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

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