Post by Lauryn D'Angelo
I’ll never forget May 29th, 2014 – the day I learned that my mom, my rock, and my best friend, was diagnosed with breast cancer. I sat at home, stunned, unable to think or work or do anything but worry about what the future would hold, questions storming through my mind, torturing me. All I wanted to do was to give her a hug, and tell her everything would be okay and we would get through this together, but living over 3,000 miles away from home literally made that impossible. It was in that very moment, on that very day, that my life changed forever.
While my mom was already receiving some of the best treatment out there thanks to a fantastic team in Philadelphia, I spent hours on the phone with family and friends in San Francisco, desperate to figure out what I should do next. Hop the next flight? Move back home? Stay put until a plan was in place? I felt completely alone and afraid, and couldn’t help but feel like I wasn’t a good enough daughter because I physically wasn’t there.
I did go home that next weekend, and spent the majority of my summer traveling back and forth across the country, doing whatever I could to help my aunt and uncle, my mom’s main caregivers, and elderly grandparents, who were an amazing support system as well, with anything I possibly could. I researched nutrition plans, and set up appointments with her hospital’s registered dietician to get my mom on a healthy, cancer-fighting meal plan. I attended doctor’s appointments when I could, and got a full report from my aunt when I couldn’t physically be there. I updated friends and family and my mom’s colleagues on how she was doing and feeling, and tried to take on as much as possible…from three time zones away. It never felt like enough.
Trying to be a caregiver from afar is never easy; while I couldn’t physically help my mom move around or lend a hand with errands or household chores, I slowly came to realize there was so much that I could do in terms of providing emotional support during a very tough time. I knocked all fear aside and committed to being the most upbeat, optimistic person possible, vowing to be my mom’s personal cheerleader through it all. Never once did I waver, or break down, or miss a chance to call and say good luck at your appointment, or goodnight, I love you. I found ways to support my aunt and uncle and grandparents, checking in with them regularly to say hello and ask how they were doing and feeling too. And despite the many challenges and ups and downs, our system worked.
Now months later, my mom is doing so well – she’s feeling great, happy, confident and ready to tackle anything that comes her way. Her doctors are extremely pleased with her progress, and my aunt and grandparents are able to step back a bit, knowing my mom is safe and capable.
While I still call my mom every single day (some things will never change), I feel assured that I was able to be an amazing caregiver for her, even from across the country. Despite how I felt on that day in May, I feel so thankful for this experience – and confident that we can handle anything that comes our way.