October is breast cancer awareness month. I have had two women on my mind all month. Here’s a small tribute to them.
Sawan lost his mom to breast cancer when he was 30. She was an incredible woman, and I’m so sad that I never got to meet her. October was always a hard month for him, it included her birthday, and the day that she died, and is also the month that everything is pink and everyone is so aware of breast cancer that he couldn’t get away from it.
Helen was a southern belle, she grew up in South Carolina. She was a beauty queen, a nun, a playboy bunny, a flight attendant, a midwife, a mother, and she met Sawan’s dad at an ashram in India. He and his sisters all have Indian names. She lived a full life, even though it was tragically cut short.
I am so thankful to her for bearing and raising the son that she did. It’s so weird to find myself missing someone that I never met. I’m so glad that she didn’t live long enough to have to lose a child, but I sometimes wonder what she would say to me about losing him. So many of mine and Sawan’s conversations would end with him crediting the way that she had raised him, I just sometimes selfishly wish she were still around to ask her wisdom and advice.
My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago. She has been incredibly brave. (Hmm, I wonder if she feels the same way about people telling her she’s brave as I do…)
Sawan and I had only been dating six weeks when my mom was diagnosed, and looking back, with him having lost his mom, I’m not sure why he stuck around. Especially considering this story:
Remember how I told you that I’m a difficult woman to love? I don’t take direction well. Having been through this before, when I told him that my mom had found a lump in her breast and that it was malignant, and they were going to have to do treatment but they didn’t know what that looked like yet, he told me, “Well, the important thing is to stay positive.” I freaked out. I said “Or WHAT? Or my mom is gonna die and it’s gonna be my fault? Don’t tell me what to do.” How’s that for the sweet new girlfriend?
Also, I shaved my head in solidarity. Once again, maybe not the best idea for a brand-new relationship. I just didn’t care. He really didn’t want me to do it, and had told me as much, and I did it anyway, because it wasn’t about him, it was about my mom. When the deed was done he told me that it made him feel like he didn’t matter. I sweetly tried to explain to him that he mattered a lot, but something like my hair shouldn’t make him feel like he mattered more or less. It worked, and he stuck around. I wore really big earrings whenever I was around him for the next six weeks, though.
It was a long haul with the treatment. Major surgery. Chemo and radiation. Watching my mom get back down to her highschool weight. She lost all her hair, including the soft fuzz that covers your face. I bring this up because it was my favorite thing about that time.
When I was little, I remember being put to bed by the babysitter, but being promised that mom and dad would come in and kiss me goodnight when they came in from their date. I have this sweet memory of mom coming in, smelling like Estee Lauder’s Youth Dew, waking me and kissing me goodnight, full of all the yumminess and comfort of being a little kid and knowing that all was right with the world. I remember the softness of her cheek, and the squishiness of her face against mine. Her chemo cheeks were just so soft and reminded me of that embrace.
So here we are five years later, she’s cancer free and almost to the point where she’ll only have to go in once a year for a checkup. She’s very excited about this, I want them to check every five minutes, but I guess I don’t get to decide.
Thanks mom, for fighting the cancer like the tiny little warrior that you are. I’m very proud of you. Thank you also for being my sounding board and support with my grief. I love you so much.