: the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit : loveliness “a woman of great physical beauty exploring the natural beauty of the island” “A thing of beauty is a joy forever …” — John Keats
This past month my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. About a week after she was scheduled for a double mastectomy. It happened so fast. It was so unexpected we didn’t really have time to process it. All I could think about was how much pain she was about to be in, and what could I do to help?
A little backstory: My grandma was a WW2 Army Nurse. She served in England and France and looked after patients from the Battle of the Bulge and other conflicts. She worked as an RN until her retirement and was simultaneously the most compassionate and toughest woman I’ve ever known. She was my hero growing up and also happened to be my birthday mate. When she passed away in 2013, she left a hole behind in my heart. But I resolved to live my life with no regrets like she had, to live life to the fullest and be strong for my family.
My mom also worked as a nurse until she had children. While she may not have had the official title, she nursed our family with love and that same strength my grandma passed along to us.
So when Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer last month, I didn’t break down into tears and think about myself. I thought of her and also I thought of what grandma would do if she was still here with us. I had to look after Mom the same way Grandma would have.
She went into surgery and my siblings and dad went through a difficult emotional journey. Instead of crying, or worrying, I just told everyone like I had said to Mom before she went under, “She’s going to be okay. I have a good feeling about this.”
The doctor came in and talked with me after the surgery and said the size of her tumors should have indicated the worst. But the cancer hadn’t spread yet. They caught it in time and he claimed it was a miracle because the other women he operated on earlier that day weren’t so lucky. While my family cried I just felt relief and thought about what was coming next.
When we went to see her post-op I did my best to make her comfy. I rubbed her feet, put balm on her chapped lips and just sat with her, holding her hand. It was that moment as I was sitting there while she dozed that it the relief fully hit me. I finally teared up-just a little-because I was suddenly struck with how beautiful she was. Her stitching and drain tubes looked terrible, but she was beautiful in her weakest moment and I was proud to be her daughter. I was so thankful to have her.
We have had a long road to recovery since then, but I still tell her she is strong, stronger than she knows. And she truly is, smiling through her pain and pushing herself to do things she used to do before. A little more each day, one step at a time. She hasn’t seen her oncologist yet, so we don’t know what the future exactly entails. Whatever comes up next we’ll face together. I hope Grandma is up there watching us and I hope she is proud of us.
Cancer is such an ugly, cruel thing. I’ve had friends who lost their loved ones because of it. We all have. Sometimes cancer comes and snatches them away from us too quickly. When faced with death, there suddenly isn’t enough time. No matter how much it’s all too soon. It’s not often the case we can triumph over it. It truly is a miracle when they do.
If you are going through a similar situation I would love to hear your stories in the comments below. Don’t give up hope and have faith. You are not alone. We are all in this together and that is truly beautiful.
Jennifer Silverwood was raised deep in the heart of Texas and has been spinning yarns a mile high since childhood. In her spare time she reads and writes and tries to sustain her wanderlust, whether it’s the Carpathian Mountains in Transylvania, the highlands of Ecuador or a road trip to the next town. Always on the lookout for her next adventure, in print or reality, she dreams of one day proving to the masses that everything really is better in Texas. She is the author of the Heaven’s Edge series, Stay and Silver Hollow.