“Never give up on yourself”: One nurse’s story of beating breast cancer

Nobody thinks that their parents will get cancer. It’s not because you think they’re so much better than everyone else (well, maybe you do a little); it’s just too weird and awful to think or prepare for the fact that someone so close to you could have to deal with something so painful. But the sad reality is that most of us, at some point in our lives, will be close with someone who has cancer. For me, that person did happen to be my parent. My mom, The Nurse.

Growing up with a mom who is a nurse is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it’s really awesome to have someone around who knows how to deal with all sorts of random illnesses and cuts and bruises. And that life bonus never ends–just last week, as a 29-year-old woman, I called my mom to get some quick medical advice on a semi-embarrassing ailment. Ten minutes later, I was leaving CVS with the knowledge and pharmaceuticals in hand to get me back in shape.

I’ve been to the doctor very little in my life, but my nurse has saved me tons of sick days and needless back-and-forth. Nothing grosses her out; nothing is embarrassing or off-limits. From the stories she’s told, I know nothing I ask or tell her could be shocking.

The downside? I think I had perfect attendance growing up. A 98-degree fever strikes fear in no nurse and I was never able to talk her into a sick day. If she had to go deal with hospital antics, I could deal with my 7 AM math class. This is funny and cute now…not so much when I was 15!

You can probably imagine what it feels like, in some sense, to find out that your mom, The Nurse, has breast cancer. The toughest woman you know, the lady who has seen and dealt with it all. And not just at work–she saw my father through the liver failure that took his life in 2009 and has a mother with bipolar disorder who lives at home with her in rural West Virginia.

Nobody deserves cancer, but when she called to tell me–her only daughter, who lives thousands of miles away–the news, my first thought was, “You have to be freaking kidding me.”

Luckily, my mom made it through her battle with the beast. Today, she’s a happy and healthy RN living and working in the same town she grew up and went to nursing school in. Her story has a happy ending, and we both feel so lucky because we know that this isn’t the case for a lot of women. I’m happy to share her story and know that tons of nurses living with (or having lived with) breast cancer will be able to relate.

— Loren Lankford, Scrubs Editor

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