Nearly 30 years ago, the very first mother with cancer I would know was diagnosed with breast cancer.
She was in her thirties herself then, and the girl who would become my best friend and I were only children. Because of that, all I know about her fight I learned much later, in the last few years, but even if I had been older, I suspect that I still would not have heard much beyond whispers of illness or seen much beyond the baking of casseroles and cookies for the children.
It was different in those days. People didn’t talk about cancer the way they do now. I’m chagrined to remember that my own grandmother was diagnosed a couple short years later, and soon died, of what was enigmatically labeled “a female cancer.” No one, not even her daughter and son, knew exactly what kind — a fact that irritated me, and then made me angry, as I filled out health history form after health history form and didn’t even know what box to check.
But Pastor Margaret knew all too well. She had a tumor, a complete mastectomy on the affected breast, and she had the full course of treatment then available. She made her decisions, she made her peace, and then she made it work. She made it work so well that those of us who met her later, after her treatment was complete and her hair had grown back, never even knew what she’d been through, unless she told us.
Pastor Margaret’s fighting a different kind of cancer now, and fighting it with a different kind of bravery. You see, now, she’s fighting it out loud. She’s blogging her journey, like her daughter Marty, and she’s taking us with her on her appointments. She’s letting the world see what it’s like behind the cancer curtain.
I am so proud of her. For then. For now. For sticking with it, and fighting so hard to be Momma to my best friend, Marty. My heart is so full of happiness, and pride, and, well gratitude that she stuck it out, that her doctors were wise, and that she was blessed with more years of life. With more time with her children. With time to lead Sunday School, to see her children through school, and with time to go to Seminary and become the woman she is today.
Happy birthday, Pastor Margaret. I am so, so grateful for the 29 birthdays that you’ve had since you first heard the word “cancer,” and I wish you many, many more.