Be Enough Me: The Day I Became An Adult

My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in February of 2003.

My Mommy and me, circa 1985.

I remember sitting on the dusty boxes in the storage room of the bookstore where I worked, cradling the phone between my ear and shoulder. My hands went numb, and my heart stopped beating in my chest.

In those brief moments when my father told me they’d found a lump in my mother’s breast, and that she would be having surgery to remove it, I instantly changed.

Before that phone call, I was just a senior in college. Brian and I were busy making plans, thinking about our wedding, dreaming of moving to the sunny South Carolina coast. The most worrisome things in our lives were making rent, studying for exams, and figuring out how to get Kool Aid stains out of the carpet. I was young. Carefree. A child on the cusp of maturity.

It took two words to snap me into adulthood. “Breast Cancer.”

I wanted to scream and cry and shake my fist at the world. I wanted to drive home, pack a bag, and race to my mother’s side. I wanted to hug my Daddy, and cry with my Mommy. I wanted to comfort my younger brother, and I wanted him to comfort me. I wanted my family.

The last family portrait taken before I got married.

But I couldn’t. I knew, as I placed the phone back in it’s cradle, that I had responsibilities in my own life that I had to deal with first, before I could have all that I needed in that one moment.

So instead, I finished out my shift at the bookstore. Then I went to class. I made arrangements to take a test early that I knew I’d miss when I went home for my Mom’s surgery. I called around to co-workers and got my next few shifts covered. I phoned the editor at the newspaper I was interning for and let him know I’d be out of town for a week, and when he asked me to finish the story I’d been working on, I did so and forwarded it to his inbox. I deposited my paycheck so Brian would have funds available to pay the rent while I was gone.

That night, I collapsed into Brian’s arms. I cried for my mother, and the pain I knew she would endure. I cried for the unknown, the uncertainty that comes with chemo and radiation. I cried for my father, knowing he’d have to be strong enough to carry this burden without shedding tears. And I cried for the girl I was, knowing in some way that I was leaving her behind.

Cancer is life altering. It is terrifying, and sobering, and invasive. It makes decisions for you that take your life on an unexpected, unplanned course.

And for a 21-year-old college kid, it launched her into adulthood.

♥My Mom. My Friend. And Breast Cancer Survivor.♥

I’m proud to say that my Mom beat Cancer, and has been healthy and cancer-free since 2003. She may have lost her hair during chemo, and she may have suffered the effects of radiation, but she’s stronger than even she knows. Love you, Mom.  

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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In that spirit, please note the new addition to Abby Gabs on the top of the left column! Every time you click the Breast Cancer Site button, their sponsors make donations to help pay for mammograms for women who can’t afford them. Let’s beat Breast Cancer, one click at a time!

9 thoughts on “Be Enough Me: The Day I Became An Adult

  1. Stephanie

    I was pretty sure that your mom was still alive, but I had to skip to the very end of this post before reading just to be sure. I needed to know that this had a happy ending. I’m so happy that your mom is strong and healthy now. Send her my love.

  2. Kindred Adventures

    Absolutely beautiful! Life is never predictable. We never really know how we will react to anything it throws us. How vividly you remember its impact on you. Your love for your mom shines strongly through. I am so happy for you and your families proud victory over cancer! -Laverne visiting from Just.Be.Enough Link Up

  3. Abby

    Laverne–Thank you so much for stopping by, and for your kind words! 🙂 THis isn’t the first time our family has beaten cancer–but it was the first time in my young life I was faced with something so sobering and “real.”

  4. Missy

    What a touching post. Hearing it from the perspective of a young adult was so moving and powerful. I am so happy she’s a survivor. Visitng from Just Be Enough.

  5. Virginia

    This post…it really resonates with me. I was college-age, home for the summer, when my dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2001.

    I’m here from the from Just Be Enough linkup. I sincerely hope you’ll check out my blog and mission. I want to give cancer the finger with my project.

  6. Abby

    Missy–Thanks for stopping by! And thanks for your kind words.

    Virginia–I can’t wait to see what your blog has in store for me! Off to visit now! 🙂

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