On Watch: The Editor's Eye
Dichoso fui. Dichoso soy. Dichoso seré.
(Fortunate I was. Fortunate I am. Fortunate I will be.)
Three tough years have passed, and she’s still with me. She fights with relentless strength. She’s stubborn and tough. Sometimes I ask myself: how does she do it? Other times I just tell myself: well, I shouldn’t be surprised—she’s my champ.
I’m talking about my mom. My mami.
It was winter of 2011. I had just flown back to Puerto Rico. I was tired but happy—I was home. Mami and Papi were there, and that’s all I needed.
The only thing was—I didn’t know about Mami’s condition.
“Te tenemos que decir algo, Pablo Andrés.” (“We have to tell you something, Pablo Andrés.”)
The results came back. Positive. Breast cancer.
After the physician told her the news, she quickly said with a fearless look in her eye that is so typical of her: What’s next? What do I have to do?
She didn’t care about how painful or challenging the whole process would be—all she cared about was Papi and I. That’s all. That meant she had to fight to her fullest to stay on this earth. For us.
No hair? Fine.
Life? Of course.
But, how could that happen? I mean, it’s Mami. She’s a health nut. She’s never been sick throughout her entire life.
“No puede ser.” (“This can’t be.”) I was in denial.
I wasn’t quite sure how to handle the news—all I cared about was her. It’s Mami. So, my gut reaction, of course, was to ask: Are you okay? You had surgery already?! You’ve been going through this painful process all of this time?! Without me?!
Everyone in my family knew—except me. My parents were afraid I would find out while I was at school and drop everything to come home. I would have. In a heartbeat. So they didn’t tell coworkers or anyone outside our extended family who might leak the news to me. It was kept quiet and very private.
Mami and Papi were afraid I would be upset that they kept this from me. But how could I? All I cared about was Mami’s health. So I decided to attend her first treatment that winter break, which, by the way, she courageously took every day after work.
At that point, I lost it.
Picture it—your mom: the robust and tough as nails woman, there, on a chair, dressed in a hospital gown, as you were seeing her through a glass ceiling on the other side of the room separating the two of you wishing you could be in her place. I felt so close, yet so far.
That sense of vulnerability and weakness—something I could never picture Mami being like—made everything all too real.
Just like that things changed.
All of my childhood memories of her, my dad and I went through my head like a bunch of Polaroid pictures.
Is that what’s going to happen? Just memories that fly away with the sands of time?
She was determined not to let this cancer define who she was and what her future will be.
For a period of time I thought I was going to lose her. Sometimes I still think I will. And I’m scared. Very scared. I realized how selfish and undeserving I am of having such a great mother and father.
I came close to losing her. But she refused to give up. With the efforts of my father standing by her side, my aunt, cousin, grandparents and physicians who took care of her, she’s now fine and healthy.
So, dear reader, please remember that life goes by so quickly. Too quickly. Cherish every moment. Hug, kiss and appreciate everyone you love. Just make sure you feel. Don’t numb yourself from the wonderful people you have in your life. We only get one shot. One. Make it a good one.
And one last thing: never forget. Even if the people that you love—whether they are or aren’t with you right now—never forget how much they still mean to you and how they’ve contributed to shaping who you are.
My parents—mis padres—are and forever will be my treasure.
The one thing I know for sure is: She’s a survivor. She’s a champ. She’s my everything.
Te amo, Mami.