I am the oldest of four daughters and lost my mom to cancer when I was 10 years old. Having a parent who is sick is a very strange experience.
Part of my childhood will be forever associated with hospitals, wigs, doctors, nurses, IV lines.
Most of my memories surrounding my mother are from when she was sick — first with breast cancer and then with leukemia. At the age of 1o, I knew the adult cancer ward like the back of my hand; I knew the nurses by name; I knew more about cancer and treatments than most adults.
After my mom died I really felt alone: there was no one for me to talk to — no one else I knew had lost a parent. My dad and grandparents were going through the loss too but it’s different for an adult. I didn’t know what I was ‘supposed’ to be feeling. I remember feeling so guilty for not crying at the wake or the funeral. I realized years later that I was in a combination of denial and shock.
We were told in February that she was going to die but I had convinced myself that since we had made it to June my mom just wasn’t going to die and that the doctors had had it wrong. This feeling of loneliness and confusion started to destroy me.
I began pushing away my friends and spending more and more time alone — lashing out if someone came to close. I became fascinated with death and cancer and began researching it all excessively. My father was the one that finally got through to me and helped me find someone I could talk to, so that I could start to heal and finally grieve. I wish that there had been somewhere for me to go, tell my story and get advice earlier.
I wish I could have talked to people my own age that knew exactly what I was going through and show me that it was going to be okay, that this was part of my story but it didn’t define me, that I wasn’t “that girl whose mom died” but I was however I wanted to be.
Today I reach out when I hear someone going through the same process, I show them that they are not alone and if they ever need a listening ear or a hug I am there. I know that my mom is up there somewhere smiling down upon me.