All of our mentors have some sort of cancer story, which helps them relate to their mentee. Josh is a cancer survivor, and his mom, aunt, dad, uncle, and grandfather all had cancer as well. He knows it well.
He also speaks German and a little Farsi. At the age of 24, he owns his own startup that does cybersecurity. Hiking, biking, and impressions are his forte, but I would argue that writing is one of his talents as well.
My aunt, the eldest sister and almost the secondary matriarch to the family, moved from Tehran to the United States alone, and provided support for the rest of her brothers and sisters to move to the United States around the time of the Iranian Revolution. She’s always been there for family, but with her medical background as a nurse anesthetist and her instinctual care-taking nature, she has particularly been there for every member of the family during their times of medical need (myself very much included).
When my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, my brother and I were still in early elementary school. It had already gone to her lymph nodes, but despite that she continued to work as a paralegal and full-time mom throughout her treatment. As much as she was able to do on her own, my aunt stepped in to try and find her the best doctors, treatment options, and she would drive her to and from her chemo and radiation sessions.
One afternoon after a long chemo session and some bad traffic, my aunt ran into the bathroom after getting my mom inside. When she got out she found my mother crawling up the stairs towards the kitchen.
“Manizheh, what the hell are you trying to do?! “
My mom, still weak from treatment, answered back, “I need to make macaroni and cheese…”
“What? You just got back from chemo and you’re almost killing yourself just to get up the stairs to make macaroni?”
“Matt and Josh will be home from school soon, and I want them to have dinner to eat. Macaroni and cheese is one of their favorites.”
My aunt broke down into tears. When my mom asked what was wrong, she tried to explain that they were tears of joy. Joy because this was the moment she knew that her sister, would survive.
When it comes to cancer, or any other mortal struggle having a reason and will to live seems to be paramount in survival. Seeing how hard she fought to continue to take care of us, when she really needed someone to care of her inspired great faith that she would not give up, even when fighting through chronic pain and fatigue that questions the resilience of any person, no matter how strong. Whether kids fully comprehend the situation or not, they always seem to understand more than adults give them credit for. Naturally she tied to shelter me from the experience as much as possible since I was so young, but of course I picked up on more than she let on. As I’ve matured however, my mom has opened up to me more about her experience. Ever since she was diagnosed and doctors started giving her a ticking clock, she said went through all the treatment just so she could have a bit more time with her children.
“I just want a few more years”, soon became a few more and then, “I just want to see my kids get through high school.” She couldn’t bear the thought of us growing up without a mother, or with a step-mother who didn’t care. If my mom ever had any faults when it came to her parenting, it came only from caring too much.
I’m now an adult, living on my own, and running my own company, but thankfully my mom is still around and still trying to mother me. I’m fully assured that she won’t let anything get in the way of that – not me growing up or moving away, and certainly not cancer. Thanks for all the mac n’ cheese mom.