To the Mom Whose Child Just Received a Cancer Diagnosis
I’ve been thinking a lot lately. I’ve come to a point in this journey where I feel a little lost. It’s a common issue. My son, Sam, is almost done with treatment. Where does this leave me? Where does this leave a woman, a mother who worked full-time prior to her son getting sick?
I started thinking about the different emotions I’ve felt since the beginning. How lost I was at the beginning, how I felt I’d found a side of myself I never knew existed and how I’m now feeling lost again. Lost, found, lost.
It’s amplified when I meet the newer moms on this journey. A common phrase I hear when I meet the new moms is, “I don’t know how I am going to do this.” Usually I only have a few minutes to talk to the new moms, so my answer is usually, “You get through it because you have to get through it, and you will.” I’ve been told that numerous times when I was sure I couldn’t “get through it,” and I’m sure I’ll continue to hear those words. As we get closer to Sam’s last chemo visit, Sam’s last chemo pills, Sam’s last steroid pulse, I think about what I would say if I had the time to sit down and talk for a few hours with the newer moms.
Dear New Cancer Mom,
I’m sorry. I’m sorry you’re part of this group. I’m sorry you now have the title of cancer mom. Your life has changed. In one split second your world just fell apart.
Allow yourself to cry; it will make you feel better. Allow yourself to kick and scream and have a tantrum; let it take all your energy, because there are some days that crying is all you can do for the day.
The fog will lift, I promise. The feeling you get when you walk into a store or a restaurant, that feeling that everything is surreal, that you want to turn around and walk out because everyone in that place is happy and laughing — it will go away. In place of that, you will look at people who are constantly unhappy with their lives and remind them of how precious life is.
Stay positive because things do get better, but be a realist, too. Don’t allow people to make you think your anxiety and worry aren’t justified. They are. Your child was diagnosed with cancer. It’s a very scary world to be placed in. Watching your child go through this and watching other children, it’s not something you wish upon anyone. But when you witness your own child and all the other children continually fighting, it will change your life.
Document your journey, whether it be a journal, a blog, pictures or videos. People may ask, “Why would you want to document this part of your life?” It’s a reminder, my friends, a reminder of what you’ve been through. Write your child a letter at different times of their treatment so they see the battle in your eyes as a mom.
There are people who will support you the entire time, and others who just can’t keep up, who are tired of altering their life to accommodate you. Those are the ones who don’t understand. There’s no need for you to explain, so don’t. You have a sick child; there’s no explanation needed. Move forward and don’t hate them for it.
If you have a spouse, spend alone time with him or her as much as possible. Go out on dates when you’re able to, and take a nap when the opportunity is there. Don’t complain too much about the little things; it’s not worth it. Pay it forward, for there are many people who will help you — sometimes people you don’t even know.
Swallow your pride and ask for help when needed. Surround yourself with people who understand and know what you’re going through. No matter how much others claim to know what you’re going through, they don’t. Perhaps they sympathize with us, but they can never empathize.
If the opportunity arises, take sometime for yourself. Even if it’s a ride in the car by yourself, do it. Don’t feel guilty. You are giving 110 percent of yourself to help save your child. The worrying, anxiety and lack of sleep is overwhelmingly exhausting. If there is anything that has caught me off guard this entire three years, it’s the exhaustion that comes with the sleepless nights, the hospitalizations, the worrying, the crying and just the fight.
Regardless of the type of cancer, the experience is long and difficult. Regardless of what others say, this will be a part of your life forever. Once a cancer mom, always a cancer mom. Hang in there. Keep moving forward. Head up, chin up.
A cancer mom
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