Southeast Missouri State University student publication

We don't just fight in October

Monday, October 22, 2018
Toslin Taylor

Anyone that knows me well knows that I'm not a very vulnerable person. I would rather play tough and cry alone behind closed doors — it is easier that way. The story I am about share has left me so exposed.

My day started off as a regular day. I was a junior in high school just waiting for the year I would graduate. I woke up, put on my plaid skirt and saddle oxfords, hopped in the car with my mom and made my way to school. The day was completely normal for me. I went to mass, classes, volleyball practice and headed home. As soon as I came home I was usually greeted with a smile and a million questions about school and practice, but that day was different. My mom was distraught, sad, and worried. This was the moment my mom told be she had been diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer.

I know everyone’s initial reaction is to cry and be sad, but me being me, I said, “Okay, what’s the plan?”

As the weeks rolled by my mom began her chemotherapy treatments. I watched her grow weak and tired, which was not her usual self. My mom is an outgoing person, who loves to do things for others. Seeing her practically bedridden was a hard pill to swallow.

Penny Taylor (mom of Toslin Taylor) receives her jersey from Daterraion Richardson at the Pink Up Game Oct. 20.
Photo by Toslin Taylor ~ Digital Managing Editor

She made it a point to make my life as normal as possible even though she was the one fighting for her life.

Months had gone by and her hair had fallen out. She worked less, slept more and her skin began to discolor and have the smell of chemo. Her fingernails and toenails were practically dying. This was all because of chemotherapy. I will never understand how something so toxic was a major contributor in saving my mom's life.

In the midst of all of this, my parents were still trying to keep my life normal, especially at home. Some days at school I felt that my life was too normal. I would cry, because, to me, I felt like there was no one I could talk to. There was no possible way to express how I felt.

My friend LaBreshia was so supportive. She helped me along the way as much as she could. My volleyball coach honored my mom and she showed support to me by wearing pink headbands to the rest of our games. My cousin Candace went to all of my mom’s chemo treatments. My cousin Tiffany made her wigs, when my mom felt the need for hair. My aunts and uncles just called to make her life normal. My father held the house down and kept our lives afloat.

With all that love came hard feelings or misunderstanding. I remember friends I had known for several years, who were at my house for sleepovers and football games nearly every weekend prior to my mom having breast cancer, who didn’t even care. I believe that is what hurt most. I felt a generous mom like mine didn’t deserve to be ignored.

I can remember being asked, “Why are you so upset if the chemo works?”

I guess you don’t know how bad it hurt until it’s your turn.

In Mass, I’d ask God, ‘Why my mom, why now?’ As I saw her growing weaker I began to really lose faith. No person wants to be in a situation where their mom has to fight for her life. No matter how many times you hear about breast cancer you never think it could happen to someone so close to you. Therefore, my faith grew weak. I felt dark, angry and frustrated. I just didn’t want it to be her.

I am forever grateful that my mom wanted to appear strong for me.

At the time, I was still traveling for club volleyball and she was making it to all the tournaments. No matter the pain, sickness or tiredness, she still made the trips.

Looking back, I ask myself, ‘How do I thank my mom for pushing back chemo treatments to be at my tournaments?’ I can remember not wanting to play club ball that year because I had no clue how I would get from point A to point B without her. Even then she made a way.

Other players’ moms showed their support. They opened their arms and embraced our situations; Ms. Lisa and Ms. Yolanda made sure she would never miss me play. Indianapolis was the biggest and farthest tournament that year. My mom came and was the loudest on the sideline.

I can’t thank The Man Above enough for giving her and I the opportunity to still be together for every tournament when we expected breast cancer to keep us apart.

Everything sounds like rainbows and sunshine, right?

As normal as my life may have seemed, I was very alone. I felt like I had to be strong for my brother and I. It was hard for us. Our mom is such a giving person — always putting everyone before herself. The one time she needed people most, several did not show up.

That’s the background to my story. Today my mom is a four-year breast cancer survivor. Not all children are lucky enough to say that.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, but I celebrate her life every day. Watching my mom ring her bell in honor of her last chemo treatment is a day I will never forget.

I am proud of Southeast football for playing in honor of so many great men and women each and every year with their Pink Up game. My mom will receive her third pink jersey Saturday and I know she will cry as if it were her first.