In the spring of 2011, at the ripe old age of 31, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It came as a shock. No one thought I had cancer, neither did I, but because of family history, my doctor sent me for what was supposed to be a baseline mammogram.
It ended up being a turning point in mine and my family’s life. In what felt like a blink of an eye, I went from bring “perfectly healthy” to stage iii breast cancer. I was shocked. My husband was shocked. My kids, who were 11, 8, and 5 were shocked.
My treatment was slash, poison, burn (which I think much better describes surgery, chemo, and radiation!). It was a rough time and was compounded by several sepsis infections, hospital stays, emergency surgeries, and a few ICU stays. I’m exhausted thinking about it, but now its 7 years later. Things aren’t perfect. I have a lot of side effects still from treatment, but I’m currently NED and just doing my best to roll with life.
Some days I do this with more grace than others, but somehow it all manages to work out! Mostly because my family somehow is still not tired of helping me when I need it!
Gryt is being mom even on the days when you don’t feel great.
Gryt is doing your best, even if you can’t do all the things.
Gryt is accepting help from others, even though it’s hard.
Gryt is living your best life, however that looks for you!
Get the scoop on what to expect and who’s moderating!
Join us on November 28th at 9pm ET / 8pm CT / 6pm PT for a LIVE conversation on Parenting with Cancer. Read below about our moderators, Christian and Brandie, two young adult cancer survivors who were both parents at time of their diagnosis. You can be part of the dialogue in the AppChat Discussion Room, located on the Stupid Cancer App which is free to download for both Apple and Android.
Parenting is a daily challenge. Parenting while facing a cancer diagnosis, going through treatment, or a survivorship phase is even more of a challenge. What it has taught me is to appreciate my kids in every way possible and to make the most of every interaction with them.
I’m just going to be brutally honest here. Parenting through my cancer diagnosis and treatment pretty much sucked. There is just no sugar coating it.
Often, even today, I feel incredible guilt for getting this cancer that has changed my children’s lives so drastically. Activities they had to stop participating in, places I couldn’t take them to, too many days spent inside watching TV because mom was too sick to take them anywhere. Days where everything felt overwhelming and I never felt like I was mom enough because of all the things I couldn’t do.
And yet, there were some days that were so amazing. Days where everything felt right (even if it wasn’t). Times where snuggling together with my kids and talking and laughing and just having fun made me forget we had to snuggle in bed because I was too sore to get out of it! All the times my children’s kindness to me went above and beyond. So many times I would think how did my kids, who share my DNA, figure out how to be so kind? I saw love and compassion just pouring out of them. You know that feeling when you see your child do something, even a simple thing, that just takes your breath away and makes you think my kid is the best person to ever walk the planet?!
Some point it just hit me: parenting with cancer is like parenting without cancer, except for the whole cancer thing. Is that clear as mud?
But here’s what I mean. With cancer, some days were hard and some easy. Just like before cancer. With cancer, some days I yelled too much and some days I could almost pass for Mary Poppins. Just like before cancer. With cancer, some days I didn’t do enough and some days I did it all. Just like before cancer. With cancer, some days we cried a lot, some days we laughed a lot, some days we did both. Just like before cancer.
This isn’t to downplay the role cancer has played in our lives, because it was a big one, but, it does make me feel more “normal” as a parent. Some days are good and some aren’t.
Every step of the way a complication or unexpected bump in the road. An initial benign diagnosis. A chyle leak from a lymphadenectomy. Extravasation during my first chemo treatment. Two PICC lines.
Since my own cancer diagnosis, I’ve chosen to be radiant. To do what I can to bring light to the darkness for those touched by cancer. I’ve experienced the anger, pain and hopelessness of diagnosis. Of treatment. Of not knowing. Of waiting. Of watching.
Although my journey was full of complications, the destination has allowed me to have a clear mission in my life. That mission is to help others in their time of need. Sometimes, it’s a calming voice. Or helping people find community. Other times, it’s being a sounding board, nodding and agreeing that someone’s circumstance is unfair.
I’m lucky. I’m experiencing the gift of remission, something a lot of people do not get to experience. I’m fortunate. And I’m not taking it for granted.
GRYT is riding a rollercoaster of emotions and not knowing the outcome.
GRYT is spinning a cancer diagnosis into a passion to help others.
GRYT is staying involved with the lives of my children during treatment.