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By: Scott McElroy Inspired by our campaign with Susan G. Komen of Austin, I finally feel ready to write about this for the first time ever. What a story.
It was 2001, and I was 11 years old. Mom and Dad came home with terribly sad vibes and gave my brother and I the terribly sad news. Breast cancer. Damn, that’s not good.
What’s breast cancer, I thought? I didn’t really know, but I knew it was bad from the way my parents told us. I was 11 and my brother was 13. And it wasn’t so much “bad”, as it was just really sad and all at once. The look on my mother’s face was one I’ll never forget. As a parent myself now (11 years later), I now know that look was about more than I could imagine. She was thinking about us. Her boys, her family.
And somehow, in that blur of a day that changed our family forever, I couldn’t even consider that my Mom would actually die. I was 11 years old. Sure I knew it was bad, but I thought she was going to be sick for awhile, and then she’d be fine. I just didn’t have a point of reference for life without her.
And she was fine. She beat breast cancer. And I especially remember her picking me up and dropping me off everywhere during her treatments — school, baseball practice, birthday parties — the whole nine yards for the boy-Mom’s out there. She did chemo and radiation and then she navigated remission and was cancer-free for the next three years. Our family grew closer during that time. We appreciated each other more.
My Mom and Dad would kiss more often, we went on more vacations together, played more games together, everything. Some of our favorite memories are during those years.
And then in 2004, the cancer would come back in her chest cavity before then spreading to her brain in 2005. During those two years, Mom and Dad still kissed a lot, we still went on vacations together, we still played games together, and we still made many unforgettable memories.
And then in October of 2005, just like it was yesterday, my Grandmother woke me up at 5 a.m. to tell me that my Mother had passed away.
She cried, and we hugged. I started walking to my parent’s room to see my Mom for one of the last times. We were so close, her and I. Absolute best friends — she made me, me.
I can remember each step as I made the walk to her room knowing she was gone.
I was shocked and confused, no idea what to do or how to feel. I kissed her hand and her forehead, told her thank you and that I loved her, and sat down in my parents’ room with my Dad, my Granny, and my brother.
Everyone was in tears, but me. Somehow, I don’t think I cried at all the day my Mom died. I was stunned and sad, but I really knew how much she loved me and I felt an odd sense of wanting to be strong for everyone else. In fact to this day, the biggest regret of my life remains seeing my brother in tears that day and not hugging his neck. I was 15, he was 17 and there was a brief moment in our parents’ room that morning where I could’ve grabbed him, and in that moment, I just stood there with him while he cried.
I wanted to be strong, but I couldn’t — I didn’t know how. My brother probably didn’t even notice and has likely never thought about that moment before in his life (I’ve never asked), but at that moment, I can’t think of anything else I regret more.
A piece of me has always been missing.
Later that morning, the funeral home came and took my Mother’s body. Friends and family brought food and flowers and gave some of the best hugs ever that day. And then just like that, I began navigating life without my Mom. High school. College. Marriage, children, family stuff, and everything in between, a piece of me has always been missing.
And yet, I feel closer to my Mom more today than I ever thought possible. I’ve been able to learn more and more about her as I’ve gotten older. Ten years later, I know that she’s always with me and that I’m truly blessed to remember her the way that I do. The way that she was. She raised me to be the man I am today and there’s no greater honor than that.
That’s why when Susan G. Komen of Austin said they wanted to be one of the first nonprofits on the ehco™ Giving app, a service very much inspired by my Mother and her life with breast cancer, I was excited to write this story. I knew that I was ready to write this story, and that I was ready to share it with the world affected by cancer. It’s a community full of stories just like mine, of lives changing forever. Stories of delivering bad news to 11-year-olds, of good years and bad years, of shock and confusion, regret, pain, hope, and love. Stories of Mom’s and stories of son’s.
Susan G. Komen impacts these stories in so many incredible ways right here in Austin. Community support, awareness and education, and early detection programs mean more women — more Mom’s — stay free of breast cancer. Their current ehco™ campaign aims to provide at least 50 lifesaving mammograms for Austin-area women in need. If you’d like to impact someone’s story with breast cancer — probably someone’s story like mine — then consider making a small gift via the link below or share this story with someone you know affected by breast cancer. You may just help change someone’s life forever.
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