Jordan Haddad is a 22-year-old student and Maine resident. She spent most of her childhood being raised by her mother and father and arguing with her older and younger brothers. Jordan’s life changed when her mother, Kathy, was first diagnosed with breast cancer when Jordan was around 10. Jordan’s older brother, John, was 12 and younger brother, Thomas, was 7.
Kathy went into remission near the end of Jordan’s fourth-grade year. “I don’t think I fully understood what was happening to her and what she was really going through. I remember when she first got diagnosed with cancer, I didn’t fully understand what it was,” Jordan said. Kathy has had health issues since her chemo treatment. “Chemo really changed her body. Her bones broke a lot easier…,” Jordan said. There was a lot of fear involved when it came to witnessing her mother in a frailer state. “I always told my mom I loved her before she left (the house). I just felt like it was something I had to do,” Jordan said about the fear that came along with her mother’s new normal.
The summer before Jordan’s sophomore year of college, her mother was diagnosed with a second form of breast cancer in her bones. “I understood a lot more. I remember being more scared. At the same time I felt I needed to be the strong one for her,” Jordan said. Unable to work, Kathy began living with a relative. But the living situation didn’t work out and Kathy moved in with Jordan and her boyfriend, Adrien. Jordan began having to get her mother’s prescriptions, run her errands and bring her to her doctors’ appointments. Having to move four hours to live with Jordan, Kathy found herself far from home. “Instead of having a whole support system, it was just me and Adrien,” Jordan said.
Doctor’s couldn’t tell the family how much time Kathy had, but they stressed the importance that it was not a lot. “The upside was that if she ended up passing, I would be with her in her final moments, rather than where I had moved, I wouldn’t have been with her,” Jordan said. Although Jordan was reassured by the fact that she could care for her mother and spend vital time with her, the living situation was difficult. “It’s a lot different when your parent lives with you versus when you live with your parent. And no one is prepared for that when they’re barely adult,” she explained.
After many difficult months, Jordan’s family got news they never expected. The treatment that Kathy was on, that no one was hopeful would work, had worked! While still ill, Kathy’s life expectancy had jumped from months to years. Jordan was happy for her mother that she had new opportunities and more time to do the things she’s wanted in her life. There was a period where Kathy still needed to get back on her feet.
“When we lived together it was stressful because we were together all the time,” Kathy said. “We were still stuck in this situation that was an incredibly uncomfortable situation for both of us. She was well enough to be thinking about doing more with her life, but not well enough to do anything about it,” Jordan added. Those times were hard for Jordan and her mother. The strains of living together worsened because there was hope at the end of the tunnel, but neither could reach it.
Kathy was able to get an apartment close to her home that she had to leave. She now lives with her oldest son, John. Since Kathy has moved out of Jordan’s apartment, Kathy really thinks that their relationship has strengthened. “I get more time in the bathroom,” Kathy joked about the changes since moving out. “I do miss her. We get along better now that I’m not living with her,” Kathy added seriously. Jordan agrees that since living apart, their relationship has changed for the better. “I’m proud of her in more ways than I can express. The biggest thing I feel is regret because I wish I could do more for her. She didn’t deserve the hand she was dealt,” Jordan said.
In times of great stress and sadness, it is difficult to act as a support system. The experience is lifechanging, no matter the outcome. “It’s definitely changed, because when your parent gets sick, as sick to the point my mom was, even though my situation ended up being much more positive, you do lose your parent even though they didn’t die. Your relationship has still changed. The love is still there. I love my mom the same as before she was sick.” Kathy has always thought highly of Jordan and after the experience of living together still shines at describing her daughter “She has many good qualities. She’s empathetic, kind, and fights for the underdog,” Kathy said.
The effects of a sickness spread throughout an entire network of people. Family and friends really test their relationships. No one who has witnessed an ill family member comes out of it the same: it changes you. For Jordan, her mother’s sickness signified her transition from child to adult and has brought her new appreciation of her mother.