My Mom had Faith
I sit waiting for my Herceptin infusion and as always eavesdrop on the surrounding individuals. I listen to the stories and there are so many stories. There is a young woman in her thirties coming in every week for Herceptin and every other week for Taxotere. A middle-aged woman sitting next to her has been coming in for Taxotere every week for six months and double doses.
The young woman talks about breaking this to her children for the second time….second time…children. She is bald and says the first time she didn’t lose her hair. I can only assume that she is holding up as well as possible, the second time. I think about the possibility of a reoccurrence rather regularly. I am lucky to be post-menopausal and have a good prognosis but cancer is with me always. I am reminded constantly with the discomfort of my expanders day and night. During the day if I move the wrong way, reach, try to open a jar, try to toss food in a pan, I am reminded. I am reminded with side effects, when I take my pills every morning –a headache, a hot flash or get totally winded walking up the small hill on Reynolds. I have faith I will eventually not think about this every day.
I am reminded when I think about my Mom and her cancer experiences. There are two vivid images burned into my memory, one is of my mothers chest as a result of her radical mastectomy. No breast, it was a concave landscape, scooped out with a few hills and valleys intersected by bright red, thick angry scars at random angles. The second was of a little old lady after radiation, sitting slumped down and hunched over in her over-sized BarcaLounger. Her shoulders folded in toward each other her chin on her chest, a gentle snoring coming out of her mouth. Beaten and battered by treatment sleeping the sleep of the downtrodden.
The weight of the world hung around her neck on a gold chain. On that chain were tiny gold balls and a variety of charms and items that held special meaning for Mom. The most important was a small chai (Hebrew letter for life) charm that was her fathers. Over the years Mom would hold onto that charm, rub it and pray. I was never sure if her prayers were directly to G-d or her father. But she felt a connection, a faith that her prayers would be answered. She held on to that charm as she went through cancer.
Mom had a list of people she would pray for. Anyone ill or unhappy, troubled, were added to the list; the list ebbed and flowed, grew and shrank, got so big she would type it out and laminate it with tape so she wouldn’t forget anyone. Additions and deletions, life and death, her belief that her prayers could somehow ease their pain, heal them, or give them solace. Friends believed in her as well. They would call and tell her about people and ask her to put them on her list. She has such faith.
Mom was not religious in the sense that she never went to synagogue, nor did she celebrate Shabbat, and as far as I could tell had no desire to go to Israel. We celebrated the high holidays, Passover and lit candles at Chanukah. Mom had her own relationship with G-d and it did not involve religion, it was pure faith.
Mom held on to that chai more as she grew older. She recovered from her first bout with cancer and her second, she carried on and had faith and made it almost 20 years with cancer…she and I were and are very lucky. I hope this young woman is as lucky and has faith in whatever she believes. My Mom had faith and it worked for her.