Anonymous Author –
February 12th of this year was, without a doubt, the worst day of my life. Of course, as I got ready that morning, made my coffee, and walked to class, I had no idea that my life was about to change dramatically. Halfway through my psych lecture I received a one-word text from my mom that made my heart stop: “cancer.” To fill you in on a little of the backstory (quite literally), my mom had been experiencing back pain for months. She had visited several doctors who all told her it was likely just sciatica, pain caused the compression of a nerve in her back, and that it would go away with time and rest. This diagnosis made a lot of sense, considering that my mom is a pharmacist who spends almost 12 hours a day on her feet. However, as the months passed, her back pain did not improve and, in fact, continued to worsen, leading her doctor to recommend that she get an MRI. That morning was the day her doctor called her to give her the results. They weren’t good. It was stage 4 metastatic breast cancer in her spine and pelvis.
To be completely honest, I was devastated. At the time, the doctors didn’t know if the cancer was in any of her organs as well as her in bones and they needed to perform a biopsy to determine how aggressive the form of cancer was. As terrible as it sounds, even to me as I write this now, I immediately stripped myself of any kind hope and prepared myself for the worst. It felt easier, safer even, to expect that nothing could be done and that I was only going to have my best friend with me for a couple more months. As I look back at it, I can see how incredible selfish my reaction was. While I cried for hours because of how unfair it was that my wonderful, kind, mother had to experience something so terrible, I cried even more as I thought about how all this would affect me. I might lose my only parent. I might be without my best friend. I didn’t know how this would affect my future. This was so unfair to me.
Too often we as a society react to change the same way I did: selfishly. When something happens, whether it be a cancer diagnosis or a worldwide pandemic, more often than not we think and react in a way that will be the easiest for us, regardless of how it affects others. When we look back at the last few months, a time when the need for ethical and selfless decision-making was at all-time high, we can see how a lack of such a mindset can have negative effects for a whole society. The hoarding of products like toilet paper, baby diapers, bleach, etc. led to nationwide shortages of such necessities. The decision of some individuals to resist the wearing of masks or the following of social distancing protocols in states like Florida has caused the COVID-19 spread to be worse than ever before. The opposition to the fight for equality by people fearful of losing their own privileges has resulted in the need for protests around the world. I think that it is important that we as a society realize the good that can be done by considering the consequences to the group, to everyone, before thinking of the benefits to the individual.
This mindset has had a strong influence upon how I have approached the events of the past several months. While it was easy to look at my mom’s diagnosis through a selfish lens full of self-pity and hopelessness, such a perspective didn’t do her or myself any good. She needed to have the full support of her family, and I realized that I needed to do what was more difficult by adopting an attitude that considered how my mom was feeling and what would be beneficial to her. So, with the help of my family and friends, I found a little hope and thus, have been able to provide encouragement and support throughout her treatment process. I am happy to say that she has been doing very well and has been experiencing a lot of improvements, although we won’t know how well she has been responding to the treatments until later in July.