mother's hand holding baby's hand

A Letter to My 1-Year-Old Son on My Cancerversary

70
70

This is hard to talk about with you. Not because it’s a secret or it’s shameful, but because I don’t really know what to say. Someday, though, I know you’ll ask, and when you do, I want to be ready to explain it all to you the best I can.

My body is different than other women’s bodies. Where other women have two breasts and two nipples, you’ll see I have just one breast and one nipple. On the other side I have a smooth nippleless bump with a faint scar. We call it a “foob,” and you know what? It’s OK to giggle when you say it. It’s meant to be just a little bit silly. 

You should know that five years ago I was very sick. More sick than a cold or flu. A lot of doctors had to work hard to help me get better. It’s important for you to know that yes, I’m all better now. The sickness I had is called cancer, and while everyone who is sick with cancer has different medicine and treatments, in order for me to get better, my breast had to be removed. In its place, the doctors put in my foob. My foob is sort of like a thick water balloon that looks like a real breast so most people don’t even know it’s there.

In the year since you’ve been born, you’ve learned so much. Each day you show us your excitement, frustration, anticipation, silliness, sadness and utter absolute joy. I know, and someday you will also know, that with all the happy things that happen in our lives, there are sometimes sad things, too.

It’s hard for your dad and me to admit that we can’t protect you from everything awful in this life, and to tell you that we can would be a lie. I also can’t promise that cancer will never again come into the warm walls of our home again because to say that would also be a lie.

I fear for the day you will feel anguish, devastation, loss and grief. It’s inevitable, but I hope that day is many, many days away. Years away. I hope when those feelings are thrust upon you in the hardest moments of your life, you’ll remember my words today.

Like the hardest things in this life, it’s OK if you don’t really understand yet. Actually, I don’t even know if I fully understand yet, either. Even though we may not talk about my cancer very often, you can ask your dad or me questions about it whenever you need to — we will answer those questions.

mother's hand holding baby's hand

It’s important for you to know that sometimes people get sick for no reason, and it’s not because of anything they did, and it’s not because of anything you did, either. Sometimes it just happens, and it’s no one’s fault.

It’s important for you to know that sometimes people die from cancer. Maybe you already knew this, and I don’t want to scare you. I just want to make sure you understand that even though I’m all better now, cancer is very scary, and sometimes people aren’t able to get better.

It’s important for you to know that if your dad or I or anyone else we love is sick with cancer, we will all work as hard as we can to help them feel better. If that ever happens, you can ask us as many questions as you need to — we will answer those questions. It’s OK to cry, and it’s OK to laugh because both are important and both are healthy.

It’s important for you to know that I think the world of you. In the year your dad and I have known you, we can already see you’re a comic like your dad and you’re headstrong like me. These traits will serve you well throughout your life. Stay silly, stay determined.

It’s important for you to know that when sad things happen in our family, we will all come together to help one another. While we can’t protect you from everything bad in this world, we will love you each and every day. When those bad and scary moments happen in your life, I hope you remember that we love you so very, very much.   

You may hear people use the term “cancer survivor.” You should know that your mom is a “breast cancer survivor.” When I was sick with cancer, I discovered that I am strong and I am resilient. I am braver than I ever realized. Even though you may not know it yet, so are you. Today, tomorrow and every day that we are together, we will celebrate our lives. We will celebrate that we are together.

Love Always,

Your Mom

70
70

RELATED VIDEOS

TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

This Woman's Sister Couldn't Carry a Child After Having Cancer, So She Did It for Her

1k
1k

When Dawn Ardolino Policastro found out that her twin sister, Allison Ardolino Dinkelacker, was unable to carry a child after undergoing treatment for cancer, she didn’t even hesitate to offer to carry one for her.

In 2009, at the age of 32, Dinkelacker, who lives in Mineola, New York, was 30 weeks into her pregnancy with her first son when she was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer, Patch.com reported. She needed to start chemotherapy immediately, so at 31 weeks she had an emergency C-section and delivered a healthy boy. She then went on to have 6 months of chemotherapy, 35 rounds of radiation and multiple surgeries.

Dinkelacker has been cancer free for 6 years now and she and her husband decided they wanted to have another child. However, since the cancer was hormone positive, she could not carry another baby herself. That’s when Policastro stepped in and served as a gestational surrogate for Dinkelacker.

 

 

“Dawn accompanied me to one of my doctors appointments and as we sat in my oncologists’ office, he said to me, ‘If you survive this, you will never be able to carry another child,’ Dinkelacker wrote on Facebook, shared by Allison Rose Photography. “Well before he even finished his sentence Dawn jumped in and said, ‘It doesn’t matter because I am going to carry their child.’”

Long time family friend and photographer Allison Rose did a photo shoot with the sisters, which she posted to her Facebook page, Allison Rose Photography, on July 28. Since then, the photos have been shared nearly 15,000 times.

See some of the images from the shoot below: 

 

On August 5 Policastro gave birth to Hudson William Dinkelacker, who weighed 8 pounds, 13 ounces and was 20.5 inches long, Patch.com reported.

How can we begin to thank you for the tremendous generosity and sacrifice you have so willingly bestowed these last few months?” wrote Dinkelacker on Facebook, shared by Allison Rose Photography. “You have given us not just the fulfillment of a wish we’ve had for the last six years, but a whole new life, and a family of four we thought we’d never have.”

1k
1k
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Woman Says 'Suck It, Cancer' With Her Own Clothing Line

83
83

In November 2014, Lisa Vanbeek was diagnosed with an invasive form of breast cancer. Vanbeek, then 37, was blindsided — she had no family history of cancer, had never considered the possibility of a diagnosis and was unsure of what to do first.

So, Vanbeek, a clothing designer, decided to make funny T-shirts emblazoned with the message, “Suck it, cancer” for her friends and family to keep them smiling during the difficult time. Pictures of the shirts then began making the rounds on social media, and people began asking her where they could buy one.

Seeing how strongly the shirts resonated with people, Vanbeek saw an opportunity to turn the enterprise into a fundraising effort.

“Going through this process, I was really overcome by the reality of how much money goes into cancer treatments, screenings, etc., in addition to other everyday expenses like paying for the gas to get to treatments,” Vanbeek, who lives in Pueblo, Colorado, told The Mighty. “Making clothing is what I know how to do, so I decided to turn that into a way to help people who may not have the money for treatment.”

Vanbeek officially launched “Suck It, Cancer,” her sassy new clothing line, in February 2015. Designed to support and invigorate people living with cancer, the clothing features phrases like, “Hey Cancer, you messed with the wrong girls,” and “Sometimes, you just gotta be a badass.” A percentage of every sale Vanbeek makes goes toward She4Life and Cowgirls & Cocktails, grassroot nonprofit organizations that financially support women who have cancer.

SuckItCancer1
Vanbeek, right, with a friend modeling her clothing line. Photo from the Suck It Cancer Facebook page

Now, the clothing is sold online, at sporting events and, as of August 2015, in a retail store in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Vanbeek says one of her favorite outcomes from starting this company has been the stories and emotional reactions she gets from strangers all over the country.

“People have come up to me crying,” she told The Mighty. “To have people get that emotional was unbelievable to me. On the other side, I see people get so happy and excited about it. It started as just making T-shirts, but it’s turned into an attitude.”

Vanbeek completed her final radiation treatment on August 11, 2015. Now, she’s focusing on getting her brand into more retail stores and building her online presence. In turn, she wants to continue to raise money for organizations that help people afford treatment. She also wants to keep people smiling.

But, most important, she wants to inspire people who are living with cancer to keep fighting.

“[I hope] it gives someone a little extra oomph, that kickstart to rally against it and not be taken down by it,” Vanbeek told The Mighty. “If that shirt can make them feel that way for five minutes out of their day, that’s the most important thing.”

Take a look at some designs from Vanbeek’s “Suck It, Cancer” clothing line below.

SuckItCancer2
From the Suck It, Cancer Facebook page
SuckItCancer3
From the Suck It, Cancer Facebook page
SuckItCancer4
From the Suck It, Cancer Facebook page
SuckItCancer5
From the Suck It, Cancer Facebook page
SuckItCancer6
From the Suck It, Cancer Facebook page

Hear more about Vanbeek’s story in the video below.

To learn more about Vanbeek’s story and check out her awesome clothing line, visit the Suck It, Cancer website and Facebook page.

83
83
TOPICS
,
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Woman With Cancer Shuts Down Fake ‘Awareness’ Campaign With One Tweet

1k
1k

The “Hold a Coke With Your Boobs Challenge,” a social media campaign encouraging men and women to share photos of themselves holding a can of coke between their breasts to raise breast cancer awareness, surfaced on Facebook. Hundreds of people participated in the challenge and shared photos of themselves to social media. But soon after it took off, the breast cancer “awareness” campaign was revealed to be a hoax started by Danny Frost, a talent scout for an adult entertainment company, and model Gemma Jaxx, according to Elite Daily. The pair allegedly started the challenge to make fun of campaigns like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

Many people voiced their concerns over the distasteful prank on social media, among them Aimee Fletcher, a 32-year-old who was diagnosed with breast cancer 12 months ago and was recently diagnosed with bone metastasis, BuzzFeed News reported.

After hearing about the fake challenge while at a funeral for a friend who had died from breast cancer, Fletcher decided to post her own take on the campaign:

Breast cancer is not fun and sexy,” Fletcher told BuzzFeed. “The treatment is grueling… It’s not glamorous and why people decide to take photos of the part of the body that breast cancer destroys is beyond me.”

To learn more about Fletcher’s story, visit her blog.

h/t HuffPost Impact

Sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night.

1k
1k
TOPICS
,
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

How This Woman's 'Boob Picture' May Help Save Lives

1
1

Lisa Royle never thought she’d share a “boob picture” on Facebook, but now, her photo may help save others’ lives.

The 42-year-old mother from Manchester, England, posted the picture below last week to let others see the subtle symptom that helped her detect her breast cancer. In the picture, Royle highlights the small dimples that tipped her off.

Ok so I never thought I'd post a boob picture on Facebook but I thought I would before it gets chopped off next week....

Posted by Lisa Royle on Monday, May 11, 2015

 

“Very subtle dimples underneath that could easily be missed when we’re all rushing round getting ready in a morning,” Royle wrote on Facebook on May 11. “Please take time to look at your boobs. It could save you’re [sic] life.”

In just over a week, her photo was shared more than 64,000 times from her Facebook page.

After visiting a doctor, Royle was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer, according to Manchester Evening News. On Monday, she underwent a mastectomy, the outlet reported, and is now in recovery. Next, she’ll receive radiation and chemotherapy.

h/t Yahoo Health

 

Sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night.

1
1
TOPICS
,
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

I Made This for a Friend’s Mom Who Had Cancer. Her Response Made Me Cry.

I was in eighth grade. It was a beautiful May morning. I was in second period, Social Studies. I sat in a group of people who were all my friends. Some I met just that year, but one I had known for what felt like forever.

He was a great kid (and still is). I think of him as less of a friend, and more like a brother I never got the privilege of having. His name is Nick, and his family had become my second family. One of his family members that I was closest with was his mother. Karen. God, how I loved her and her family, just as my own.

On this May morning in Social Studies, I heard something weird. Nick was at his desk, whispering for me to come over there. Because I knew him so well, I thought, Oh, he’s just going to burp in my ear or something, and I believe I spoke something similar for him to hear aloud.

I was wrong – so very wrong.

His tone changed. His face tensed up. He wasn’t going to burp in my ear. He demanded that I came over to his desk. I did, and when he said to come closer, I got scared. I held my breath. He slowly and quietly uttered the words:

“My mom has cancer.”

It hit me like a rock. I could barely get the words together enough to ask two questions: 1) What kind? 2) How bad? He gave me the best description he could. He said, “It’s bad… breast cancer…” and that was about the extent of the conversation, besides my closing statement: “I am praying for you – give her my best.”

I walked, with the wind taken from my sails, back to my desk, sat down, and began to think – trying to hold down the tears. I wanted to cry so very, VERY badly. I felt helpless. I couldn’t do anything at that moment, and that broke my heart.

I went home that day, right after school, and immediately got to work on making a card for her. I knew a simple “folded-a-paper-in-half” card was not going to suffice. I whipped out my giant drawing pad, and sketched the first word that came to mind: “HOPE.” I went on to fill the large paper with words that struck me as positive and encouraging. Each word was written in pink, the color for breast cancer.

The very next day, I brought it back to school, rolled up, with a love-filled long letter, and handed it to Nick. All I said was, “Give this to your mom.” Then I left him my phone number, so he could message me to tell me if she liked it or whatever. That night, my phone goes off with a two-paged message from him, telling me all about how much she loved it, and how dear she kept it to her heart.

I bawled my eyes out. Reading that message made me feel so good – so glad that I was able to bring her even the smallest ray of sunshine during such a dark time in her life. I never had a feeling like I did there. Over the coming weeks, I talked a lot with Nick, and his cousin, so that I could get updates.

One Saturday morning, I got a text with a picture attachment. The message read: “Here’s my mom going in for her first surgery. She’s holding your sign. She loves it. She takes it everywhere.” Yet again, I started crying. Then another message came through a few hours later.

That message also had a picture attachment. The words below it read: “Here’s my mom – out of surgery, and recovering. She is standing by your sign, and she still hasn’t stopped saying how much she loves it… Thank you!” Here we go again, here comes the water works…

Time passed, and I never stopped asking, praying and wondering. The text messages became sparse, and I had to make do with what I could. One day, late in the afternoon, I got a message saying that Karen kept the sign I made for her, hung on the wall above her bed, and that she continues adoring it always.

Recently, I messaged Karen to ask how she was doing, and I got the marvelous news that she is cancer-free now, and has been for a little while.

I reminded her that I love her, and think of her often. We spoke of memories, and how we need to get together again soon.

I always knew she could do it… I believe my doubt was in whether or not I could handle it. I am blessed to see her recover so well.

Want to help celebrate the human spirit? Like us on Facebook.

And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Real People. Real Stories.

7,000
CONTRIBUTORS
150 Million
READERS

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.