My mom’s journey through breast cancer and what it has taught me
When I was 3 years old, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Not just any breast cancer but metastatic triple-negative breast cancer. The initial prognosis was frightening: 2 to 4 years. I can only imagine what my parents went through after the diagnosis. Three (very) young children to deal with and then a life-altering diagnosis. Things must have looked bleak. But the qualities that my mother has had her entire life took center stage. With hope and perseverance my mother accepted the challenge that breast cancer had put in front of her and pushed forward.
Now as I sit here about to head into my senior year of high school my mom continues to be a loving mother to my brothers and me. I am lucky enough to have gone through my entire childhood with my mom helping me every step of the way. While it may seem like blind luck that my mom continues to beat back this insidious disease, this is the farthest thing from the truth. No, instead it is the tireless work of her doctors and the treatments. It is the support system that she has supporting her when she needs it. But from my first-hand perspective, most of all it is her never-failing hope and perseverance.
Reflecting on her breast cancer journey, I truly realize how much she has overcome. Firstly, she blew the initial prognosis out of the water. She persevered through the initial stages of chemo and radiation. She continued to persevere through roadblocks and complications that appeared on the way. None of this would have been possible without her hope in her doctors, in her medicine, and in her unending perseverance. Because of these qualities that my mother exhibits so well, I have been able to share countless unforgettable moments and cherished memories with her. Whether it’s my mom always being the one to turn to when I need to talk, or the smaller moments explaining some baseball things to her, (why the Nationals completely punted on this year for example), I have been blessed to continue to have her in my life.
My mom’s journey has had a great impact on my family, and me personally. My mom shows me that no matter how difficult the circumstances, challenges can be overcome. She has experienced so much adversity but has mowed through every challenge that she’s faced, instilling in me a sense of resiliency and perseverance. When I was younger, I came to take my mother’s resilience for granted. Her weekly radiation and chemotherapy treatments just became part of the schedule. Thursdays were the day where she was gone for the morning and then had to rest in bed all afternoon and night. This was our “normal.” Looking on these days now that I’m older lends a completely different perspective. I realize that those days were anything but normal. The tough side effects of chemo left my mom completely exhausted, in pain, and sick. Yet she still, without fail, cared about us, about me. In a tired voice she will ask how my day at school went, how the golf match was, or how I did on the test. This resiliency and kindness my mom displayed on her treatment days left a lasting impact. The mental fortitude she possesses is nothing but amazing and it shows me how to conquer my own personal challenges. I am continuously impressed with my mom’s inspiring resilience in the face of adversity
I have also learned a sense of independence and responsibility. A byproduct of my mom’s continued fight with metastatic breast cancer left her with some vision loss, leaving her unable to drive for a few years. I learned the values of public transportation. Trips on the T2 metro bus, up and down good old River Road, allowed me to go places I wanted and needed to go to, when I had no one to drive me. I also learned responsibility, especially on my mother’s treatment days. These were the days my brothers and I had to help around the house and pick up the slack. Simple, but necessary things such as taking the dog for a walk or ordering food for dinner that are easy to take for granted until the days my mom wasn’t there to do them.
Not a lot of it is easy and definitely it is not fun, but the best way I’ve found to deal with a breast cancer diagnosis is to gain perspective on life. Learn that life is precious and life is meant to be enjoyed. Learn that life has countless low moments, weekly chemotherapy treatments included, but also that it has great moments too. The best thing we can do is fight through those rough patches to find the gleaming slivers of joy on the other side. And what’s needed to cope with breast cancer is hope. Hope from the diagnosed and hope from their family will allow for more of life’s golden moments to shine through the cloudy horizon.
Sam Schulman, 17, is a high school senior in Maryland. His mother, Frazier Schulman, was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in 2007 when Sam was 3 years old. He worked as an intern at Living Beyond Breast Cancer in the summer of 2021. He enjoys playing golf in his free time as well as hanging with his dog Hershey.