My Cancer Story: Moms and Apron Strings

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Although I’ve cried some buckets since my cancer surgery in July (that story to come!), I never shed a tear before I went into the hospital.

In fact, my eyes only welled up with tears once. The morning after I received the diagnosis, I flew to Baltimore to visit my mom on a trip that had been planned for a month.

I stood at baggage claim. I want to tell Mom.

But I knew I wouldn’t. I couldn’t. I didn’t want to drag her through the worry of the surgery and the wait for the pathology report. She’d be too upset.

As soon as I walked into her apartment and the festivities began, I was fine. No way was I going to ruin the fun.

Apron strings. This experience taught me just how strong they are.

I did some digging around, and the expression is usually a negative one.

But not in this case. For me, the airport tears were just a lesson in love.

What about you?

Do you/did you share upsetting news with your mom?

The Fruit Apron:  My mom began collecting old things many years ago. The hand-stitched apron above hangs on a quilt rack in my guest room.

After the surgery, I did tell Mom. “I want to tell you a story,” I said, “and it’s got a happy ending.” She took it fairly well, all in all.

13 responses »

  1. One of my sisters and I sometimes preface a conversation with “don’t tell daddy.” He’s the worrier. I think I’d have a hard time not telling them something so important– glad you were able to put your news aside for your visit with your mother. And mostly glad that the outcome is positive!

  2. I was actually more concerned about telling my children, and I put it off until fairly close to surgery time. Everyone has to decide what’s right for them, but the reason I tell is that anything can happen during even routine surgery. Putting myself in my family member’s shoes, I would want to know that a loved one was facing something so serious. I know my mother wants to know, but I haven’t ever asked my children their preference. Hmmm…something to think about!

  3. I told everyone, worry or not when I had cancer. My biggest regret was we had planned to go to Florida to visit my parents but I chose to start treatments right away and thought I would go the next winter. My Dad died that next year and we never made it to Florida.
    I love aprons and old ones are so sweet. My grandmother fled her country and traveled with her 2 sisters and 2 brothers. It took them over a year to make it to the USA and they were rag tagged kids by the time they arrived. My grandmother said they sewed aprons together as skirts and sewed their money into the hems of their aprons.

  4. Ah apron strings–nice post, Barbara. my mother and I talked MANY times how hard they are to cut between a mother and daughter. Still experiencing that–I think as long as we’re mothers, we do! For me, it’s a good, yet sometimes sad association.

    • I was writing dialogue for Laura yesterday and she said, “Mom, I’m twenty-nine.” Well I was writing HER side of the dialogue on how to handle a slightly tough situation. So hard to resist!

  5. Great post, Barbara. Thanks! It reminded me of my own struggle with telling my mom and dad difficult things, a struggle that changed over the years as they (and I) aged. As Mom moved into her 90’s — and further into senile dementia (which begins for all of us at about age 60, I was surprised to learn a few years ago) — it became pretty clear that she was less and less able to “process” difficult information, or any information, actually. So it seemed to me the more loving thing would be not to tell her difficult information. What good would it do?

    In a related-but-reverse kind of way, the post also reminded me of my recent experience of not telling my kids stuff about my health that I figured would only worry them needlessly and add to the burdens of the heaped-full and over-flowing plates they each have already.

    The situation was that I had to be hospitalized for three days, not for being sick but to wear a heart monitor constantly while I was being initially loaded up with a new anti-afib drug. My kids don’t live in the area, and we don’t talk, text, or e-mail more than every other week or so. So I figured, why bother them about this? If it works (which it hasn’t, at least not so far), I’ll just tell them the “happy” news later…kind of like what you did with your mom, apparently.

    Well..Meredith was pissed. “Dad,” she said, “put yourself in my place. What if I were hospitalized for three days, even for a non-sick, not life threatening reason? Wouldn’t you want to know?”

    Good point. She had me. (She’s always had the ability to quickly flip-flop the table and hit me over the head with it.) Dammit!

    My son Jason, on the other hand, seemed to understand my logic: Why tell people unnecessary stuff that will only worry them?

    Maybe it’s a guy thing, then. Maybe women have a different level of needing to know things — among all of the other things that are different about the genders, which, gratefully, your blog frequently points out — and we men need to be aware of that differing level.

    In any instance, maybe I’ve learned that next time — and there will be a “next time” sometime for certain — I’ll let Meredith know ahead of time, best I can. As for Jason, guess I’ll have to let him know too. One can hardly let one kid know and not the other. So it’s a dilemna. Gosh, life is difficult. Still, though, it’s a lot of fun. Isn’t it?

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