I don’t consider myself to be religious. I don’t know what I believe in, although I do believe that spiritual connections exist.

The start of my own  breast cancer experience is bracketed by my mother’s death from breast cancer 20 years ago. Exactly 20 years ago.

I had a mammogram and ultrasound Dec 20. The radiologist looked at the lump and said – Fibroadenoma, probably benign, but to be sure we can biopsy. Or follow. I said, biopsy. Good thing I did. The next day, Marco and I found out that it was not benign, but rather poorly differentiated and thus malignant. This was Dec 21, and it was the day 20 years ago that we brought my mother home from the hospital, to die.

Someday I will write more about my mother’s experience. For now – she continued on a steady decline and died on January 14, 1991.  My sister, two aunts, hospice nurse and myself were all there. My father had just left for work. It was a bit past 10AM in the morning, a mild, sunny day. It was peaceful. As sad as it was, and while a part of me will always feel it was unfair that she died so young, there was something about it that seemed so natural.

On January 14, 2011, Marco and I were driving back from meeting my oncologist. He was very optimistic, I had a good prognosis, my scans were clear. We felt more hopeful than any time before Dec 21, when we first learned that the lump was cancer. At one point, we were driving down the A6, south of Bern, looking at the Alps – you can see the Jungfrau, Eiger, Moench if it’s clear enough. It was a gorgeous afternoon. It’s a spectacular view, if you’ve not seen it. The Alps here really remind me of quiet, grave, learned men and women, watching over us.

And at this one point,  I just had this feeling – tingle, puff of air, whatever, and somehow my mother and I let go of each other. Not that we don’t care for and watch out for each other, but rather, our paths won’t be the same.

And when I checked the time it was a little after 4PM, Central European Time, 6 hours later than Eastern Standard Time – 10 AM in Pittsburgh.Maybe it’s an angel, maybe the hand of some god, or maybe my subconscious rationalizing new information.

Whatever it was, it was a profound moment for me. The part of me that always has to make a joke wants to queue Twilight Zone music…..because it feels a little squirrly to be profound.