By: Mikayla Hutchins
People, even ones I barely know, often stop me to ask me about my mother’s health and about how I am doing. If I have the time, I might give them a quick update on recent scans and how the current treatment is being tolerated. But usually, I’ll tell them that everything is going as good as can be expected. Or I might even make some awkward joke that leaves everyone feeling uncomfortable.
You see, I’ve never figured out how to answer those questions, because my mother has had cancer for nearly all of my life. She was first diagnosed with early stage breast cancer when I was only two years old. Upon getting the “all clear”, she was cancer free for a few years before a relapse. This led to a few more years before finally being diagnosed with metastatic/stage IV/terminal breast cancer. I don’t know how to tell others about how cancer affects my mom or about how having a mother with cancer is truly the worst way to grow up because I have nothing to compare it to. I can, however, tell you about how others have touched us because of cancer. We were beyond blessed to be selected to go on a retreat with Little Pink Houses of Hope in April 2016, to Carolina Beach, North Carolina. People always talk about ‘Cancer Perks,’ but I wouldn’t assess this as a “perk” at all. My little family of five, packed up and flew from Texas all the way to the east coast. I remember my mom’s face when we arrived at the first meeting spot like it was yesterday. And then her expression as we drove to the beach house where we would be staying for a whole week…. She was such a different type of beautiful. I won’t even try to describe it, for fear of doing the
moment such severe injustice. She walked on the beach every morning, and sat on the balcony reading every night, just listening to the waves. It’s a little hard to remember North Carolina if I’m going to be honest. I know we did an abundance of activities. But really, when I think back on it, I mostly see images of my mom looking less tired than I had ever seen her before and since. That is why I wouldn’t dare call a LPHOH retreat a cancer perk. It was, and continues to be, so much more than that. It is a pure gift, untarnished by cancer’s ugliness, to have these memories of my mom laughing and dancing. And in a real, tangible way, that one week changed my life forever.
That retreat on the beach enabled me to take a deeper look at my family and other families like mine. I saw that despite the chemo and the never-ending days in bed, my mom has been the biggest influencer in my life. She is empathetic, loving, strong, funny, beautiful, and supportive. Growing up with a parent who is chronically ill wasn’t the easiest of childhoods. However, I learned that going through these difficult circumstances with my mom has pushed me to become who I am today.
I have decided on attending the University of Mary-Hardin Baylor in Belton, Texas, for many reasons, not the least of which are the quality of education, the overall size of the campus, and the loving Christian atmosphere. I hope to spend six years at UMHB to get my masters in Social Work. I know this will require more time and effort than a lot of degree plans out there. But I don’t just want a degree. I want to help people the way my family and I have been helped. I want to be involved with people and organizations like Little Pink Houses of Hope. I want to show families that no matter what they are going through, they are never alone. I am truly excited to become a medical social worker so I can directly influence the lives of those who are hurting.
Honestly, I can’t even begin to imagine how the next six years of my life will pan out, and I may never learn how to answer simple questions like, “How are you doing today?” However, I know in my heart, as long as I am doing a job that helps people feel a little better, and a lot less alone, I’ll be passionate, happy, and right where I belong.
By: Mikayla Hutchins