About two months ago, my cousins asked me if they could share their story — a mother-daughter perspective on cancer — through Project Hands. It's a story of hands that comfort, clothe, feed, fight and pray. Not only was I excited to share, but I was also so eager to learn about their experience on a deeper level. So this is for you, Lindsey and Maria. I'm so proud to call you family!
Questions without answers | Lindsey
For most, this will be the first time ever hearing that name. In fact, the first two doctors I went to didn't know what it was. It wasn't until I was referred to the breast clinic at UVa Medical Center that we knew what we were dealing with. They told me that this rare disease, Phyllodes, only makes up for 1 percent of all breast cancers. A malignant Phyllodes is even rarer.
There's no known cause for this tumor. Actually, nothing is known about this type of tumor. Since my diagnosis, I have had a lumpectomy to remove the tumor, a second surgery to remove more tissue and cancer cells left behind, a mastectomy and one reconstruction surgery. I was told that chemo and radiation would have no effect. I don't remember much of this time — it happened so fast. All the surgeries happened between October 2013 and November 2014.
Mom cannot fix cancer | Maria
I have never felt as helpless as a mother than I have during the past year and a half. Mom is supposed to be able fix things and make you feel better, but Mom cannot fix cancer.
I can’t have surgery for you. I can’t take away the nausea or the pain.
Lindsey made all of her own medical decisions, and we supported her through every decision. We listened to the doctors. We researched the very little bit that is known about this cancer. We prayed for peace with every decision, but ultimately this was not my body. These decisions were not mine to make, and the courage of a 22-year-old woman to make such life- and body-altering decisions was heartbreaking to me.
Have I begged God to heal my baby? Of course. But we have also thanked God for many things during this journey. We have been blessed beyond measure by our friends who have provided so much comfort with prayers, calls, texts, food, flowers and most of all, a shoulder to lean on when it was most needed.
Inappropriate cancer jokes | Lindsey
She's also my rock. There were and still are moments when I just want to throw in the towel and say, "No more scans. No more surgeries. No more hospitals." But she brings me back to reality and reminds me that if I can beat cancer, I can beat anything.
My parents have always had a close relationship with my brothers and me. They have always kissed the bumps and hugged away the bruises. They have always supported us 100 percent. During this experience, they have had to feed me and dress me and pretty much everything else, because at the time, I couldn't take care of myself. I have so much more respect for them.
They were there for every doctor's appointment and phone call. They always try to make me smile. My brother spoils me. My friends were also there, going to appointments and listening to me cry or rant. They always know what I need to make it through the day.
All of the amazing little things | Maria
My favorite thing about Lindsey is not one thing — it is all of the amazing little things that make up the spirit of who she is. She loves beyond reason. She is beautiful, funny, sassy. She has her whole life ahead of her, and I pray she gathers the minutes of her life and lives them without fear of the future.
I am still beautiful | Lindsey
Whenever I have a bad day, I bring out my yoga mat and forget everything. I leave it off the mat. Once I'm on the mat, everything else blurs out, and I can concentrate on what's going on internally. It's the best type of therapy. It got me out of depression and helped relieve my anxiety — and continues to today.
Since yoga has helped me greatly during my fight, I have decided to head to a yoga academy and one day be certified to teach therapeutic yoga to those dealing with cancer. It helped me gain my strength physically and emotionally, and I want to be able to help others get to that point as well.
I plan on staying cancer free. I will not allow it to show its ugly face again. Cancer threw me for a loop. I thought I knew where I was going and what I was doing with my life, when really I had no clue. I have been able to take a step back and learn more about me.
My dad and I are planning on breaking ground on my tiny A-frame on a piece of land near the Staunton River, so I can strive to live a more simple and green lifestyle. I also have this thing that resembles a bucket list. I don't want my success to be based on material items, but more on the experiences I've had. I want to travel. I want to see what else is out there. I'm planning a thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail for spring of 2016. I will be hiking all 2,189 miles, from Springer Mountain in Georgia all the way to Mount Katahdin, Maine — just to prove I can. We'll see where I go from there.