Before and After Moments

Before my mother’s cancer diagnosis, I thought about the pending move my husband and I would make into a new-to-us home; paint colors, decisions about flooring, removing wall paper, and the process of moving our belongings.

After a cancer diagnosis, none of those things seemed as important as supporting Mom in her journey. Being there for her through doctor’s appointments, listening to options available and discerning what the next steps might be. After her diagnosis, our eyes and hearts turned to the most important thing to all of us; how Mom (and by extension we – my two sisters, husband and me,) would be present to what lie ahead.

After her cancer diagnosis, my mother said; “Well, this is an interesting turn of events.” It certainly wasn’t where any of us thought we’d be. Suddenly we were thrust into the world of oncology – learning about drug options and interactions, asking questions about care after chemo, exploring what other steps might be available. And listening carefully to Mom’s desires and wishes for her process.

After Mom’s cancer diagnosis she said she didn’t want to tell any of her friends of her condition. I’m not sure why she chose not to talk about it; perhaps it was because she didn’t want being a cancer patient to be her identity. Maybe it was because she never liked to be the center of attention. I suspect it was because she was a very private person in many ways – it just wasn’t in her nature to talk about things like this. She definitely didn’t want people hovering around the hospital with her –

After Mom’s cancer diagnosis we became caregivers. My sisters and I took turns returning home to take Mom to doctor’s appointments, to help care for her small hobby farm, to clean stalls, rake leaves, get her gardens ready for winter – to hang out with Mom on the good and not–so-good days following chemo.

Before Mom’s diagnosis we didn’t know any of the doctors or nurses we met along the way. We found ourselves surrounded by caring professionals with expertise that enabled us to ask many, many questions. We found people who took time to see our Mom – and answer all of our questions with compassionate understanding.

Before Mom’s diagnosis we may have taken for granted what was most important to us. After her diagnosis we were awake and aware that time could be short, that we needed to say and hear from one another just what our love meant. After her diagnosis we had the chance to show up with the best parts of ourselves to care for our Mom and one another.

Although it didn’t seem like it at the time, Mom’s cancer diagnosis was an opportunity. It provided us with a time to cherish our Mom. To care for her needs. It was an opportunity to be present to her thoughts, feelings and desires about her cancer care and her life.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

During this month, consider your own before and after experiences with cancer. What were the challenges and gifts of a cancer diagnosis for you or your family? What did you learn from cancer? And what personal practices do you use to take good care of your own health? If you are a woman, have you had your annual mammogram? If you are man, do you encourage the women in your life to take good care of their health?


Deb Buehler is a creative grief coach and writer. She is completing the Creative Grief Coach Certificate and has earned the Death & Grief Studies Certificate. Inspired by her own journey through loss, Deb co-authored The Hollowed Heart; Inspiration for Women Awakening from Grief and Loss. To find Deb and her book contact her by email her at

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