Patient Stories: Cancer Survivor's Struggle With Mother Over Life After Cancer

Published on by Matthew Mewhorter.

An anonymous cancer survivor sent me this story about her and her mother, and the kinds of things her mother just doesn't get:

I was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer during my last year of graduate school. The number of times I heard "your too young for breast cancer" was unreal but surprisingly that isn't what this story is about. I went through chemo and then surgery and then radiation. My husband had to keep working full time but went to all the chemo stuff. He just didn't have the time off available to him when I had surgery so my mom came down to help out.

I learned to cope with cancer (or get away from it for a while) by playing boardgames. We played through long hours at the infusion center and in the evenings after I had a really shitty day. Once I was up and moving around a bit from surgery, we decided to teach my mom to play a game. It was a cooperative game and things got really intense. We were so close to winning but we were about to trigger nearly all of the lose conditions. I was getting really animated and involved in the game.

At some point, I grabbed some snakes and casually made a joke that I was "stress eating" because of the game. My mom turned to me and said "you get really into this". My response was "well, I don't have a lot going for me right now". She turned her nose up at me and responded with "you just beat Stage II breast cancer,".

Well, yea, but that doesn't change the fact that it sucked. I was 28 with cancer. I had to put my life and my career on hold. All of my classmates had graduated and gotten jobs and moved on. I lost my hair, my breasts, and a year of my life. I hear this a lot in various forms. I should be "happy" that I get to live.

I AM happy. I'm thankful. I want to believe I'm living my life to the fullest and appreciating every second BUT that doesn't mean I'm not angry and sad and scared. That doesn't mean that I don't get to have negative feelings about what happened. Cancer changes you, for better or worse, and telling someone going through treatment (especially when you have no experience with it) how they should feel is just wrong.