With Love, From MIL

By Felicia Moro

Felicia Moro of New Jersey writes about her daughter-in-law Rachel Cheetham Moro, a Breast Cancer Consortium founder who died from metastatic breast cancer four years ago.

I first met Rachel in a Starbucks in London when I was visiting my son, Anthony. I was excited to meet the woman who stole my son’s heart. We had a few days to get to know each other because Anthony had to work during the first few days of my visit. Rachel took time off to show me her favorite places and the rest, as they say, is history. We became good friends. I was thrilled to become Rachel’s mother-in-law, or MIL as she called me.

I remember when Rachel told me she found a lump in her breast. It was right before Easter. She had a biopsy on Good Friday. The following Tuesday she was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was just 6 months before Rachel and Anthony’s wedding. The next months were filled with chemotherapy, surgery, doctor visits, and wedding planning.

The words “wedding” and “chemo” should never be used in the same sentence.

The wedding was beautiful, and Rachel looked gorgeous and happy. The wig she wore was so close to her own pre-chemo hair that anyone who was unaware of her recent medical history would have had no idea it fell out. When I look back that those photos, I see such radiance.

After treatment, Rachel was in remission for awhile. During that time, she and Anthony lived with my husband and me. They were renovating their dream house, not too far from where we lived. They sold their apartment in the city so they could get things done more quickly. Those were good times. Rachel finished her master’s degree and was working as a CPA. Life seemed almost normal. We were optimistic that the cancer was a thing of the past. We had hope.

Rachel and Anthony moved into their new home and lived there happily. But the cancer came back, with a vengeance, this time metastatic (stage 4). During this phase of life with breast cancer, a stage when treatments never ended and medical stability was the primary objective, Rachel and I spent a lot of time together.

At one point when Rachel was getting radiation therapy every day, she no longer had the use of her prominent arm. She couldn’t drive until she was able to get her vehicle fitted with a turning wheel, so I’d take her to appointments. Afterwards we’d go to lunch or to a movie, do some shopping, or just hang out. This was on the good days. The bad days were spent in the chemotherapy lounge, the emergency room, the hospital, in bed or watching a movie either at her house or mine. Some days when she was feeling really bad I just went to her house to keep her company.

Felicia-and-Rachel-CROP BWEven with all this activity surrounding her disease, we didn’t speak about it very often. Rachel wanted to have some normalcy in her life that didn’t involve breast cancer. She wanted to do normal things, hear about the comings and goings of friends and relatives. She didn’t want people to ask her how she was feeling all the time.

Instead, Rachel started a blog she called The Cancer Culture Chronicles where she shared her experiences with metastatic breast cancer and what she saw as the disgraceful side of the pink ribbon. That blog is what kept her going. She was a gifted writer, and she had a huge following that let her know she wasn’t alone in all this.

Rachel was wise, insightful, fiercely independent, and had such grace and dignity. And like no one I’d known, she was a consummate problem solver. This was apparent in her blog. But she always knew how to handle a tricky situation, whether it was her own or someone else’s. For me, she became my “go to” person, my voice of reason. She taught me life lessons, “Rachelisms” I called them, that still sit with me today. Most of all she was special, like a daughter to me. I was and will always be grateful I had the opportunity to spend so much time with her, and offer help when she needed it. I only wish it had been under better circumstances.

This February 6th will be four years since Rachel died. It seems like yesterday. She was only 41 years old.

I miss you Rachel. It was a privilege to be your MIL.

In a tribute to Rachel’s legacy, BCC member Lani Horn wrote a review of The Cancer Culture Chronicles, a compilation of Rachel’s blog posts in book form.

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