Not My Mother’s Journey

By Heather St. Aubin-Stout

From the time I could read and write I wanted to be an author.  Looking back on
this now, I’m not sure this was really what I wanted to do or if this was something
that was projected onto the oldest daughter by her mother who loved to write.
Although I went to college for architecture, and had a career in the field, before my children
were born I continued to write for myself.  After staying at home, working part time substitute teaching and doing much
volunteer work I was ready to go back into a career when I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Then in 2009 at forty-six and in remission for a year after two bouts of breast
cancer within the last three years, I began to write again. It was a release, it was
cathartic, and although it was also painful to relive everything I felt my story
could help someone else.
I felt the need to write about my experience and how it was different from my
mother’s, who at forty-five died from breast cancer just a year and a half after
her diagnosis. A life unfinished.
I was twenty-four at the time and two weeks away from getting married. Her
doctor had told her not to plan on being at my wedding. Of course the month
before when he told her that, we were outraged. A few days before she died, the
hospice nurse asked what I would do if my mother didn’t live to see me get
married. I broke down in tears, it was unimaginable to me that she might die in
the next week. At this point during her illness my mother was not the mother
she had been during the rest of my life. I just refused to see it.
Three years later when I was feeding my first son baby food I had flashbacks to
my mother’s last week, when I would feed her soup. Again, I broke down in tears.
This time it was only my baby who was there to witness this.
My mother was a stay at home mom, she was there for my two younger sisters
and me while we were growing up. She went back to school when I was in college,
moving from her Bachelors to a Masters in Clinical Psychology. She was
diagnosed during her second year. She plowed ahead with internships, classes,
and her thesis anyway while she was going through treatments. However, she
never did get her thesis completed. My father, sisters and I accepted the first
posthumous degree ever awarded from University of North Carolina at Charlotte
the year after her death.
For years it seemed cruel to me that death took her before she could finish her
degree and experience the rewards of a career. However, looking back on it now,
she shaped all of our lives during those years she was at home with us. This is a
gift I’ve just now begun to realize and treasure.
So, here I am at forty-eight and trying something new. I’ve reinvented myself,
yet again. I’ve found, as I’ve matured, gathered those life experiences one can
only gather from aging, that each of us has many facets to oneself. These parts of
ourselves can come out when we don’t expect it. I like to think of the painter
Grandma Moses or a woman I’ve read about locally who is running marathons in
her eighties, but didn’t start running until she was in her fifties.
My book, released in January 2011, Not My Mother’s Journey, is my story, my
mom’s story and a hopefully an encouragement to anyone facing a diagnosis of
breast cancer to be their own best advocate-our doctors have many patients, but
we only have us. Ask questions, interview your doctors, share your journey as it
may help someone else.
Ironically, despite the similarities of being diagnosed about the same age as my
mom, I tested negative for the BRACA genes (a genetic predisposition). So when
my cancer recurred at the one year scans, the same time my mom’s had
metastasized, I had to battle psychological demons for the second year in a row.
As of this writing I’m in remission…with my friend NED-No Evidence of Disease!
So my journey continues to evolve and for this I’m grateful.
I hope I’ve written a compelling story, that makes the reader think, one that they
can relate to and one that will validate their feelings. A story that moves and
inspires you in your life.  Let me know . . .
To learn more about Heather or to follow her, click on the following links:
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1 Comment

  1. Thanks Molly for sharing this with your group!


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