Not long ago, the women’s basketball team hosted a breast cancer awareness game at the Mullins Center. The girls on the team and the coaching staff were clad in pink uniforms. Although it’s an annual event for the team, this year was particularly special since the head coach’s wife, Heather Verdi, was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. I was touched by the showing of awareness and support for Heather Verdi and other breast cancer fighters and survivors, and I was reminded of my very recent experience with my mother surviving breast cancer.
It was life-altering for everyone in my family, and even though the treatments are now over, it is still hard.
My mother is not the same as she was prior to having breast cancer; chemotherapy treatments have slowed her down and dramatically affected her ability to retain information. My mother describes her current state as someone with “chemo brain.” Even though the treatments are over she is still struggling. Once, a trip to a clothing store brought on stress when my now-frail mother couldn’t remember how to pay with her debit card. Another time, she yelled at me in the car because she forgot where to find the post office and thought I was driving in the wrong direction. These little things add up, but it was much harder when she was still going through the chemotherapy treatments.
My mother was extremely distraught when her hair began to fall out. One day, she told my dad to shave it all off, but once it was gone she felt less and less like herself. To her, she was less of a woman because of her lack of hair. Quickly, she became excruciatingly weak; her immune system was compromised, and she didn’t have the energy to stand. She lost weight, fast. I frequently went home over the weekends during the school year to take care of her and support her because she needed loving company.