital for a while. My parents told us she would need lots of rest and would not have a lot of energy. For some reason the thought of losing her never crossed my mind- I was more concerned about who would cheer me on in my tennis matches as the competitive season was just beginning. I was starting high school in a few months, would she be there to drive me on the first day? Who would make dinner for my sister and father? What about our lady days we always had where we got pedicures and fancy lunches?
As the questions raced through my mind, I realized how much my mother assumed the role of a super hero, holding the family together and moving it forward. My mom said she had made arrangements for everything, that we would be leaning on others for a while. She also told me that her physical appearance would change and it was my job to always visit her with a smile and a happy story.
I was upset about losing my mother’s presence, even if it was just for a few months. But she really did make all the arrangements- she called in all her friends and family to help with the rest of us. Living over 800 miles from Chicago- my mom’s hometown- I never knew her college friends and didn’t have an opportunity to know her siblings outside of funerals and weddings. That summer seemed to be a heavy rotation of her former roommates, brothers, sisters and even some in-laws. Everyone came in with funny stories to tell, sharing recipes, wanting to go on adventures, and lots of laughter for all of us. They would divide their time between our house and the hospital and bring that same joy to my mom while she lay in a hospital. Though the pain of my mother’s absence was at sometimes unbearable, the support everyone gave and the positivity they brought made it one of the best summers of my young life. I kept wishing my mother could be at home to share it with us.
I look back on it now and it is clear that all these people came with the fear that their visit might be the last time they saw my mother. They wanted to keep our spirits up as well, just in case they were right. At that time, they knew something that I didn’t- my mother was given a 20% chance of living.
My mother survived and has been in complete remission since then -16 years and counting. The chemotherapy has debilitated her immune system, so she gets sick and tired fairly easily, but she’s here. She swears her survival is due to two things: stem cells and positivity. I know it seems corny, but I believe it. I’ve spoken with my other sisters over the years and we all agree we never even thought of death- maybe it was youth naivety - but we never understood why neighbors would look at us with sympathetic eyes. To us it was just, our mom is gone for a little while getting better, she will be back. That same outlook permeated in our household with all our visitors. We were always positive and happy and I think my mom felt that too.
For those of you going through this now with a loved one, I would tell you to try your best to keep positive. Put your love and goodness into the universe. Accept the support and love of others- I think my story would be a much different one without it.