Last October our daughter, Ellen, called to wish Jo Anne a happy birthday. We put the phone on speaker mode so both of us could participate in the conversation. After the typical birthday greetings and a brief exchange about the weather and a new recipe she was experimenting with, out came the words, “Mom and Dad, I have cancer.” The silence was deafening. No one uttered a word for several seconds.
It’s amazing how a person’s life can be altered in a split second with unexpected news. We don’t have control over the bad news, but we do have control over how we react to it.
Some people become nearly immobilized with fear and anxiety, barely functioning in their “poor me” mentality, and the drama escalates. Others are able to accept the unpleasant news and promptly begin taking steps to get back on track, dealing with the challenge in a rational and sensible way.
In early December, Ellen shaved her head and donated her long hair to Wigs for Kids, a program for children with cancer. During her four months of chemo, she continued to work nearly full time and seldom covered her bare head with a hat, scarf, or wig. In May, she had a double mastectomy and took two weeks off from work. If things go as planned, she will be finished with several weeks of radiation treatments in late August. Her hair is growing back, her attitude remains positive, and life is slowly returning to normal.
Has it always been a bed of roses? Absolutely not. There have been some tough and challenging days for her, as well as for us. Her strong faith and unconditional support from her husband, extended family, and many friends have made all of us stronger today, both emotionally and spiritually.
We have been blessed to see how well she has handled this whole experience and look forward to a phone call when we hear the words, “Mom and Dad, my cancer is gone”. That will certainly be a day to rejoice and celebrate.
What valuable lessons have you learned from a younger family member?