She is my why.
When I was in the fifth grade my Mom and I first moved into our new house. We had to eat take out food because the power was not on yet. We ate on this little table with pull out chairs. My grandma brought us Rally’s which was my Mom’s favorite and mine too. We had burgers and fries in the dark. We didn’t have lights or TV, but we didn’t care because we had an amazing time. To think of it now, I didn’t need social media or TV – I was just happy to be there with my Mom.
When I was 10 years old my Mom told me she was diagnosed with cancer. At that time I was too young to understand what cancer really was. She had long, thick hair and looked healthy, like she always looked. However, when she sat next to me on the couch, I could tell something was wrong. My Mom was usually always ready for fun and wanted to joke around. She looked scared and that is how I knew this was serious. My Mom never looked sick until she started chemo, so I didn’t know how sick she really was until after her first round of chemotherapy. She started to look pale and tired. My Mom who was usually ready for a good time had no energy for one.
When I was 12, she actually beat breast cancer and was doing well for a few weeks. We went on the Breast Cancer Walk together to celebrate. We had a crowd of family to celebrate her recovery. And then – it all went to hell. She started to feel sick again so she went to the doctor. The doctor told her the cancer was back, but now it was in her liver. This was more severe than the last cancer. I went to stay with my dad for a few weeks while my Mom got treatments. I remember struggling a bit and sometimes being rude. Now that I am older, I recognize that I was probably just afraid and angry at the situation. One time I remember Mom saying “he’ll see when I’m not around anymore.” All these years later I wish I could go back and respond in a different way to her.
I was at my Dad’s house for a week and had heard close to nothing from my Mom or my grandma. The last time I saw my Mom she said she would be going to the doctor, but I didn’t know she would have to stay there for weeks. While in the hospital, my Mom texted me out of the blue one night and said “I love you to the moon and back.” When she said that I knew something was up. That Saturday I had plans to go skating at Rolling Hills. My grandma said she would take me home to change my clothes before she dropped me off to skate. When we got to my Mom’s house, grandma sat me down on the couch. She started to cry as she finally told me “your Mom is in the hospital and they said she doesn’t have long.” After I heard her say that I fell to the ground and just screamed. Instead of skating, we went to the hospital. I collapsed in the back seat and cried the whole way there. When I got there, my Mom looked at me and said “It will be all right.” I laid there all night with her. Not long after, they ended up moving her home. She passed a little later that week. I was at school in choir when I got called out. They called my cousin, Zay, out too. We both knew she was gone.
My Mom’s battle with cancer is why I am the way I am today. My Mom not only taught me how to tie my shoes, but she also taught me to go get what I want. She not only dropped me off to school in the mornings, but she encouraged me to be who I want to be in life. My Mom formed me as a man with the little time she had. Life without her will continue to be hard, but I’ve made it through the hardest thing a person could go through and I survived. She is the reason I wake up everyday. I know what she expects from me and I will continue to make it happen no matter what I do. I know she is watching over me. I intend to make her proud of the man I become.
My Mom will always be my why.
Jaden Swiger is the son of the late Christina Swiger and Curtis Johnson. He was raised by one of his favorite people on the planet, his grandma, Pamela Engle. He is a senior at Sidney High School. He plans to play football at West Virginia Wesleyan and study sports science. He is looking forward to beginning a new chapter in his life. His dream is to enter the NFL draft after four years of college and hard work.