A Denver Home Companion | megan newton photography

jp’s mom has stage IV breast cancer.


that’s how it felt to receive this news. seemingly out of the blue. but that’s how bad news arrives, isn’t it? it doesn’t gracefully edge it’s way into your peripheral and then tiptoe into your line of vision, waiting for you to acknowledge its shy wave from a little ways away, much like a guest in a receiving line at a wedding. no. it’s more like someone in a monkey suit jumping out from behind a couch when you walk into a dimly lit basement. it sucks.

first a lump. then a confirmation of a lump. then a biopsy. then cancerous results. then in more lymph nodes than projected. then in lung fluid.

bam. bam. bam.

i spent the better part of an afternoon in bed racked with grief, unable to move or catch my breath. having been dealt little to no tragedy in my life, this has been one of the heavier things i’ve had to “deal” with.

thank God for a close-knit family bc “deal with” it we are. i’m not sure what the proper response or plan-of-action is for a family that receives as troubling of news that, right now, we’ve got to get really serious about supporting our matriarch in fighting a battle she was not expecting to face. but i’m certain that the way i’ve seen my husband’s family band together –the way i’ve seen my father-in-law take the reins and be my mother-in-law’s greatest advocate and loyal sidekick– is not far from what i imagine to be ideal.

the two of them, my in-laws, they are doing this together. in addition to going to every appointment hand-in-hand, they’re researching and interviewing and keeping themselves open to alternative methods of treatment to supplement traditional treatments. there’s a hormone pill she’s taking (and eventually chemo and surgery) but there are also vitamins and a diet heavy in greens and superfoods and whole grains and exercise every day. and they are being honest and open and communicating to their community about what is going on: the good, the bad, the ugly, the encouraging, the tough news. and people are responding to this transparency with an outpouring of love and support and good vibes. i’ve watched the way my mother-in-law has, yes actually, embraced what life has thrown at her. she seemed to understand from the beginning (though i’m sure she’ll tell you it wasn’t as easy as i’m making it sound) that though she couldn’t change her diagnosis she could change the way she was going to live with this more intimate knowledge of the precariousness of life. it’s been truly beautiful.

and i’ve seen the five of us kids (jp, his three siblings, and me) change our outlook from one of complete devastation to one of camaraderie and joy at being able to look at this woman with new eyes, even more proud and more thankful to have her as such a huge part of our life than we already were; certainly working to take less in life and family for granted.

we don’t know all that is ahead for our family, for mary. it’s still strange to be placed overnight in the “there’s a cancer patient in the family” camp; i’m still digesting that this is, yes in fact, something that can happen to me (don’t we subconsciously live life assuming the bad things we hear about won’t happen to us?). we do know that, in just one month of hormone treatment, her cancer shrunk 15% and there was little to no sign of it in her pleural lung fluid. this is amazing. and we do know that survival rates for those diagnosed with cancer are higher for those who have a strong support system and, well, this has been built into our family from the beginning.

i’ll keep you posted.

photo by the most amazing, megan newton.

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16 Responses to FAMILY MATTERS

  1. dadrivermn says:

    beautifully written, Lu. Poignent. Moving. Honest. It is a heart warming account of a family’s love.

  2. Cathy Driver says:

    Ems..so sorry your family has been thrust into this battle
    …you all will be in my prayers…Mary is so blessed to have you walking along beside her.

  3. sarah sibley says:

    tears. and hugs. many many hugs!

  4. Morgan says:

    Beautiful pos, Emily. I’m glad you guys are close by to be with Aunt Mary and Uncle Jeff right now. The Powers are really one of the best families in the world.

  5. Lizzie says:

    Wow. I’m keeping you all, especially Mary, in my prayers. You all are so strong as a family, it’s inspirational and very touching. <3

  6. vtifosi says:

    So. Beautifully. Written. Sending good energy and love to you all.

  7. Tara White says:

    Very well written. That made me cry, a lot. That family is amazing. You are a lucky girl to be part of it.

  8. Pamela says:

    A beautiful post Emily. Honest and honoring. Lovely. You all are in my daily prayers. <3

  9. emily says:

    thank you all for your love and support. burdens are always a little lighter when they are shared and i am so thankful for family, friends, and an internet community with whom i can be open and honest.

  10. Cindy Beltz says:

    Emily, her support and positive attitude are so important. Prayers are on the way! God Bless you all!

  11. This is so beautifully written. Thank you for sharing. Peace to all of you as you navigate the days to come.

  12. Batya says:

    Emily, Upon reading the first sentence of your post my heart just sank…but I have no doubt that Mary’s positive attitude, combined with the love and support she’s getting from her community and your family will help get her through this. And (if I may) I will share a personal story with you, with the hope that you can take away some inspiration and encouragement.
    Last year my father, who was 79 at the time and has battled cancer and has MS, came to visit us in Denver. Though he is wheelchair bound and doesn’t have the best vision anymore, he loved being here and singing songs with the boys, seeing the city and spending time with us. It was a wonderful reunion. Three days later, after my parents got back to NYC, he suffered a massive heart attack and was in renal failure. He was rushed to the emergency room and I got the worst call of my life. I packed a bag and flew back home. My brother, who lives abroad, left his wife and six kids and also made his way to the hospital. It was the worst. The absolutely worst days of my life. There was talk of do-not-resusitate forms and funeral arrangements. It did not look good.
    When I was 11 my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was only a few years older than I am now. I remember being told the news. My brother and I burst into tears and then ran upstairs. This was the mid-1980s and medical technology was not where it is today. This situation was grim. My mother had a mastectomy and most of her lymph nodes removed from her left arm. But she maintained a very positive attitude, a real I-can-get-through-anything approach and her close-knit community delivered baked goods and food for us while she was in the hospital. Everything was taken care of…and so her only responsibility was getting well.
    I’m sharing this with you because in both cases, the news did not look good. Both situations were extremely trying and depressing. But here’s the take-away: Miracles happen. Medicine works. And love really can help heal the body (and feed the soul).
    Next week my parents are coming back to Denver to visit us. My mother will be celebrating her 70th birthday with us here, and my Dad (along with his aid Norma), will be part of the festivities. It’s a reunion that at one time would have been impossibly to imagine.
    Be strong, cherish every moment…and hold on to the knowledge that even the most dire situations can and do turn around. Your family will be in our thoughts.

  13. Lauren says:

    Fight, lady, fight! Fight with grace and dignity!

    My father died of cancer when he was nearly 43, but lived with it for over 8 years, fighting and staying positive and living his life, teaching his kids, being alive.

    I think there are tremendous things to say about a positive attitude, gratitude, and support from a wonderful family. You guys are helping her survive. I’m sending good thoughts your way!

  14. Alli says:

    Oh Emily I’m so sorry to hear this! My aunt was diagnosed with throat cancer last November and it just knocks you for a six. It’s sounds so cliche but it really does make you realise how precious each moment is. Support and staying positive are certainly a key. Thinking of you & your family xx

  15. Sarah C. says:

    Cancer sucks. I don’t know your family, but it sounds like there is an abundance of love to carry you all through, despite the circumstances! Prayers coming your way.

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