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Rocky View Publishing reporter shares experience with Mother’s Day cancer scare

By: Andrew Szekeres

  |  Posted: Thursday, May 15, 2014 10:43 am

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I awoke in a sweat, but it wasn’t from a nightmare.

Instead I had a feeling something went terribly wrong the night before. I reached under my pillow to pull-out my scratched-up Samsung phone.

I saw that my mother – who lives in Prince Edward Island – had sent a text sometime during the morning.

My girlfriend, now awake from my panicked state asked me what was wrong.

I couldn’t hold it in any longer and I broke down.

My mother’s test results had come back inconclusive. She would have to undergo further testing to see if cancer returned to our family.

The chances are pretty high that we will know someone who develops cancer in our lifetime, even if it is us. According to a report from the Canadian Cancer Society, two in five Canadians will develop cancer in their lifetime.

So far, cancer has taken at least seven members of my family, most recently my aunt, Elizabeth. She had been taking care of her husband – who had health problems of his own – when cancer had returned to her.

Three months later, we lost our Liz.

It sucks. There really is no other way to put it.

That was a year ago.

Now another member of my family was preparing an arduous battle against cancer.

It’s events like these that can show you how close your family is and how deeply these people impact you. It’s the fear of losing someone you love; the realization that they won’t be around forever.

My mother and father raised me and my two siblings to the best of their ability.

With various family problems, my mother would always try to remain as the strong, calming voice.

Even when she was faced with life-threatening surgery several years ago, she still downplayed the event to us. About a day before her surgery, she was busy in the kitchen making her signature chocolate-chip cookies with some freshly baked buns.

You know. Just in case anything should happen.

But all of these problems and surgeries happened when my family lived in Calgary.

My sister is half a world away in Saudi Arabia with her family with my brother-in-law who is working as an expatriate.

My brother and father still live in Calgary.

My parents have since separated. This shouldn’t be a huge surprise, as about a third of all marriages in Canada end in divorce – according to The Feldstein Family Law Group.

Following their divorce, my mother began planning to move back to where she was born in Summerside, P.E.I.

Unfortunately, Liz never made it back to the island. That secured my mother’s choice of living there, as well my Uncle Francis. Francis was a retired police chief of the now defunct Hamilton Harbour Police, who also decided to move back to the island.

Now she was faced with a cancer scare.

It’s a story that becomes all too familiar. Someone who worked hard to get where they are, ready to enjoy life, only to have the plans thrown into disarray.

The Canadian Cancer Society lists that around 500 Canadians are diagnosed each day with cancer. Each day, around 200 Canadians will die from the disease.

Cancer is an unforgiving, predatorial beast.

The good news is that survival rates are increasing. The number of Canadians who are expected to live longer than five years following a cancer diagnosis is rising.

Between 1992 to 1994, it was just 56 per cent. From 2006 to 2008, the number rose to 63 per cent. It’s getting better, but we’re not there yet.

Shortly before Mother’s Day, my mother found out that cancer had not returned. She masterfully evaded the cancer clutch once again.

Each time a member of my family goes through cancer or a threat of cancer, a new lesson is learned. For me it was a simple, clichéd lesson.

Life is short.

Too short to let geographical distances and obstacles to get in the way. Electronically, we can get around that fairly easily.

As my mother would put it: “There’s no point in dwelling on the past. Sometimes you need to just move forward and take things as they come, one step at a time”

“We’ll get there.”

Happy belated Mother’s Day.


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