A year later, remembering my mom’s battle with cancer

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By Pamela Brownstein
I used to love October.
The weather is ideal and fall is in the air; it’s my birthday and also my favorite holiday, Halloween.
But this year, I’ve been dreading the month. Not only because another year in my 30s makes me feel old or because being pregnant has put our annual Halloween party on hold, but because it marks a year since I lost my mother to cancer.
I’ve been trying not to think about the awful events from last year, but the more I try to do that, the more the memories hit me like a wave.
October 8th would have been her 62nd birthday, and I looked at a picture of her from last year, trying to smile and looking out from one eye because, even two weeks after surgery, the tumor in her brain caused her to have double vision.
On October 10, I had a feeling of overwhelming sadness and realized this was the day when I last saw her alive. When she was too weak to get out of the car, but insisted on going with us to the airport just to say good-bye and I love you. I’m so grateful for that day.
I wish I could forget the late night phone call from my dad telling me to get to Texas as soon as possible or the plane ride when I cried the whole time before going to see my mom in the hospital on life support.
Some of you may think, “Well, it’s been a year. She should just get over it.” I know those are typical thoughts for someone who has never experienced true loss. I too thought that things would be easier after a year, but I can’t escape the memories of my mom that surround me and I find myself missing her more. I know her spirit lives on in laughter and in the fall air, but some days I would give anything just to talk to her again.
However, I am comforted by the fact that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. My mom found out she had breast cancer in 2004 and after everything — chemo, radiation, mastectomy, reconstructive surgery — she was healthy and the cancer had been in remission for more than six years. She had her “Save the Ta-Ta’s” magnet on her car, she got involved in Relay for Life, and she wore pink with pride. She was a survivor, but she couldn’t fight the same breast cancer cells that hid in her brain and eventually grew rapidly and took over.
I applaud the amazing efforts of so many local people and organizations that are making a difference supporting breast cancer awareness. October will probably always be difficult for me, but I feel better knowing that my mom didn’t die in vain and I hope her story is a reminder to everyone the importance of keeping up the fight and working towards finding a cure.