Sam’s (Mom’s) Story: Once a Cancer Mom, Always a Cancer Mom

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Each day a different guest blogger will be featured who will generously share their personal experience with childhood cancer.  Stories are always more potent than statistics.     

By Pauline Grady

I’ve been thinking a lot lately.  I’ve come to a point in this journey that I am feeling a little lost.  It’s a common issue.  Sam is almost done with treatment, but 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 have felt since the beginning.  How lost I was, how much I felt that I had found a side of myself that I never knew existed and how I am now feeling lost again.  Lost, found, lost.  It is amplified when I meet the newer moms.  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 will continue to hear those words.

SeptemberSam1

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.

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Dear New Cancer Mom,

I’m sorry.  I am sorry that you are part of this group.  I am 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 somedays 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 that are constantly unhappy with their lives and remind them of how precious life is.

Stay positive, things do get better, but be a realist too.  Don’t allow people to make you think that your anxiety and worry is not justified.  It is.  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, well….it will change your life.

Document your journey.  Whether it be a journal, a blog, pictures, videos.  Document it.  People may ask “why would you want to document this part of your life.”  It’s a reminder my friends, a reminder of the battle.  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 that will support you the entire time, and others that just can’t keep up, that are tired of altering their life to accomodate you.  Those are the ones who don’t understantd.  There is no need for you to explain, so don’t.  You have a sick child, there is no explanation needed.  Move forward and don’t hate them for it.  It’s just a reminder of how difficult this life is and that some people chose to step back when things get to rough.

If you have a spouse, spend time with them alone as much as possible, go out on dates when you are able to and take a nap when the opportunity is there.  Don’t complain to much about the little things, it’s not worth it.  Pay it forward,  there are many, many people that will help you.  Some people that you don’t even know.

Swallow your pride and ask for help when needed.  Surround yourself with people that understand and know what you are going through.  No matter how much others claim to know what you are 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% 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 3 years is 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 battle 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.  #onward

Sincerely,

A Cancer Mom

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This post originally appeared in Pauline’s blog about her son’s cancer treatment, chemoanddonuts.  Pauline’s son, Sam, finished his leukemia chemo protocol yesterday (!), but she will always and forever remain a Cancer Mom.  

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