Invisible Illness

Cate Taggart, Staff Writer

When my mom was first diagnosed with cancer, my whole family sat at a booth in Applebee’s, prepared for a normal dinner. This dinner was anything but normal. My mom began to cry and told us she had breast cancer. She assured us everything was okay, but it wasn’t. From her hair falling out in clumps to her being too sick and embarrassed to leave the house, everything seemed to fall apart. She spent the next year “curing” the cancer, but there is no cure.

Her cancer was in remission and then returned in 2017, hitting us all harder than ever. That year was hard on my sister and I. We cried with her, smiled with her and focused on the important things. I never expected her to get cancer again, so I took a lot of things for granted. I went months without talking to her and seeing her. When she got sick again, I realized some things are more important than others. Family is more important than anything and focusing on the moment is essential.

My mom suffers from stage four metastatic bone cancer, and nobody even knows. Although this isn’t the first time she has been diagnosed with cancer, this is the worst diagnosis yet. She has not lost her hair but continues to become more sick. She has been through radiation and chemotherapy before. These made her feel worse which influenced her decision to refuse chemo this time. Even daily activities like sneezing can break her ribs and fracture bones.

It was hard seeing my mom weak from radiation and chemotherapy; seeing my mom in the hospital, connected to machines, 20 pounds thinner than she used to be; seeing her  pretend not to be in pain when she tried to sit up. It was rough seeing my mom try to recover from a double mastectomy.

My life was falling apart and I was still supposed to turn in my geometry homework every night. I was a complete wreck and no one noticed, because I didn’t let them.

Because her disease isn’t noticeable, she does not receive sympathy from others who  are unaware of her condition. If a sickness is not visible, no one really cares.

While going through this, I learned that asking for help doesn’t hurt. After a few days, I discovered it is super hard to catch up on long assignments and I needed guidance. My teachers began to shorten assignments and my friends started to understand how hard things are when a parent is very sick.

But people should not need an excuse to treat others with kindness. You never know what people are going through, and even if someone looks perfectly fine, they could be dealing with struggles that you can not imagine.

Instead of turning your cheek at someone crying in the bathroom or in the halls because it makes you uncomfortable, reach out and ask if they need anything or if they want to talk. A lot of the time, the person just wants to talk to someone, even a complete stranger.

“Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.” – Julie Andem