At the end of March, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.

At the end of April, she had a radical mastectomy with reconstruction.

At the beginning of June, she had the first of four chemotherapy treatments.

Today, I went with her to the third treatment. My father went to the first two. It was a good experience for me to go, and see how it worked. To watch the nurses talk to her, to see it all happen.

Coming through this with my mother has been an invaluable experience. I have learned so much about her, my father, and myself. My parents are brave. My parents love each other. My father is an excellent, complicated man. My mother will let herself be distracted from the pain, and the indignity, and the depression of this experience by a trip to the movies, by painting her toenails, by knitting. By talking with her daughter.

I have learned an awful lot about her daughter. I can finish college even though my mother has breast cancer. I can complete all the work in all my courses. I can keep an apartment clean to my mother’s standards. I am becoming a good cook. I am learning how to shop, how to work with what we have in the house, and how to not call for takeout every night, or even one night a week. I am learning to ask for help. I am learning how to cry without letting it ruin my day. (Because there is crying.)

I am learning, above all, that I remain myself through all of this. I grow up. I graduate from college, I apply for jobs. I also discover I love reading thrillers, don’t mind sitting through a Twilight movie, and enjoy cooking complicated meals. The same person with so little patience for stupidity is coming to the conclusion that there is too much judgment in the world.

Life is not indefinite. That notion fills me with dread. Life is filled with choices. That, too, causes me no end of palpitation and worry. Anxious that I will make the wrong choice about what to do with my day, it’s hard to get the most out of the things I decide to do. But in the end, time I enjoyed wasting was not wasted. Everything we do feeds us, for good or for bad, whether we like it or not. The important part is to make what we do count towards what we love about ourselves, and what we want within ourselves to shine brighter.

I would not trade all this new knowledge for anything, except my mother not having to go through this. Some of the lessons you should learn as soon as possible in your life are lessons you should never have to learn at all.

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