On November 25, 2006 my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. In “theory” she was given one year to live. However, I’ve come to learn that “theory” is only reality if you accept it as such. Garnering strength together, my family and I vowed to never give in to the wicked daring disease.
Upon graduating high school in 2007, I enrolled in the University of Wyoming. However, after my first semester of studies in Laramie, I felt compelled to return home. As my elder sister began the process of building her own family and my brother had gone out of state for graduate school, I felt that it was my duty to take over the leadership role of the household. I left behind the “college lifestyle” most adolescents enjoy, and moved home to help my mother. As time and illness progressed, I realized that while my mother was fighting the cancer physically, we were both battling cancer emotionally. We were allies in our own world war.
From that point on, I worked tirelessly to outsmart the enemy. I studied its weaknesses in the evenings after finishing my homework. We used online research and articles for even minute advice such as diet and environment. Along with our base of chemotherapy and radiation, our “family army” traveled across state lines to pursue the benefits of trial tests. Weeks turned to months, and months to years.
Above all, my first priority was hope and healing through quality time. I knew that if I gave enough of myself to my mother, she would push even harder. I would trade my social life again in a heartbeat after witnessing how my time helped my mother. From chatting about the drama of our favorite television characters to vacationing to Mexico, we did everything together. I think all too often people get so transfixed in the science and medication that they forget the healing power of quality time. I remember one trip in particular we took to Mexico in the summer of 2008. We took a five hour hike and horse ride to some of the country’s most beautiful waterfalls. Even after the exhausting journey there, my mother was first in line to repel down. The beauty of the waterfall fell short in comparison to that of my mother as I watched her glide down into the water. I will never forget the smiles we shared through the spraying water and trees. In that moment, she appeared happier and more full of life than after any of her chemo treatments. She was the most positive person I have ever known, before and after the diagnosis. Her positive attitude forced us to enjoy longer moments together, and to shy away from worry and fear. If that isn’t self-healing we can all learn from, I am not sure what is. My mother fought harder than I ever could have, and the cancer was still able to take her away from me in the end. She lost her life in September of 2009.
As I continue to heal from my loss, I look forward to what I can do to continue my mother’s legacy. I will keep my vow against accepting defeat. While fighting with my mother to defeat “theory” during her life, I find it equally as important even after her death. My family and I are in the process of developing a scholarship in my mother’s name for nursing students, a bench in our city’s park, and donations to the American Lung Association. I have also recently begun volunteering at the American Cancer Society. Armed with weapons of experience, passion, and skill, I will work diligently until this disease is cured. Cancer may have won the battle with my mother, but we will when this war. My efforts are and will include telephone calls for the Lodging Program, organization for the Relay for Life, daffodil fundraiser, and general office duties. I am able to offer roughly 5-10 hours weekly to the American Cancer Society. Because this organization is so personal to me, I feel that my motivation and work effort with exceed all limitations. With future development, more families can beat the “theories” like mine did. I can only imagine the fulfillment such service will bring to me. It honors me to think how proud my mother would be. After everything, I have come to laugh at “theory.” It will never be my reality, and it will never defeat me.
It is with scholarships such as the James “Rhio” O’ Connor Scholarship that students like myself can look back on these experiences and be proud. Stories like Rhio’s and my mother’s prove that it is worth it to fight; they prove that it is worth it to fight even after the battle. With your help, I can help change the lives of others, and of myself. It is with your help that I can continue to grow and heal. And above all, it is with your help that we can continue to build this army against cancer.