My mom passed away from lung cancer, 25 years ago, when I was only 37 years old. She wa,s in every way, my best friend.
Our favorite mother-daughter ritual was to simply walk around Oak Brook Mall together, window-shopping with my three-year-old daughter, Lauren, and then to treat ourselves to a Mrs. Fields chocolate chip cookie and a cup of steaming hot coffee while sitting on our favorite bench near the fountains. Those are precious memories even to this day.
Cancer destroyed all of that, and took my mother from me. I had no power to stop it.
Shortly after my mom passed away, I went for my routine annual check up, and at my physicians’ gentle encouragement, I had my first mammogram. I was only 39, and this test seemed pointless to me, but I went anyway. After taking the test, we left the next day for a week’s vacation.
Life was good.
That all came to an abrupt ending, however, when we returned home late on a Saturday night from vacation, and I heard a message on our voice machine: “Mary, this is the doctor calling. I’d like to talk to you about the results of your mammogram.”
I was frozen in fear, and overcome with feelings of reliving my mom’s cancer experience; only this time it was me. As I waited for Monday morning to arrive a thousand questions raced through my mind.
Was I was going to die? Who would care for my children? My husband? Would I have to lose my hair, suffer like my mom?
I met with several doctors and a biopsy was scheduled. The results showed I had a calcification cluster, which in many cases, I was told, can be the beginning of a tumor. I was given an option: wait six months and see, or take it out now. I chose to remove it, and I’m so thankful to God that I did. The surgical biopsy showed it was pre cancerous, and the surgeon informed me it was not a matter of if, but when, for the likelihood for me to get breast cancer was five times higher than normal. I was sent home to think.
I got in my car and drove to a nearby church and sat in quiet prayer. I need to live for my children, for my husband. I was not going to let cancer take me the way it took my mother. After weeks of agonizing waiting, and meeting with other doctors for a second and third opinion, I decided to have a prophylactic mastectomy. In helping me make this life-altering decision, my husband told me that it didn’t matter what I looked like, for the woman he loved was inside me.
My prayer mantra throughout this entire decision-making process was, “Lord, help me to know that this is the right decision for me.” I prayed this incessantly.
Having made my decision, I went to see the surgeon hoping he would agree with my choice to have a bi-lateral mastectomy. We talked for 45 minutes. Then, came the candy kiss from God, for my surgeon turned to me and said, “Mary, this is the right decision for you.” My exact prayer mantra had just been spoken through my surgeon! At that moment, a feeling of peace and tranquility washed over me and I truly felt God’s presence holding me. I knew somehow I would be all right.
“The Wind Beneath my Wings” was my special song for my mom and me. She never heard it while she walked this earth because it came out shortly after her death. But the words and music were so profound, that they immediately evoked the presence of my mom for me, and still do to this day. It is our song.
On the morning of my mastectomy as they came to take me surgery, I heard the soft and gentle strains of “The Wind Beneath my Wings” come over the sound system, and I knew my mom was right there with me at that moment. I really felt her heavenly presence, and I was not afraid. God sent my mother to comfort me in my darkest hour. It was a candy kiss from God.
In retrospect, if I had not experienced the devastating loss of my mother at an early age, perhaps I would have never understood what my children could have felt if I left this earth all too early. Perhaps I would have never had the mammogram. Perhaps I would not be here today.
But I am here, and through my mom’s suffering and death, she gave me the gift of life for a second time and I will be forever grateful. Mom, you are indeed, the wind beneath my wings.
Copyright 2014, Dr. Mary Amore
Photo by TEVR via Flickr