84: Never Too Old to Want My Mommy

84: Never Too Old to Want My Mommy

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Caregivers

Never Too Old to Want My Mommy

A mother’s arms are made of tenderness and children sleep soundly in them.

~Victor Hugo

December 16, 2009, was the worst day of my mother’s life. It was the day I told her that her 36-year-old daughter had stage III breast cancer. I will never forget the look of devastation in her tear-filled eyes as I told her. Seeing my mother sob uncontrollably broke my heart. It was one of the few times in my life that I saw my mother weak and vulnerable.

Since I had been diagnosed with advanced breast cancer, the doctors had a heavy-duty plan of attack to beat it, which would mean a double mastectomy, five months of chemotherapy, ovary obliteration, and five weeks of radiation. It also meant that a fiercely independent single girl who lived alone was in serious need of some help taking care of herself.

Thankfully, I was blessed with my own personal army of family, church, friends, and co-workers who had offered to help me out with whatever I might need, including meals and rides to doctors’ appointments. But as grateful as I was, there really was only one person who I wanted by my side—my momma. My mother lived more than 300 miles away, but didn’t even give it a second thought. She was going to be my primary caregiver, chauffeur, personal chef, nursemaid, communications liaison, counselor, and shoulder to cry on. No one else in the world could fill her shoes. It was a job that only she could do.

The night after my first chemotherapy treatment is forever imprinted in my memory. I was never so sick in my entire life. I couldn’t even keep down a glass of water. And after hours spent in the bathroom, I weakly lifted myself into bed, weeping, “Please, God, take this away from me. Please make me feel better.” At that moment, my mother crawled into bed with me, wrapped her entire body around me, and cried with me. Just like when I was a little girl, her arms enveloping me made it better.

Over the next six months, my mom traveled back and forth between two homes and two lives just to take care of her 36-year-old little girl. She sat by my side for almost every chemo treatment and made me grilled cheese sandwiches in the middle of the night. She ran to the pharmacy when I was in severe pain and the video store when I wanted to be entertained. Basically, she put her life on hold to take care of me, her baby.

I think about what my mother sacrificed while I was going through such a tumultuous time in my life. She was attending to my every need, both physically and emotionally, but who was attending to her needs? Who heard her cry in the middle of the night when she sobbed for her daughter? I know what my mother would say if I asked her that question. She would say, “That’s just what you do when you are a mother.” And for that, I am eternally grateful.

~Tiffany Mannino

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