Keeping Faith: Student risks losing mom to breast cancer


The room was sound proof. The chapel was dark except for a stained glass window covering a wall, depicting a waterfall surrounded by a forest and rocks. A woman wearing a long white dress was near the waterfall in the image. A large hand seemed to hold her – God protecting her from harm.

She imagined her mother in that calm environment, and for a moment everything was OK. Then, senior Anjely Joseph faced reality. Her mother, Alemma, was not in a garden, she was in surgery to get tumorous tissue removed from her breast. The chapel was no longer the safe room she saw before, it was just another room in the hospital where her mother was recovering.

This was only the first surgery. Anjely faced many more long hours in the church during her mother’s second surgery.

Her mother’s battle with breast cancer began over the summer, and it left Anjely more lonely than ever before. She couldn’t tell her friends about her struggles if she did not see them.

Anjely remembers the moment her brother told her that their mom had breast cancer like it was yesterday. She ran into her bedroom and burst out crying. Her father died  from a heart attack when she was an infant. Now she faces the possibility of losing her mother.

As she cries she thinks, “Why my mom? Why is this happening to my family? I already lost a father, I don’t want to lose a mother.”

At the time, being diagnosed with the disease seemed like an immediate death sentence for her mother.

“I didn’t really know there could be a cure for breast cancer,” Anjely said.

Then, her senior year began with a rocky start because of the constant reminders about her mother’s pain. During class she kept her phone on just in case the doctor called to tell her bad news: that despite all of the odds, her mother was gone due to complications from the chemo or radiation.

“[I feel] depressed, honestly speaking,” Anjely said. “I feel like a bystander, just useless, not being able to do anything for her.”

Yet, day after day, Alemma managed to survive. Her hair is now thin to a state that is almost bald. Her medications fill her body with fatigue and ache. But she is still alive, and that is what matters.

Alemma sees that Anjely takes the news harshly, so she makes jokes in the only language she knows, Malayalam. She communicates with her doctors through the help of family, and in the face of adversity she laughs and keeps faith that God won’t take her away from her youngest daughter.After successfully completing her second surgery to remove cancerous nodes, Alemma now has to deal with recovering. Anjely said it scares her that her mother might still have breast cancer, or that it might come back, but she tries not to think about it. Through tears, Angley describes what her mother means to her.

“She is all I have left now,” Anjely said. “Both of my siblings are married and have their families … and I just have my mom now.”