My Hero is My Mom

I remember one time when I was a little kid, still in elementary school. It was close to Christmas time. On one morning, my mom told me to leave my bookbag at home just before we were supposed to get in the car, so that she could drive me and my sister to school.

Why? I wasn't really sure, but I had an idea. I left my bag behind, just like she told me, and got in the car. Right as we pulled into the school's drive, I blurted out, "Mom! I forgot my schoolbag!." She played right along: "Oh, gosh! Now we have to go back and get it!" Not to mention that my mom volunteered (or worked, I can't remember) at the school - she could have left me, gone home, and brought my bag to me.

We didn't go home. We played hooky instead, Christmas shopping for my family. Going to McDonald's for hamburgers. I had so much fun. It was like me and mom were friends, skipping school together to hang out at the mall.

Five years ago, when I found out my mom had breast cancer, I cried so hard. I was so scared. She'd known for two years something was wrong, but had been to scared to go to the doctor. She was so glad that we weren't mad at her because of that mistake.

The hardest, and easiest, in a way, decision I ever had to make was to defer graduate school a year to help take care of my mom, who was facing a mastectomy in the near future. My family (and my mom, too) thinks I did it in part because of my fiance, and not wanting to leave him during our engagement to go to school in NC. But on the phone the day I made the decision, my mom told me, "I didn't want to affect your decision one way or the other, but I'm glad you'll be home."

My mom had chemo treatments, and radiation treatments. I watched her lose all her hair, and keep right on working at that same elementary school. My sister and I called her "Yoda," because of the fuzzy hair still left on her head. The surgery was nervewracking as I waited in the hospital. The first thing my dad did when she woke was to lean over and kiss her, putting his hand and most of his weight on her left shoulder, right above where her breast used to be. I watched my mom grimace in pain.

For the first time in my life, I took care of my mother. Calmed her down when the hospital kicked her out with tubes still protruding from her body, blood and gore in a "tupperware" bottle hanging at her hip. When the stiches were taken out, I held her hand and she shook with nervousness and fear, a towel over her face so she would not see that spot her breast used to occupy. Every day, I unwrapped her bandage, peeled back the gauze, and took care of her gaping wound. It never bothered me or grossed me out. I'd never really seen my mom naked, so why shouldn't there be this big hole in her chest?

My mom's picture is now touring Pennsylvania on the 57 Women in 57 Counties tour to promote awareness of how many women breast cancer affects (1 in every 9 women). She even got to go to the governer's mansion in Harrisburg. I got to see the display once at a local mall - my mom and I went together. There's a book in which people can write their thoughts. I don't remember what I wrote, but I do remember I called my mom my hero, for all the world to see.