I am driving down the familiar stretch of I-40 that leads from Lineberger Cancer Center to home when my mom asks me to pull over the car so she can vomit.
My mother, through a life that included not just one but two rounds of breast cancer, is one of the strongest women I’ll ever know. When she made that first call telling me that her breast cancer had returned after fourteen years of remission, she wound up comforting me. She had even called friends of mine ahead of time to come to my apartment so I wouldn’t be alone when I got the news. In public she was so well put together that friends would often comment to me that they couldn’t believe my mother had cancer.
However, this time it was only the two of us in the car, coming back from her latest round of chemo. For once, my mom could be vulnerable. After she threw up on the roadside and got back in the car, she looked me directly in the eye. “If there is anything you can do to avoid going through this,” she said, “do it.”