Why I Learned To Love My Body Again

My mother was recently diagnosed with an aggressive and hard-to-destroy form of pancreatic cancer. My mother was in excellent health — she was healthy as a horse, the best I ever knew. Then, she suddenly went from health to health, then to disease and death. Her journey has been one of constant, hard-won improvement – a lifelong learning process — but it has not been easy. She has endured unimaginable hardships and still lives to do this thing that I never thought I would do, something I never thought I could. I owe her so much for that.

Over the past four years, I have been working with my therapist to develop a new understanding of why my mother suffers from severe cancer and continues to live despite its ravages, despite the fact that her body has been devastated. She still fights with determination and passion against what I see as nearly an impossible battle. She has refused to surrender, despite the fact that at almost every hour of every day, she experiences a new or worsened symptom. She does that in order to live a fulfilled life.

If you are one who feels that you and/or your loved ones have been impacted by cancer, my mother’s story is a cautionary tale of survival and persistence. I pray that she’ll find the strength to make a positive change in her life. She has done so much already — and yet she still chooses to live, day after day, month after month, year after year. How many of us can do that? To survive, we all have to have the strength – and to keep on trying.

This story is about hope, about how we can find a way back to ourselves and to life. I’ve included some passages from my journal of my mother’s story to prove to you how much I learned at my mother’s side. It is a long journey, but it is a journey we all need to make.

January 21, 2000, 1:00 pm

I’ve written that my mother will be OK, but I’m not sure I believe it.

January 21, 2000, 10:04 pm

We are not alone in the world. We are surrounded by people who are in trouble or need help. We have no power over those who are sick. However, we can do things for those who help us.

I think of this sometimes when I am feeling angry. I think of my grandmother’s words when she had me do this for her. She never really believed in my abilities. It wasn’t until she was sick with cancer herself in her 90’s. It wasn’t until her daughter-in-law came to her bedside. She had no idea what to say. My grandmother said that she was not OK or her body was not OK. I’m not OK with this cancer, but I will do anything to make her feel better.

May 19, 2000, 10:32 am

She is strong! What a great idea. I’ll make her feel better. Why do I feel so bad? I’m going to be sick in two days, and she’s got four children. I never knew you could say such nice things about someone even when they are hurting. What should I say?

June 17, 2000, 3:08 pm

I think her suffering goes on forever just like the body. We all fight our share of illnesses and struggles as we grow older and go on with our own lives. We learn to love ourselves – sometimes in ways that don’t seem right. I think that my mother may be fighting for a bit too much. I’m sorry, Mommy. I don’t think it’s too much. I know that it’s just the way she is. But I’m so proud of you, Daddy. Keep fighting.

March 18, 2001, 7:23 pm

Don’t worry, I will not ask her to be your wife when you are old. I love you like I always have, Daddy. And you never know what the future will hold.

June 2, 2001, 11:32 pm

My mother will die tomorrow. If you need anything, please just let me know. And please tell her that I love her even though she doesn’t always let me say it.

August 19, 2001, 1:14 pm

My mother is one of the most loving, kind and caring people I’ve ever met. I am always amazed at the fact that she has lived this long, in spite of such terrible illnesses. I am grateful to be able to see her healthy every day, and her grandchildren. I would love to see her live long enough to see her grandchildren grow up. I know that she wants the best for her grandchildren.