A Milestone Christmas

The author and her mom on a road trip ten years ago.

The saddest, and happiest, part of my life happened six Christmases ago when Mom, nonchalantly, broke the news to us on Christmas Eve. She said that her breast biopsy was positive and that she had cancer. The conversation seemed to happen in slow motion and, when she blurted out the word “cancer,” the scene became even slower but louder. I felt I had been punched in the gut with brass knuckles. Despite the cheerful holiday atmosphere, nothing bursts a bubble faster than cancer-related news.

The most difficult part was carrying on as if nothing happened. Mom didn’t want a pity party so we decided to keep the sad news within the immediate family. No one, except some folks at work and her doctors, knew at the time what we, as a family, had gone through and what she had experienced.

You may stop reading at this point and I won’t judge. We read and hear about horrible stories day in and day out and the last thing we want to do, is to go home and feel depressed.

No one knew that my husband and I cried together on our staircase that Christmas Eve. No one knew that, as we were getting ready to go to our annual family eve reunion, we were faking our celebration. We kissed and hugged 50 of our relatives at my Aunt’s house and no one knew that our hearts were broken. And, if Santa was real, I would have asked him to heal my mom.

No one knew that, to us, none of the food at the gathering tasted as delicious as it did the previous year or the year prior to last. We were numb, speechless, and hopeless.

We survived the holidays and right after Valentine’s day, Mom started with her series of procedures and surgeries. I would go to work as if I were problem-free. People would bicker and complain about the most insignificant things and I would sigh and shake my head. If getting pissed at a jammed printer ruins your day, I wonder what would break your heart.

My father and brothers took care of Mom like ninjas. During my lunch hour, I would secretly go to my parents’ house to have lunch with her. Between travel time, I sat on the dining chair for no longer than 15 minutes but that was more than enough time for me to be with her. I was blessed to have a well-off aunt who sent money on a regular basis for me to buy flowers for her.

The florist gave me a rewards card and waited for my arrival, every week. I told her that I loved giving her the business, however, my wish was for me to stop buying flowers. She smiled and she looked like she understood what I meant.

This year marks a milestone Christmas for me and my family. We are celebrating Mom’s sixth year of being cancer-free!

The Macatula family celebrating their mother's sixth year of being cancer-free.

The Macatula family celebrating their mother’s sixth year of being cancer-free.

Coping with the fear of losing a loved one is never easy, so this personal story goes out to anyone going through a tough time. These days, my coworkers always ask me why it seems like nothing ever bothers me. I tell them that if it’s not life-threatening, it should not consume you. I still believe that.

Recently, two uncles and an aunt have undergone major surgeries. They probably won’t realize, until now, that I was sincere when I told them that I know what they’re going through. I do.

Christmas is four days away. And you can bet that we will be celebrating it like champions. This year, Santa will see me and my husband crying, again, on the staircase. Not in grief, however, but in joy.

Merry Christmas! ♥