Picture It: Tuesday, February 24, 2015. We were just leaving Froedert Cancer Center after my mom’s first appointment since breast cancer diagnosis.
Mama Wisth: “(Turns to my sister, Lisa, and me) So girls, what do you think?”
Me: “I’m going to go first here, if that’s okay? I don’t believe this is the end but a beginning. Truly, in my soul, I believe this is your second chance at life. An opportunity to really thrive and not just survive. To do what feeds your soul, nourishes your heart, stimulates your mind, and electrifies every fiber of your being. To live the life you’ve always imagined and do the things you’ve always dreamed of. And if you don’t know what nourishes you, haven’t found your passions, and have yet to discover what truly makes you happy, then you use this as an opportunity to explore all of these things and find your bliss. Because you deserve to savor all of the delicious morsels that this magical life has to offer. Your beautiful heart and radiant soul bring so much joy to so many that I hope you find the power to be able to do the same for yourself. You are a steadfast, powerful, inspiring, stunningly beautiful woman, mother, grandmother, sister, daughter, aunt, and friend. Know this. Celebrate this. Use this. And know that I love you beyond compare, to every inch of the galaxies we have yet to discover and will be with you every step of the way through this long, lustrous journey we call life.”
She smiled, sighed, nodded and moved onto my sister as we headed to Café Bavaria for lunch.
I always wondered if she heard me. I wondered if she listened to what I said, that day and every day moving forward, as she dove head on into the battle of and for her life. I wanted nothing but abundant love, happiness, and health for her. I just wanted her to see herself like I and so many other people did. I wanted her to love and nourish herself like she did countless other people. I needed her to do this because I didn’t know how else she would be able to take on such devastating news; how she’d be able to slay the dragons; how she could confront new demons as old ones were lingering in the shadows just waiting to pounce.
She was always so mean to herself. Her self-deprecating “humor” was painful to listen to because I knew it came from such a deeply sad place. She is the light in so many people’s lives and I wanted her to share so much of that vivid beauty with herself. She struggled with loving who she was both mentally and physically. To me, she is a perfectly stunning beacon of vibrantly beautiful light. But to her she was far less than that. She struggled with seeing herself as a remarkably beautiful woman; always chipping away at herself because of the gross falsehoods that formed her inner dialogue.
So when she started to lose her hair, I was so scared. I was scared she would curl up in a ball and give up. But she didn’t. She got herself a bad ass wig that channeled the likes of Farrah Fawcet from the 70’s. She rocked scarf after scarf after scarf. And she still smiled that million-watt smile.
When she lost her breasts, I thought that would be it. The proverbial straw that would, in fact, break my mother’s spirit. And as hard as it was for her, as “deformed” and “undesirable” as she felt, she still kept going. She kept fighting. She kept showing up. She kept slaying the fucking dragons.
SHE. KEPT. GOING. And in looking back, who the fuck was I to get on my soapbox about my “hopes and dreams” for her? How dare I go on some “love-infused” rant about what I believe she should do? How dare I? She was faced with Stage 3C breast cancer that had made its way into her lymph nodes and I was waxing poetically in the back of the car about how I hope she would choose to move forward into uncharted territory full of doubt, fear, and sadness? Cool Fucking Story, Bro.
I know that “hindsight is 20/20”. I know that we don’t usually have the right answers or responses to devastating news; For God’s sake, I offered her a seltzer when she told me she had cancer. But in my own naivety; my own fear of losing my world; in my own self-centered approach to HER CANCER, I dropped the ball. And I dropped it over and over and over again.
“I wonder if she ever heard me?” WHAT? Did SHE ever hear ME? Better question is, “Did I ever hear HER?” I believe I did. Although it was often filtered through my own perception and understanding. Or lack thereof.
What I truly hope she heard was the underlying message that all of my misplaced “Positive Vibes, Positive Thoughts” ramblings really meant:
I LOVE YOU.
I AM HERE FOR YOU.
I WILL FIGHT FOR YOU.
I WILL FIGHT WITH YOU.
I NEED YOU.
PLEASE DON’T GIVE UP.
MY SOUL WILL DIE IF YOU DO.
YOU’RE THE MOST BEAUTIFUL HUMAN I HAVE EVER KNOWN AND I JUST HOPE YOU KNOW HOW DEEPLY LOVED, RESPECTED, CHERISHED, ADORED, AND NEEDED YOU ARE.
I HOPE YOU CAN LOVE YOU THE WAY COUNTLESS OTHERS DO.
YOU DESERVE A FIGHTING CHANCE.
THIS CAN’T BE IT.
YOU DESERVE THE WORLD.
YOU ARE THE WORLD TO ME.
YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
YOU ARE NOT DEFINED BY THIS.
If she didn’t hear this then, I hope she knows it now….
Can you hear me now, Mom? Because I mean it. I mean every single word. I always have and I always will.