My Mother's Breast Cancer Journey + What It Taught Me

Written by Grace Xia of Tiny Cup of Cake

My Mom's Breast Cancer Journey

During a self-examination, my mother found a lump in her breast in the summer of 2016. In September 2016, she was officially diagnosed with stage 2A breast cancer. It was devastating for my mother and of course, my family. I still remember the moment she told my brother and I. The immediate pit in my stomach and feeling crippled with fear. My mom said she felt heavy with confusion, sadness and fear for months. Nobody in our family had ever had cancer. Why and how did this happen?

A lot of people don’t know much about the healing process that cancer patients must go through. There are so many different types and courses of treatment. My mom’s oncologist happened to be a family friend, so extra precautions were taken to ensure it was treated aggressively to prevent any return. Although she was technically cancer-free and tumor-free after her initial surgery, my mom had to endure 8 rounds of chemotherapy and 20  of radiation. Chemo alone is extremely harsh on bodies. It does things to you that I can’t even try to explain but you probably get the picture – it causes hair loss, loss of appetite, deep pain in your bones, exhaustion, nausea and more.

Many, many long months of treatment were coupled with support from my parents' network. Seeing the love that my parents received was so inspiring and made me feel comfortable whenever I had to leave home to Seattle for work (my parents live 3.5 hours away). Whether it was friends accompanying my mom at her treatments when my dad had to go to work or people praying for our family, the support we felt was incredible. My parents' church even had a group of people deliver home-cooked meals daily. I wholeheartedly believe that made a huge difference in encouraging my mom’s recovery. I guess I’ll just cut to the chase and tell you all that my mom kicked cancer in the booty and she finished off her last radiation treatment like a champ. She is now better than ever and we are super proud of her.

My Mom's Words of Advice + Reflection

I asked my mom how breast cancer affected her life and she said, “I found a positive outlook for life coming out of my illness, believe it or not. My kids and I became so much closer after my illness and I really valued my family a lot more after. Worldly things are only temporary and I started to see beyond that. The friendship and kindness that was shown to me during my illness really touched me and encouraged me, especially on days when I felt lonely and down.”

Her words of wisdom to anyone going through their own healing journey: “Be strong and one day, all of this pain will be a part of your journey and your story. It will be something that you can look back on and use to inspire and others who are going through a similar experience. Do reach out to others. In the end, reaching out and helping other people will touch your life too.”

Experiencing Breast Cancer from the Sidelines

My mom is an active person and really busy with all the hats she wears. She’s a wife, a mom, a software engineer, serves at her church, as well as a caretaker for friends and extended family. Being out of commission for so many months and enduring the most physically and mentally draining times of her life was extremely hard. It was also difficult for my dad, brother and I to see her in pain. It is so tough to know what to say or what to do when your loved one is battling something so foreign.

Talking about experiencing cancer from the sidelines feels odd because you’re not the one who is sick, however, it’s a very unique position to be in. Not everyone will understand that role but those who have been there know what I mean by how foreign it is. Breast cancer patients need their breast friends – those who are supporting their warriors need some help and support too. My heart truly goes out to anyone who is going through a sickness or trauma with a loved one. I’m hardly qualified to give advice but something I’d encourage is to be strong and take care of yourself in the midst of everything because it can help your loved one fight harder. When we neglect ourselves, while we care for our loved ones, it can actually make them feel burdened and in more pain. I am always happy to chat if you are reading this and need someone to listen.

Like my mom mentioned above, sometimes when tragic things happen to us, it helps us become a light to others. Instead of letting her sickness define her and bring her down, she chose to turn her lemons into lemonade and help others once she got better. My mom has now helped two of her friends navigate their own illness. I have seen how much my mom cares for others and goes out of her way to visit people, cook food, give advice and support, and love on others. Her empathy is inspiring.

#BEAUTYOFCHANGE – How Everviolet is Changing the Healing Journey

I am honored to share the brand Everviolet with all of you in part of telling my mom’s story. Everviolet is an intimate apparel and loungewear collection founded by Keira Kotler. Keira was diagnosed with breast cancer when she turned 40 and during her healing journey, she realized that there were simply no comfortable and beautiful options for survivors. From the Everviolet website, “Keira found the disconnect between fit, comfort and beauty in the lingerie industry to be not only universal, but a consistent point of differentiation between feeling like a patient and a person — a barrier to psychological and emotional healing.” When she spoke with other survivors, she realized she was not alone.

When I learned about Keira’s mission and own story, it struck me and I knew that this was a collection I needed to share with the most important breast cancer survivor in my life. My mom shared with me that after her own surgery, the muscles around her tumor were very tight since they also take out surrounding lymph nodes. She couldn’t wear most of her bras because they were too uncomfortable and even ended up throwing some out. Her experience was very similar to Keira’s.

My mom and I have both tried pieces from Keira’s collection and they are truly one of a kind. Pictured are the Maia Bra and Astrid Bralette. I almost never wear bras so the bralette is perfect for me – it is comfortable and thick enough, although not padded. The pieces are made with love by real people using ethically-sourced fabrics. For more information about the behind-the-scenes of Everviolet, check out this great post. The pieces are extremely comfortable and feel very luxe and durable. They are amazing whether or not you are a survivor. The garments are so comfortable that they are popular with women who may not have experienced breast cancer but first found themselves drawn to the brand’s mission. I myself love the Calla Kimono and will be wearing this on my wedding day!

I am inspired by stories of survivors like Keira and my mom. They are both examples of women who came out of their recovery with a mission to do something with their experiences that would help others. I hope that you are also inspired by their stories and if you know of anyone in your life now or in the future who needs some help along the way of their journey, consider sharing the advice in this post and Everviolet with them.

XO, Grace