An Open Letter on My Mother's Battle with Breast Cancer


I got the call while I was in Portland.  I had been blissfully unaware, occupied with my adventures through the North West. I knew right away though, right after my Dad had texted and asked that I call him.  I was sitting in a cafe, with a cellphone to my ear, and the tears just effortlessly fell down my cheeks. My eyes were fixated into the ground, as if I could drill a hole through the center and run all the way back to California.  Except I didn’t want to.  I couldn’t think of anywhere I wanted to go. I just sat there, gutted and vulnerable in a city I hardly knew.  My mother’s cancer had spread, into her lymph nodes and bone tissue, categorizing it as stage 4.  I was floored.     

I had known nothing of pain until I knew.  It was as bold and as real as it could be, filling my whole body with sorrow.  The next day I drove through the Pacific North West with an ache in my heart so deep as the gorge, as vivid as the colors of the leaves, as lonely and mysterious as the patches of fog concealing the trees. Before me laid a masterpiece that invoked deep wonders and uncertainties, and it seemed that our suffering was long ago sewn into the fabric of our humanity, etched into certainty, carved into promise.  We will suffer, and ache, and grieve for things lost and changed time again. I feel sadness in a way that had never touched me before. There is this hope and also a fear, both incredibly intense and unwavering.  

I feel myself at God’s mercy. I sense my heart softening with each passing day and with each tender moment of vulnerability. I have never carried the weight of another man’s burdens, I have never cried for another man’s tragedy, never felt another man’s pain so deeply. And yet these deep moments of sorrow are immediately followed by an overwhelming abundance of strength. I believe in God and his graciousness. I also believe in the power of our minds. I think relentless positivity commands uplifting energy.  I believe by choosing perseverance we are affirming life, we are saying yes to remission.   

As you can imagine, this diagnosis has prompted lots of change.  I am moving home after almost 5 years of being on my own.  I feel the place I desire to be is next to my mother.   The world offers many wild and breathtaking adventures, and I suppose it may be true that the wildest ones can begin from where you started. I’ll admit, I have so struggled with writing this. It seems that no words can perfectly capture the way of my heart.  Though through this set-back, it is my hope that we may also find beauty.  There is beauty in small moments of victory, in the smallest pleasures of our lives, in a family coming together, in relationships being made strong once again. We can be certain that we have today; and today is as warm, and as beautiful, and as wonderful as we wish it to be.

PersonalAnna Vatuone