In honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we want to hear survival stories! On Tuesday, October 8th we will select a winner to receive a Petite Pikle in Survivor Pink with a Petite Pak (the survivor in your story will ALSO receive a Petite Pikle in Survivor Pink with Pak!)
We’ll share our story first. Our IAP co-founder, Marianne, witnessed her mom’s incredible bravery and strength as she battled cancer seven years ago.
Early in the morning in July 2009, I was busy picking up my house and heard the phone ring. I looked down to see that it was my sweet mom. She was always checking in to see how I was and what she could do to help me with my three children. She was always willing to come watch my little ones while I went to a doctor appointment or to just help me conquer some organizational project. My favorite thing was when she would just come over so we could go shopping and out to lunch! I craved adult conversation and found myself babbling when she came to visit. I have been so blessed to have her only a one-hour car ride away.
I picked up the phone and quickly realized my mom was not okay. I sat down as she proceeded to tell me that she had just been told a lump she had found was indeed cancer. She did not yet know how advanced the cancer was, but had an appointment with her doctor in a couple of days.
Initially, I tried to be brave and positive , but found myself fearful and tearful. I feel guilty to admit my first thoughts were selfish… how could I handle being a busy mom without her? Would I have to join the ranks of those that lose their mothers too early in life? Then my mind raced to all the things my mom had taught me about cooking, painting, and creating. She was always teaching and giving of her many talents. If she were called back to her heavenly home, she could stand tall before her Maker because she had given her whole life to serving others. She found time for everyone. Her children and grandchildren adored her. She had so many friends who could speak volumes of her selfless service and kindness.
She had learned how to decorate cakes when I was a little girl. She was a natural. She created masterpieces of confection. I immediately thought that I should have learned her trade. Who would carry it on? Then I felt guilty for not keeping every note and card she had written me. What if these were the only things I had to treasure in the future? Then I thought about the fact I had just found out I was pregnant with our fourth child. What if this new little one never got to meet her amazing grandmother?
Lucky for me, my dear mom (and dad) were prepared to fight the cancer battle. She was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer. They also had suspicions that it had traveled into her lymph nodes. She began a series of doctor appointments and finally scheduled a surgery to remove one of her breasts.
I have never seen my mom so brave. As a little girl I had witnessed her pain as she lost a child, but this was even more painful mentally and physically. I longed to live closer where I could be her constant caregiver. My unmarried sisters went to doctor visits and took turns tending to her needs. My loyal dad was there every minute. I noticed a strengthening in their relationship that I had never seen before. They were more kind and patient with each other, more loving and tender.
My dear mom completed her surgery and prepared for further treatment. She would have weeks of drains and then rounds of chemo and radiation before she was finished. We tried to plan family vacations around the “good days.” They had found cancer in her lymph nodes and removed several under her arm. She was now experiencing symptoms of lymphedema. She had to wear a compression sleeve and my dad would massage her arm, back and side every night trying to keep the fluid from pooling. This was a labor of love.
My mom desperately wanted to do reconstructive surgery. She was only in her 50’s and wanted to regain her figure. After many failed attempts, it was decided that her skin had lost the needed elasticity and she had to abandon reconstruction efforts for the time.
It’s now 2019… and I am so happy to report that my courageous mom has been free of cancer for seven years. Every year when she goes in for tests, we have a celebration that she is clean. She has been here to see my sister and brother get married and witness eight more grand children be born. But she still worries that someday she may have to battle cancer again and the outcome may not be as favorable. Every cough, sore, or pain causes her some anxiety. Her wounds are a reminder of the battle. Each time I see her, I am reminded of what she sacrificed to remain here. I am grateful for all the thousands of memories we would not have had without her willingness to go through pain and discomfort.
This month we honor those that are battling or have battled the monster called cancer. We hope and pray you are all survivors. We salute those of you that live with scars and fears, but are here to bless the rest of us. There are so many that fought a good fight and left us with only beautiful memories. We live in gratitude for your example of courage that help us face our own battles.
Our “Survivor Pink” Pikle is our tribute to the survivors that continue to bless our lives!