Name: Jodi Hayes
Career: Pursuing a Teaching Degree
Interesting Fact: I already have an Associate’s Degree of Applied Science in Baking & Pastry, and I love decorating cakes and cookies.
How were you impacted by cancer? In July 2015, my mother broke the news to my three brothers and me that she had felt a lump in her breast, and after having a biopsy done, she in fact had cancer. We didn’t know the extent of it quite yet, but a few family members and I joined my mother in her first doctor’s visit to see what we were dealing with here. While there, the doctor had explained to us that there was not only a lump in her breast, but it had also spread to her lymph nodes and bumped her from a stage 1 to a stage 2. Luckily she took action before it spread worse and entered a stage 3. Because we have had family members who had breast cancer in the past, the doctor suggested that my mother get a genetic test done. At this point, I was a bit shooken because of course the doctor explained that if it came back positive, then I would have an 80% chance of getting it. Thankfully, it was negative. We then moved on to the fighting stage.
What ways did you cope? Anyone that knows me and my mom knows that we have the best relationship. She is truly my best friend. When I first found out, before knowing any real details, I was devastated. I would cry and just ask, “How can I be without my mom?” I mean, I was getting married the following year, and I just kept saying that she needs to be there. My mind was put at ease a little bit after asking a million and one questions to the doctor. It was so hard to watch her go through this. I just kept telling myself that she was hurting to heal, that she would get better. I just prayed everyday.
What support did you personally recieve? I have to admit, although I was by my mom’s side everyday watching her fight and be strong, I was weak. My mom was put into great hands. Every time she had chemo and doctor appointments, I would drive her to the University of Chicago where she was being treated. I had the support of my brothers and other family members who joined me to be there for her, and when I got home, I could really breakdown to my then fiancé, now husband. I had to stay strong for my mom, but as soon as I would go home after a 12 hour day of driving and being at the hospital, he saw the true pain I was feeling. It was extremely difficult for me to watch someone so vibrant and happy lose herself. The hardest part for me, was realizing she wasn’t the same anymore and wondering would I ever get that person back.
How did you support your loved one with cancer? It wasn’t a matter of do’s or dont’s for me. She is my mother and after everything she has done for me, the least I could do was be there for her every step of the way. I woke up at the crack of dawn to take her to Chicago for her appointments. I even got a speeding ticket trying to rush to her there, and I admit that I tried to get out of it by telling the officer about my mom (haha), but he did lessen the ticket for me. My mom had what they like to call a “cocktail” and not the good kind. It was a chemo cocktail which included 4 different types of drugs to kill the cancer cells. These sessions lasted anywhere from 2 to 6 hours and some even lasted longer because her magnesium levels would be low so they would have to give her fluid for that. I took off work and planned my whole days to be there for her. We even had an unplanned stay overnight because she was weak and the doctor wanted to monitor her. One of the hardest things was taking those long drives back home, and she would throw up. It was so hard to hear her be apologetic, as if it were something she could control. After her first dosage, her hair began to fall out. I was there when she shaved it off and she found a wig that she loved. It was hard to eat around her because everything to her tasted like metal. I always made sure she new that she wasn’t a burden.
What advice would you offer someone who is a caregiver, family member, or friend of the patient? I remember feeling as though I wasn’t allowed to cry. How could I feel hurt and pain when my mom is the one fighting cancer? My advice to someone is just to never apologize for feeling. It puts a toll on someone to watch someone they love go through this. To not have any control and to not be able to help. Just help by being there and supporting them. Here I was telling my mom to stay strong, yet I was weak. Here I was watching her fight, yet I was broken. Here I was telling her to pray, yet I would curse God. My ultimate advice for caregivers is to just know that it is “okay” to feel those things, and you should never be faulted for it. Sometimes the hardest things are not going through it yourself, but to stand by and watch someone you love so much go through it and hold no power over the outcome.
Anything else? My mom completed her last chemo session on September 19th, 2016 and is in fact cancer free and in the benign.
These pictures were taken the day of my mom’s last chemotherapy session, and my family and I surprised her with a “survivor” party. A little interesting fact is that someone we didn’t know came up to my mom and expressed their gratitude for her fight, and they paid for her meal.