By Heather J. Smith, October 12, 2019
Things began to unravel on the day after Christmas 2016.
I came home to my native North Carolina for the holiday, to the house my then-husband and I lived in before I got a job in New York. Midday, mom stood to stretch her legs. She fell backward in her chair, gasping for air.
Life changed for both of us forever at that moment.
In the emergency room, routine triage shifted to panic. Mom’s blood pressure was 230/190. They put her in a bed and started an IV. An army of nurses with a parade of drip bags frowned at the vital sign monitor.
A medication pulled her from the brink of a stroke. She was prepped for a chest X-ray. She resisted. We found out why. No fan of modern medicine, mom dismissed the lumps as mastitis. It was Stage 3 breast cancer.
The next few weeks were a blur. Doctors. Conflicting prognoses. Painful biopsies. Throughout, my mother — weak, worried, pale — assured me things would be OK. A good mother soothing her frightened child.