When I was diagnosed with cancer three years ago, before I knew its name or prognosis or treatment, my world went entirely grey and I was gripped by an overwhelming fear. It wasn't for myself (not at first, anyway. That came later). It was for my girl.
Ryan was just finishing up middle school. She was at a vulnerable age. She still had high school ahead of her - four years of high school. After that, she'd be off to college, off on her own, making her way in the world without me.
But until then? She needed me.
So I needed time. I needed four years. Just four years. Anything after that would be icing on the cake.
It's an interesting thing when an Atheist is faced with an existential crisis. There is no asking God for a favor, no bargaining with him, no prayers that will help. Oh, one can "send thoughts/needs/desires out into the Universe," but when it comes right down to it?
One must deal on one's own.
So I sat myself down, shaking with fear, sick to my stomach, and I crawled into my own head. I reminded the sad, sick, tired mama staring back at me that she was not alone; that there was a little girl (for she will always be a little girl in my head) who needed her, no matter the diagnosis, prognosis, or treatment.
That little girl - that best-by-far thing I have ever had a hand in creating, that brilliant, funny, self-sufficient, utterly fabulous, completely colorful person - wasn't finished growing up yet. And though she had people who loved her, who could help her to stumble through Life, she only had one mother.
So I resolved that no matter what the oncologist said, I would get four more years. No matter what the cancer was called, no matter how much of me it wanted or needed, the wants and needs of the girl who calls me 'Mom' would take precedence because she - she - would always be more important.
We are now three years gone.
It hasn't been an easy time. I've spent a lot of time sick and tired and frustrated and angry. And though the prognosis is not devastating (for which I am ever so grateful), the cancer has still taken from us - from both of us - in measures of time and well-being and peace of mind.
But we are here. Together. I will get my fourth year. And I will get icing on the cake, too. Now I'm looking beyond next year; I'm looking forward to watching my girl graduate from college and going on to do big things in this world. And she will do big things, in part, because she was mothered. By me. I don't take credit for her accomplishments, mind you, but I do take credit for giving her the love and support she has needed to become the spectacular person she is.
So today, on my 17th Mother's Day, I'm looking back on the last three years, but only for a moment. Today I look forward to all the Mother's Days I will celebrate with my girl. The cancer will still be with me, always there, lurking in a dark grey corner of my head... but always - always - far less important than she.