My life has always been painfully average, but for as long as I can remember, there has only been one thing setting me apart from everyone else. This thing that has always made me different, however, is not all that desirable. It is, was, and might always be cancer. Cancer is a funny thing. It brings families closer by taking members away. I lost my mother, Joanne Vargas, when I was seventeen years old and with that I’ve gained eight mother figures in her sisters. I became closer to my family than I had ever been. Two years, five months, and five days later I lost my godmother, Bette Ann Pinkham, another important woman in my life. With that death, we grew closer. I didn’t know how to get through this. As a matter of fact, I still don’t. Over two years after the death of my mother, I still find myself looking up to the sky with the desire to scream until I can’t anymore. I miss my mother and I miss my aunt more than words can describe. I had always wished for a handbook or something. I wanted something I could read that would help me through a time like this. Unfortunately, I never found a book titled: “So You Feel Like You Want To Die.”   Like I said before, cancer is a funny thing. I’ve lived with cancer my whole life, but it still never got any easier to deal with. For seventeen years, I didn’t know life without cancer, chemotherapy, and hospitals. One would probably think that living your whole life knowing one thing would make the routine like second nature. I assure you—it did not. Though I volunteered to go to the hospital for my mother’s chemo sessions, I was never completely desensitized toward the situation I was being exposed to on almost a weekly basis. Watching a loved one being injected with an IV and knowing that the fluids pouring into their body is radiation sucks every time you watch it, no matter how often that may be.   I am only nineteen years old, so I may not know much about the world. The way I see it, I still have a whole life to live and a whole lifetime to learn. What I have, however, that most people in their forties don’t have is the experience of losing two family members to breast cancer. I lost one in high school and another in college. This is for the people who have lost as I have and are in need of direction, and I am here to say one thing above all: you’re not alone.   My mother was first diagnosed with breast cancer when I was about two years old. She was only about 30 years old at the time. I don’t remember too much from that time, but what I do remember is going into school thinking everyone’s mother had cancer. It wasn’t until I was making friends and going to their houses that I realized that I was terribly wrong. Everyone else’s mom was okay. Again, I do not know exactly how this felt. The only thing I can tell you that I actually remember is visiting her in the hospital and giving her my stuffed animal so she’d have a part of me there.   As the years went on, my mother went into remission. She was fine for about ten years. In those ten years, we grew very close. She wasn’t just my mother anymore. She was my best friend, my rock, and my inspiration. In February 2007, she relapsed. I remember finding out, but not being worried at all. She was the strongest person I knew and if anyone could get through this, it was she. Unfortunately, the numerous treatments that she had undergone hadn’t worked the way the doctors expected. In June 2009, my family had found out that we had one last hope. This treatment was going to be very rigorous. She would lose all her hair again. It would drain her of almost every ounce of energy in her body. She would have uncontrollable mood swings. As far as work went, she had to file for disability.   That summer, my mother and I became almost inseparable. After work, I would come home, do any chores my mother couldn’t do, and then spend time with her. On Tuesdays, I would take her to get her chemo sessions. We spent the summer playing Scrabble, occasionally going out to restaurants, and watching the awful shows that daytime television has to offer.   On August 15, I took her to see one of her favorite country artists, Brad Paisley. She had been having one of her bad days. A day that she was throwing up anything she ate. A day that she was too weak to move. Despite this, she got off the couch and into my car, ready to take on what to her was a challenging, yet rewarding, task. We stayed at that concert for longer than I had expected. The smile that was on her face is still burned into my memory and will forever remain something I will never forget. We were walking out when she heard the song “The World”, a song my father used to sing to her all the time. The lyrics go “to the world, you may be just another girl, but to me, baby you are the world.” They perfectly describe the relationship my parents had. She sat down and I watched her get lost in the song. She closed her eyes and smiled, as if the image of my father singing to her flashed in front of her eyes. It was moving and to this day it is one of the fondest memories I have of my mother. August 18, three days after the concert, my father took my mom to the cancer center to find out if this aggressive treatment had been working. Much to our dismay, it had not. My father would find out that day that my mother had three to six months to live, a secret he would keep to himself for another two months.   After we found out the treatment wasn’t working, the doctors decided to put her on something lighter that wouldn’t make her weak anymore. Her hair started to grow back and she was looking forward to having a full head of hair again. She wasn’t back in work yet, but she had continued her role as a part of my high school football team’s booster club. I helped her work in the snack bar for several games.   On October 2, we celebrated her forty-fifth birthday. A week later, she started getting pains in her stomach and was sent to the hospital. Thursday, October 8, I came home from school to find my father crying in our kitchen. Before I could ask him what was wrong, he said five chilling words that still ring in my ears today—“we’re going to lose mom.”  It was the Thursday before the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, which had been a family tradition started in part by my mother.   My family has been a part of the Avon Walk, walking as the Pink SOCS team, since 2004. It started out as just my mother and some of her sisters, but grew into family and friends as the years went on. In 2008, my mother along with her sisters converted Pink SOCS into a charity. The Pink SOCS Foundation Inc. was started to help people with the extreme financial burden of hospital bills, something my family is all too familiar with.   In 2009, my mother would not be walking with Pink SOCS for the first time. It was my second year of eligibility, and it was the hardest walk I have ever done. My mother was in the hospital that weekend, which was October 10-11. After the walk, my father, brother, and I went straight to the hospital. My father had recorded our team walking through the finish line together, something so important to my mother, and showed it to her the minute we got back. A sad smile grew upon her face.   That night, my dad, my brother, and I spent the night in the hospital with my mother. Neither my brother nor I had gone to school that Monday. The hospital decided that they wanted my mom to be comfortable and gave her the green light to come home. I went back to school Tuesday and came home to find everyone there by her side. As I walked in the door I heard my mom’s sister, Christine, yell, “Look, Dallis is home.” Apparently she had been asking about me all day. I walked into the room she was in and she smiled at me.   That night, my dad suggested that the three of us sleep in the room my mom was in. He did not know if she would make it through the night and he wanted us to be there when she took her last breath. We stayed in the room, sleeping in chairs and resting on her bed all night. In the morning, my father called my aunts, uncles, and grandmother, saying this might be it. Before ten o’clock in the morning, almost everyone was there. Her eight sisters and two brothers were surrounding her with their spouses. Some of her nieces and nephews were there. Her mother sat in a chair by her side. I sat on the bed holding her hand. My brother and father were both on the other side of the bed, crying and holding on to every moment, knowing it would be the last.
© 2012  Pink SOCS Foundation Inc.
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My Life Has Always Been Painfully Average By Dallis Vargas
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