Coping as both a mother and having breast cancer are two difficult challenges. Both require your time, energy, attention and emotional stability. Even though going through breast cancer and raising two young children seems too much to handle, the kids are the ones who helped me survive. When the world seems like a dark place, your children become the light at the end of the tunnel.
One of the first thoughts I had when I learned that I had breast cancer was, “How am I going to tell my daughter?” At the time, she was 9 years old and enjoying (plus navigating) her own life. Nine is already a very difficult age for a girl. I really didn’t want to add cancer into the mix.
We are also very close and have a loving connection. Her father — my late husband — passed away when she was only 6 months old. So the idea that I had cancer, and all of the ramifications that come with it, just seemed unbearable. My son was just 2 years old, so he didn’t need to know, but it still choked me up at the thought of not being around long enough to raise him the way I had planned.
I found out that I had cancer on a Friday. My dad normally picked my daughter up after school, so I just let her spend the night so I could get myself together to talk to her. I knew full well that I needed to be strong and open so she could express her emotions freely. I dreaded it, and I knew other family members who could step in and talk to her for me, but I owed it to her to tell her myself.
When she came home the next evening, my stomach was in knots and my hands were freezing. I really didn’t want to do this, but the time had come. After making small talk, we went in my bedroom so I could focus.
I told her as honestly as I could what the doctor had said, and that I needed to return to the doctor to find out the next steps. I told her that I would remain honest and open with her. I would let her know when she should worry, but as far as I could tell, my cancer should be treatable. My daughter took the news remarkably well and with great strength. She handled the news much better than I could ever have imagined.
I had a lumpectomy and my doctor had hoped to remove all the cancer cells, but soon found out that I still had breast cancer. Having to tell my daughter that the lumpectomy would probably take the cancer away, and now the news that I still had cancer but that everything should be all right, was again going to be difficult. My husband and I handled this one together, and we all shed some tears. We were all in a bit of a shock and didn’t know what the future held.
Both my children became the greatest support system I could ever hope to have. My daughter drew pictures for me and we would sing together. My son was his silly little self and kept me on my toes. They helped me without even knowing it. They kept me from wallowing in despair because I needed to be there for them.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms who aren’t just battling cancer, but being the best moms they can be for their children.
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