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Happy Mother’s Day

By Mriana --

Ten years ago, last December, my mother was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer, in one breast. This was just before Christmas and we spent the holidays dealing with cancer. It was even shocking to my grandmother, who knew of no one in our family who had breast cancer. However, it is not unusual for breast cancer to strike a person with no family history of it.

Felíz Día de las Madres - Happy Mother's DayImage by ruurmo via Flickr

Because my mother came to live with us for a few months to have surgery and be treated at the Cancer Center here in town, I had to put my research on humanism and alike on hold for a while. It was not something I was ready to discuss, much less argue with anyone about actually, even though the priest had sent me to counseling for “Spiritual issues”. I especially did not want to go around with her about it all either. Not then in my own home or while she was dealing with cancer or shall I say we, as a family, were dealing with cancer. Still, I was not concerned about a god or even prayer, not like my mother was and always has been at least. I was concerned about my mother.

I drove my mother to the hospital to have her breast removed and made sure she had everything a hard of hearing person needed while in the hospital. However, I was not prepared for the aftercare I was told I had to help her with. Draining her JPs was the easy part. Changing her dressing was the hard part. I could not bring myself to help with that, because the mere thought of seeing nothing except staples and stitches brought me to tears. This was not some patient with bloody wrists, stitched up like a football, in a psych ward. I could deal with that, but not seeing my mother with staples and stitches where a breast once was.

Instead, I told my mother, “I cannot do it because I do not want to cry in front of you and the thought of nothing left is hard enough, but to actually see it...” It was hard enough on her as was and she seemed understanding about it, but I cannot help to think that I made things worse psychologically for her, because she kept saying she felt like “a lopsided alien”. I could pull myself away to help a mental ward patient with bleeding wrists, but I could not help my mother who had nothing left of a breast, not even a nipple. I could also drive her back and forth to her aftercare appointments. Also because I could not, I even arranged for her to make an appointment with the Women’s Center to get help with her psychological needs after surgery and even a prosthesis. All of which was a great help to her psychic after having a breast chopped off her body, but I could not bear to look at her, especially to change her dressing. With the help of the Women’s Center, she eventually stopped making comments about being an alien, but started saying she was surprised that I knew where to get her help. That basically was my job as a Community Support Worker with a mental health center prior to being a psych tech on a mental ward. I had to know where a person could get assistance for this or that medically and/or psychologically or at least find out and quickly if I did not know.

A few weeks after New Years, the doctor here in town said she was well enough to drive two hours home without any assistance. It was then I asked the doctor what her prognosis was and he replied, “You mean God willing?” I was a bit befuddled about his response, but because my mother was sitting in the room with us, I gave a simple “Yes.” He replied, “She could live to be 100 or better.” That was good enough for me and it was not the time to mention I had begun, not too long before she was diagnosed, the process of losing any belief I may have had. Now, ten years later, her doctor officially declared her a cancer survivor and has no more need of radiation treatments or anything else dealing with cancer treatment. After ten years, I am also obviously a humanist, but my mother prefers to forget that I recently said I don’t share her religious beliefs.

About three years later, we visited her for Thanksgiving. While religion did come up, it was not the focus of our conversation over dinner. She was still going for follow up at that time and it was then, after I hugged her, that I mentioned, “It looks good. You can’t even tell you’ve had surgery”, referring to the prosthesis. She agreed and thanked God, but at the time, I did not rebut her statement out of fear of her reaction nor did I mention that I helped her find the people who could help her get that prosthesis.

Anyway, she called me with the news last week that she no longer had to go for any follow up treatments and I was very glad to hear it, but she added, “Thank God!” I said, “Thank medical science!” She responded, “Thank God for medical science!” Again, I said, “Thank humans for caring about others enough to want to find a cure for various diseases, for without them, we would not have medical science.” Now it was her turn to be befuddled, but I have never told her, I did not pray precisely for God to cure her of breast cancer. Not once did I pray a specific prayer of healing for her at that time even though I was still going to church and even took her to the Episcopal Church after her surgery. At that time, it was my turn to take her to a church of my choice, whether she liked that church or not. Touché. Hopefully, with this latest news, cancer will no longer be a personal family concern in our lives for a very long time to come, if ever again.

However, while going through the worst of it all ten years ago, she did ask for a healing service from the priest and got it- “laying on of hands” and all. That made her quite happy, but I had little hope that it would do her any good, especially if she did not continue with medical treatment created by humans. Even so, as a lay minister, I assisted the priest with the healing service, which also made my mother happy. Of course, the priest knew I had rejected many of the doctrines of Christianity long since, but this was my mother and it was not the time to tell her I was going through “a spiritual crisis”.

Here is to all those doctors, scientists, nurses, nurse aides, psychologists and others at Women’s Centers, as well as everyone else who is involved in caring for cancer victims, yet are never thanked or even acknowledge by the religious concerning those who survive:

The truth is, without modern medicine, my mother would have died, especially since the doctors feared with her small frame, that the large grapefruit lump went into her bones. Luckily it had not. The doctors got the whole thing when they removed her breast, but still used the radiation and alike to get any possible remaining cancer.

Also, without human beings who had inquisitive minds and compassion to heal others, we would not have modern medicine or even modern medical technology. It was and is human beings who dare to find the means to help others who become sick. Without modern medicine and technology, my mother would have died when I was in my thirties, because a wing and a prayer alone would not have cured her. There is no prayer that would have caused any deity to make the cancer disappear. At best, prayer, as well as her faith, helped her mood somewhat, but it did nothing more than that. Lastly, without a caring and loving daughter to help her through that time and connect her to the resources she needed to recover psychologically, she would have had a harder time than she did. While I do not believe any deity cured her, I do believe a lot of humans were involved in helping her beat cancer, yet she does not give any of them credit and is taken off balance when her own daughter points all of this out to her.

While she thanks God and I even wrote her poem ten years ago with her in mind as my audience, I do not. I thank human beings for striving to better society and find cures for our various ailments. Without science, so many women and even some men would die of breast cancer. Surviving cancer has nothing to do with the supernatural, but rather with all the medical advancements human beings have made. Without scientific knowledge, people would die more often no matter how hard everyone prayed for them or even how much faith they did or did not have.


Here is to all those doctors, scientists, nurses, nurse aides, psychologists and others at Women’s Centers, as well as everyone else who is involved in caring for cancer victims, yet are never thanked or even acknowledge by the religious concerning those who survive:


Thanks to you, I have had 10 more Mother’s Days with my mother, 10 more years to deal with her silly and irrational superstitions, 10 more years to brag to her about her grandsons, 10 more years to argue with her, 10 more years celebrate birthdays, 10 more years of fighting to be treated like an adult by her, 10 more years of holidays, 10 more years of fighting for freedom from religion, 10 more years of sharing joys, heartaches, celebrations, pain, happiness, sorrow, irritations, frustrations, and so many more emotions, as well as events with her. I will continue to do so for years to come and while I cannot always stand her, hate her religious dogma and alike, I do love her and would not wish such a painful death on her, especially not before her own mother died. No child should die before their parent and she did not. Her mother lived another seven years after all of this and my mother was still alive to share her mother’s last day of life. I expect, thanks to all of the medical professionals and scientists, to share and experience many more holidays, emotions, disputes, and much more with my mother. To be honest, as much as her religious stupidity gets to me, I really would not want it any other way and I do not think my grandmother would have wanted to see her daughter die. If it was not for all of you being so dedicated to the health of others, so many people would be without a mother to celebrate Mother’s Day with, because prayer and superstition do very little to cure anyone.

It was not any deity who cured my mother, but all of you humans involved with treating cancer victims and credit should be given where credit is due. Thank you and to all of those in the health and science fields, I hope you continue to find life saving treatments and technology, as well as have a many Mother’s Day to share too. As Fran says, Cancer Schmancer!