These two photographs of my mother were taken 8 months apart.
The top photo was taken the day she went in to have a biopsy done to find out what that shadow in her breast was. She does not yet know, and the concern, worry, and fear is evident in her face. We all prayed that it would be nothing.
It was not to be. It was cancer. It was aggressive. It was well into the fourth layer of her lymph nodes. It was bad.
She had a lymphectomy, started chemotherapy, and followed that with months of radiation. She was confined to the house - doctor's orders - with minimal outside contact because the chemo suppressed her immune system. I talked to her regularly on the phone, but did not go to visit, knowing that the best gift I could give her was to not compromise her immune system with foreign germs (which I'm exposed to daily since I am a public school teacher).
Because of her immune system issues, Mom was not able to attend Thanksgiving that year, but by Christmas, she was allowed to join us for our family gathering at my sister's house. None of us had seen her since chemo started and she was a little worried about how we'd feel about her "no hair" status. It did not matter a whit to us ... we were just so thankful that she was still with us. By the middle of the day, she had removed her hot head scarf and was proudly displaying her perfectly formed skull. We were all delighted to kiss it.
Her face in the post diagnosis photo is a marked contrast to the first one. Here is a woman battling for her life, but facing that battle with courage and determination - fear is not part of her thinking process. She is going to win this fight, and all fear would do is distract her from her battle plan.
This week, Mom had her three year checkup. She is cancer free. She continues to be a survivor. I continue to be grateful to Creator for allowing her to stay with us.
But for me, 2008 will always be "The Year We Got Cancer."