*This is a post I wrote last year for the Susan G. Komen "Race for the Cure." It is held in Salt Lake City every year on the Saturday before Mother's Day. I don't have any pictures from this year's run, but here is my tribute to my mom, diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer, already metastasized throughout her body on December 5, 2002 with a grim prognosis.
It all begins in the smallest place imaginable; a single cell. The message quietly encoded to tell the cell how to behave are all in order. When one cell dies, the proteins dictate how to turn a replacement cell on. The cells split and a perfect clone is achieved.
One cell includes renegade codes. The one protein that includes the code to turn off the replicator is missing. The cells split, grow, split grow over and over again. Unkindly, the faulty cells grow in different directions, weaving tentacles throughout the tissue like an octopus on steroids, forming pathways of corruption for months, even years.
Eventually the host feels different. Some feel weak, others feel a lump, others suffer an injury. Time stands still as the patient hears heavy words and shock hits until reality sinks in.
You have cancer.
Surgery is scheduled to remove the cells, to dig into the tissue and find every last tentacle. Chemicals are poured into ports with measured steadiness and gloved hands. To touch the chemicals would mean serious damage to the nurse. Somehow the fast growing cells have to be killed without killing the host. The cells with codes for hair growth die.
Some do not survive the cancer or the cure.
And they bring their posse
Sometimes it's a pretty big posse.
But it's also a pretty big group of survivors.
One more Mother's Day spent with my mom, the bravest woman I know.
A woman who didn't understand the doctor who said words like "terminal," "incurable," "metastasize."
All she heard was "miracle."