My mom held everyone’s lives together

The clinking sound of small white tablets as they fell out of the orange container and into the purple pill case pierced the silence in the room. The crimson red blood reluctantly dripped from the thin tubes and into the measuring cup. I felt overwhelmed.


It has been two and a half years since my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. At the time, I was trying to navigate my freshman year of high school, and my family was not prepared. My mom held everyone’s lives together. She drove carpools, cooked dinner, cheered for my siblings and me at our soccer games, and surprised me with a chocolate chip cookie whenever I was feeling sad. I refused to accept her cancer at first because the fear of not knowing if she would survive seemed impossible to fathom. Despite all of my late-night prayers and lucky charms, I was forced to look cancer straight in the eye the moment my mom was wheeled to our front porch after her mastectomy.


I squeezed my mom’s arm tightly and walked her to the recliner chair we had just bought. As her soft steps shuffled across the cool tiled floor, I could not help but think how difficult this recovery process was going to be. Not only would she be in unimaginable physical pain, but all of those tasks she once did would no longer be completed by the person who did it best. As the oldest of three kids, the responsibility of caring for my mom’s health and looking after my siblings fell on me. For the next several months, my daily life shifted from being a carefree student to a busy mom. I often found myself walking my brother home from school, going to support my sister at her soccer games, and experimenting with my grandma’s recipes in an attempt to cook dinner for my family. I soon became a regular around town, as grocery store baggers and soccer parents, people who were once strangers to me, knew my name.


When I was not running around for my younger siblings, I monitored my mom’s physical health. Twice a day, I would use a square-shaped alcohol wipe to pinch the small tubes hooked up to her underarms and drain the blood that was collecting there. I would measure the fluid using the markings on the clear plastic container, record it, and then dispose of it. At nights I would wash her long hair in the kitchen sink and organize her pillbox to ensure that the medication was in order. After a short, uneasy sleep, I would wake up the next day to play the role of a parent once again. 


Fortunately, after a long six weeks, my mom began driving again and was soon able to work her magic when one of us kids needed her help. Although this journey was filled with fear, anxiety, and exhaustion, nothing can overshadow the gratitude I felt when my family found out that my mom’s surgery was a success and that she was in remission.


Before this experience, I never truly understood what it meant to have responsibilities, to have to take care of another life, to be a mom. Helping my mom fight cancer was one of the most eye-opening events in my life, which ultimately changed me for the better. I discovered the importance of health, a concept that inspires me to study biology, pursue medicine, and proudly wear a white coat in the future. I learned the skills of independence and self-reliance, traits that give me the confidence to seize new opportunities. However, most importantly, I reaffirmed for myself the value of family, as those are the people destined to support each other in times of struggle.