My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer this year. And I had to watch the person I loved the most in the world feel down and uncomfortable with her own body. I had to see her put on a smile, even when she was exhausted and sobbing in frustration because she was overwhelmed and scared.

I knew nothing about cancer, other than having read The Fault in our Stars. I was the first to know that my mom was diagnosed with it, and the fear that I felt when I realized I might lose my mom was the worst feeling I have ever had. The shock and pain of seeing my worst nightmare come true resonate in me still sometimes. Suddenly reading My Mother at 66 became a lot harder in 12th.

Thankfully, in her case, it wasn’t life-threatening. But this reality check made me realize how much I took my mom for granted, and how much work she burdened herself with, never truly taking care of herself. It made me re-analyse my priorities in life and put things in perspective for the long run.

Cancer isn’t a stab wound you can protect someone from. It’s multiple little papercuts every day. The treatment helps you recover, but you are swallowing down so many medications that you have no appetite. You can’t sleep on your operated side anymore. Your brain is muddled up due to the chemicals and hormones to the extent where the simplest tasks become a herculean effort. Your favourite foods turn to burnished metal in your mouth. Do you want to do something to liven up? There is a list of restrictions and energy and mood limits on you.

And it’s not just the physical challenges. The side effects pop up like a taunt to discourage you again and again, and you have to wake up every day and choose to fight. You have to learn how to deal with the fear and uncertainty enough to allow recovery. As a patient, you are dissatisfied by how little you can control, and this battle is exhausting and never seems to be over. And your mental health dictates your physical recovery.

My mom showed amazing resilience, strength and emotional maturity. She keeps up a smile to not worry us and laughs off the pain and makes the fight look easy. Even at her weakest, she is stronger than I ever could be. It breaks my heart that I can’t give her comfort when I don’t know what to do when she can’t sleep for days, when her body hurts and when she is restless and I am studying instead of spending time with her.

The virus added a new layer of insecurity to our situation and made getting the treatment difficult. Moreover, she was stuck in the house, with no relatives to visit or anywhere to go to pass the time, because of the pandemic. Her restlessness only increased with time because her mind is demanded things her body couldn’t give and her body has already taken so much from her mind.

My dad did his best, holding her up when she broke and taking care of all the expenses and travelling every day to get her the best healthcare treatment. My head and heart ached to see her hurt, and I did my best to search for solutions and explanations for all that she experienced. And if I could take every bit of the pain that my mom experienced instead of her, I would in a heartbeat.

It wasn’t just a disease she was fighting. It was the inconveniences in the situation, putting up a strong front and emotions threatening to drown her before the disease ever did. It was her being a pillar of resilience, emotional willpower, grit and mental strength. Of choosing to fight every day when her body betrayed her.

This article is a tribute to my mother and all cancer survivors that set an example, to show us how much a human body could endure and move on from.

My mother is the smartest, strongest and most loving, beautiful person, I know. And all I can ever do is be there for her through everything, support her when she feels weak, give her space to work through problems and remind her about how much I admire her and am inspired by her. That’s all any of us can do. And it helps. It makes it so much easier for them to remember what they are fighting for.

In the end, it’s the little things that keep you going. So, to all survivors, and all those who died trying, I am so proud of you, so sorry that you had to go through all that, I hope I can be as strong as you guys were. You aren’t weak because you have a disease, you are a fighter braving through a storm at your weakest.

– Anjali Bansal, Delhi Public School, Noida

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