By Lucas Almeida
Those memories are still alive. The many tears of sorrow which once were shed are now tears of happiness. She now swims not just for fun, but also for hope.
Samantha Delcambre, a 22-year-old City College student and swimmer, still remembers clearly what she faced during her senior year of high school.
These were the first words Delcambre remembers saying after she found out her mother, Linda, had been diagnosed with breast cancer. The shocking news affected both her and her whole family.
“When I had heard that she had cancer I was just obliterated, I was so scared,” she said with petrified eyes showing her reaction to the frightening news.
“The first thing you think when you hear someone you really care about has cancer — it’s like, you can’t help but think the worst.”
Growing up in Pacific Grove in the near Monterey Bay, Delcambre said she did not have a close relationship with her mom throughout high school. But her older sisters had left for college and now the spotlight was on her, she said.
Because she was the only one left at home, she felt she wanted to be able to support her mom and be there for her through this new devastating phase in her mother’s life.
Delcambre’s mother had suffered from previous health issues, including diabetes and several surgeries in the past. This time the new crisis in her mom’s health condition brought mother and daughter closer together.
For a time, Delcambre thought that this would be it for her mom — that her mom would not be a fighter this time and make it through the cancer.
“I would just get really overwhelmed with the idea of cancer,” Delcambre said, her voice rising. “I wouldn’t even look at it rationally at all.”
“Just the word, just knowing that my mom had cancer … That sentence alone was really really frightening.”
Immediately after she heard the news, flashbacks and memories of her childhood came back to her. Since she was a little girl, Delcambre remembers her mom saying, “I’m not the healthiest person. I might not live as long as your dad.”
However, as time progressed, and after some doctor appointments, Delcambre said it all came clear to her and her family that their mother was going to be okay.
Fortunately, doctors had caught the cancer early enough and Delcambre’s mother had surgery to remove the cancer.
“She did fight, she was a fighter,” Delcambre said with a radiant smile on her face.
In intense moments such as this, she says she finally noticed how precious life really is. The mother’s cancer was able to change her daughter’s life completely.
“It really did bring us closer,” she said, pausing to find the right words to describe that life-changing experience.
“I remember feeling sold short, like I wanted more of my mom than what I got, especially since I was such a punk when it happened. It really kind of brought me back down to earth and made me realize: that’s your mom, you only get one.”
Delcambre has even given up on her old habits and friends. The ones she had before only wanted to “numb” the pain.
This time she said she refused realizing that doing drugs could give her only a temporary satisfaction, but the wounds would remain open.
Trying to make herself feel good and positive about her mom’s situation, Delcambre smiles every time she remembers the days when she would blast the volume up and listen to the song “Hey Mama” by rapper Kanye West.
It’s a special song, she said, whose message would remind her of how important mothers are and how much you do need to appreciate them and not take them for granted.
Even as Delcambre received love and encouragement from her family and kept herself positive about her mom’s critical health condition, she said she did not consider herself religious enough to believe that God would cure her mom’s cancer. Rather the forces which drove her to believe her mom would survive were hope and trust.
Delcambre said she is happy she has a survivor story to tell and she hopes sharing her life-changing experience will deeply impact other people’s lives and make them think about such sensitive issues.
“To inspire others, I’d say that this is real, that this happens everyday to everybody all over the world,” she said in a firm and passionate tone of voice.
“It’s not just something you hear about it on the news, it’s not just something you buy a pink pen to support, it’s something that, you know…that really changes people’s lives for the good or for the bad depending on what scenario it is and for me it changed my life for the better because it brought me and my mom and my entire family closer.”
On March 16 her City College swim team held a special swim meet in the Wellness Center. In an effort organized by women’s athletics director Peg Grady, the women’s swim team gave out gifts to both parents and students and passed around flyers spreading awareness about breast cancer.
Delcambre said it was a mere coincidence the event was about breast cancer. She said that at the time she didn’t feel as connected with the event as she does now, having had the privilege and opportunity of sharing first hand her mother’s survivor story through the school’s newspaper.
Linda Delcambre, who is now cancer-free, still struggles with diabetes, but for her daughter the most rewarding thing is to see her mother alive. The many tears of sorrow which were once dropped now are now tears of happiness.