A brave mother of two whose life turned upside down shares her story on her personal blog and teaches us how getting sick and battling with a disease like cancer can affect the life of the whole family. This mother who happened to work as an oncology nurse though she knew all about cancer, until she was diagnosed herself. That’s when she realized it was way worse that it seemed. This is her story.
My son was almost 3 1/2 when I was diagnosed, and his little sister was just 5 months old. We were still adjusting to the busy life of a family of 4 and getting everyone’s schedules straight. The day I found out I had cancer was a blur. I specifically remember thinking I would let myself have a pity party for a few hours, but when it was time to get the kids from school- I had to suck it up and act normally. There was still so much to process and so much we didn’t know about my prognosis.
I did ok that first night- dinner, baths, and story time as usual. Harrison and I sang his special goodnight song and I rocked Evelyn in her chair. I went to bed early and surprisingly slept like a rock, I’m sure from pure mental exhaustion.
But the next morning… the next morning was hard. I woke up to realize the nightmare was actually real- and when I walked into my son’s room to wake him up for school, I lost it. Seeing his worry-free, peaceful, sleeping face and knowing that his innocent world was about to be turned upside down just tore me apart. Especially since it had just gotten rocked by adding a baby sister in the mix.
The days that followed were busy with diagnostic biopsies and scopes. Cancer likes to keep you busy and take over your life right away. Soon, close family and friends began offering to babysit so we could get some rest or sort things out. I know they meant well, but after so many repeated offers, I finally broke down again and cried to my husband- “If one more person tries to take my kids away from me, I’m going to lose my mind!”.
I guess I just needed them around to feel normal, to keep distracted amidst all the awful waiting for results. We already had tickets to a baseball game for that first weekend after I found out- and we decided to still go. It was my first lesson in life with cancer- keep up your normal plans as much as you can. It turned out to be a great day full of distraction and smiles. I told myself from that day on, I would do everything in my power to not let cancer take away from any of their fun childhood memories.
“Hey buddy, Mommy and Daddy have something they need to tell you…”
That was the beginning of the hardest sentence I ever uttered to my son. I had known about my cancer for a few weeks and, after the tornado of events that take place during diagnosis, the plan of action was finally coming together. I was scheduled to have surgery the next day to move my ovaries up out of the field of pelvic radiation so I could start treatment.
Now it was becoming real. This was the first physical step towards fighting this cancer, my first scar of many. I could tell Harrison was already sensing something was going on, so I knew it was time to talk with him about it. But how? How do I prepare my sweet little boy for what was ahead, when I didn’t even know the answer myself? How do you assure them everything will be ok, when it very well might not be?
I’ve always encouraged my patients to be honest with their children when talking about cancer and illness, but facing that conversation myself made me question everything. Do we use the “C” word and lay it all out there? Do we just say Mommy’s sick? Do we attempt to hide it from him altogether to protect his innocence? Knowing my inquisitive little boy, we decided to keep it honest and got straight to the facts. We explained that I have a very different kind of owie in my tummy that’s called cancer. I told him the doctors will have to take it out with surgery and I’ll have to take a strong special medicine called chemo that will make me feel pretty yucky, via BoredDaddy