I remember the moment I forgot how to breathe. The moment my world spun off its axis and never quite righted itself again. It was a phone call from my mom, “It’s not good news, honey.”
She had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
When someone you love is battling cancer it can be difficult to know what to do or say. You feel helpless as you watch them fight a disease that shows no mercy.
Cancer is a thief. It robs not only the person it attacks but also those loved ones, family and friends, who are standing by.
It replaces the old normal with a new one. A normal that consists of countless doctor’s appointments, surgery, radiation treatments, chemotherapy, pain management, and multiple hospital stays.
But it’s not just the physical toll it takes on the human body. It’s the mental and emotional one as well. It is a rollercoaster ride of unbearable lows and fleeting highs.
And for one 65-year-old mother and former teacher from Guatemala she knows this all too well.
Michele Schambach was diagnosed with stage 3 Oligodendroglioma, a fast-growing brain tumor, last year. Her doctor advised her to seek medical attention at the Cleveland Clinic under the care of Dr. Gene Barnett.
According to their website:
Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center provides world-class care to patients with cancer and is at the forefront of new and emerging clinical, translational and basic cancer research.
It is ranked as one of the nation’s top hospitals by U.S. News & World Report.
Michele traveled to Ohio and sought medical treatment at the clinic in October 2019 where she underwent surgery and her first round of radiation and chemotherapy.
She returned in February for a follow-up visit and received disappointing news. Her blood counts were low.
According to the Cancer Society, low blood cell counts happen when the bone marrow isn’t making the normal number of blood cells.
This can either be caused by chemotherapy or the cancer itself. Low blood cell counts can cause delays in treatment, changes in treatment and unscheduled trips to the hospital.
Michele’s daughter, Dr. Marie Schambach (a physician in Guatemala), was there when her mother received the bad news.
Cancer is a story that can be told in a series of moments.
The moment you hear the dreaded words, “I’m sorry, it’s cancer.” The moment of your first appointment with an oncologist.
The moment of your first surgery, your first radiation treatment, your first round of chemotherapy.
It is in the moments of intense rage at a disease that is ravaging your or your loved one’s body. The moments of unbearable grief, tentative hope, and moments of love, quiet and still.
And in Michele’s case, the moment her daughter gave her this.
In an effort to raise her mother’s spirits, Marie carved out the inspirational message in the snow below her mom’s hospital room window. The text may only contain three simple words, “Mom, Be Brave,” but it carries a powerful message.
The love note was originally photographed and shared on Cleveland Clinic’s Twitter account.
A beautiful message was left at our main campus today. To the person who wrote it, you’ve touched our hearts.
A beautiful message was left at our main campus today.
To the person who wrote it, you've touched our hearts. ??#MomBeBrave pic.twitter.com/doY9x6QcAz
— ClevelandClinicNews (@CleClinicNews) February 14, 2020
Additionally, a number of people commented on the Twitter post with their own words of encouragement.
That is so awesome.
I’m almost 1 yr breast cancer free. Stay strong looks like you have a great support group behind you all the way.?
— Sandra (@Sandra97307599) February 15, 2020
Praying for the mom, and all people fighting the big C war today. Go, TeamMichael!
— Bob Rhodes (@BobRhod42728038) February 15, 2020
Praying for Mom, and for all those battling this devastating illness. #MomBeBrave
— Looney Old Lady (@LooneyOldLady) February 16, 2020
Well this just made me cry! My mom is battling cancer right now, so I feel for all who are in the same boat as me, and I’m praying for all!
— Ryan (@rain_surfer) February 15, 2020
And there were messages from those people who are also fighting the same battle.
This is such a wonderful thing to do. I’m fighting cancer too. I’m a Mom. And I’m brave. Love this! Fight on to all those battling cancer. We are all in it together. ??
— Karen Kinney (@Karensuekinney) February 16, 2020
That is awesome! I’m a 20 year patient at Taussig and the clinic! “Keep fighting no matter what!”
— Tim Lop (@TIMLOP21) February 15, 2020
But the story doesn’t end here. On Saturday, the Schambach family received the good news that Michele’s white blood cell count was up.
The doctor credits the medicine being used to treat the cancer for the welcome change, but Marie has another theory.
“The medicine helps, but it’s from a lot of support and a lot of prayer.”