Remembering Mary – The Daughter of a Cancer Victim Shares A Story of Hope
By: Lea Chambers
My mother, Mary (Luchin) Chambers, died of breast cancer at the age of 45. That was back in 1983. She was diagnosed in 1980, when I was 10, when getting diagnosed with breast cancer was pretty much a death sentence. They didn’t know what to do back then besides cut out the tumor, subject the victim to brutal chemo therapy treatments, and hope for the best. There wasn’t a hospital in my home town of Kamloops, BC (Canada) where any of that work could be done, so my mum spent 4 months of my 10th year living with relatives in Vancouver after she was diagnosed. She went into remission later that year, and enjoyed one more year of health before she succumbed to the disease on March 9th, 1983.
I was 12 years old when she passed away. I’ll never forget that day, the anniversary of which is coming up in a few weeks. I was a girl getting ready to be a teenager with all of those questions and insecurities that pre-teen girls have. Who is going to take me to buy my first bra? What happens when I start menstruating? Who will be there for me to talk to when I have a bad day? What should I do when I grow up? Who is going to cook dinner for me and my dad and my brothers when we all get home from school and work? Who will do all the housework? What happens if my brother needs someone to fix the holes in his socks?
The truth is, when I reflect back now more than 30 years later, I figured those things out on my own and learned to do them myself. I developed a sense of self-sufficiency, capability and courage at a young age that I may not have had to develop as quickly if my mum had been around when I was going through my teenage years. That doesn’t mean it was easy. It wasn’t. But I have faith that everything happens for a reason and now I am passing on that strength and courage to my two step-daughters as well as the women who work for me, many of them young mothers.
I think about women who have faced or are facing cancer, especially those with daughters, and send them strength. They have so many advantages in terms of medicine, early detection, treatment and support networks today that women in the 1980s just didn’t have. Their daughters will be stronger, regardless of the outcome. There is hope, and there is a bright future ahead. They must just believe.