Cancer’s Gift

Cancer’s Gift

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: A Tribute to Moms

Cancer’s Gift

Just living is not enough. One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.

Hans Christian Andersen

When I was forty-three years old, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My doctor recommended several rounds of chemotherapy. After taking chemotherapy for five days in a row, it was very difficult for me to fall asleep at night. This phenomenon has been explained as a type of drug withdrawal. Exhausted, I would lie in my bed for hours, unable to sleep.

Enter my mother—five foot nothing with curly brown hair and huge blue eyes. She was in her seventies and in extremely poor health. Among her ailments, osteoporosis had caused her back to become very humped. This made it uncomfortable for her to stand for long periods of time. But stand she did. On those nights when I was unable to sleep, she would stand at my bedside for hours rubbing my back, sometimes as late as 4:00 AM. While she rubbed, she shared stories of her sister and mother who had died before I was born. I learned much about her childhood and her days as a young woman.

Ignoring the pain in her back, my mother kept rubbing mine until she was sure I was asleep. More than once I lay quiet and still, slowing my breathing on purpose. She would softly whisper my name, and finally assured that I was sleeping, she would shuffle off to bed.

Cancer is a horrible, frightening disease. But sometimes wonderful gifts come out of the darkest times in our lives. One of my most special memories will always be of my little mother standing beside my bed rubbing my back when she had need of someone to rub hers. It was the gift of a mother’s sacrificial love.

Verna Wood

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