Dealing with cancer is difficult. But when you have cancer and young children, it is very difficult.
Since my diagnosis, I have made an effort not to talk about my cancer, appointments or treatments in front of my children. I want their lives to stay as normal as possible, and I think it has. Sure there have been changes, but more or less, their lives haven’t changed.
Every parent thinks their children are the best. I’m no different. My kids are amazing and special, but to me they are the best medicine I could have ever asked for. I have come to learn that no amount of medicine makes me feel as good as a hug or cuddle from my kids. They are truly the best medicine for me throughout this whole process. Especially those first few days after chemo, when I couldn’t parent. When my daughter would check on me first thing in the morning, no matter how shitty I felt, I tried to be as much as myself as possible.
I do it for them, but in turn, it helps me.
I owe so much of my recovery to them. I truly believe that if I didn’t have them in my life, I’m not sure how I would be dealing with all of this.
When I was in the grey zone between discovering I had a tumor in my breast (not knowing at the time it was cancerous) and getting diagnosed, it was a very bad time for me. I spent days in the basement in the dark thinking I was dying. Dr. Google didn’t help either. Everything I would Google would confirm my worst fears that I was dying. I would watch time pass on the clock without doing anything. Just sitting and thinking the most horrible thoughts. It was an awful time.
By the time I got diagnosed, I decided I was going to focus on being positive. If not for me, for my kids. They are the reason I do everything I do. Ultimately I had a choice. I could choose to be depressed about my situation, but that wouldn’t be good for anyone. Instead I would choose to stay positive and happy (yes, you can have cancer and be happy!).
Part of being positive was shifting my goals and priorities. It was very hard, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to be the mom I was prior to diagnosis. My husband would have to take over the brunt of parenting while I was undergoing treatments. But I needed to be present. I wanted to be present. My kids need me, and I need them.
So as much as possible, I was present.
The first few days after chemo, it was usually just a snuggle in bed. Then once I was feeling stronger, I would join them for breakfast and dinner. Then as the days went on, life would be back to normal.
That summer, my husband did a lot of fun things with the kids without me. As much as I had major FOMO and it made me sad I wasn’t there with them, I knew I had to focus on them, the memories they were making, and the experiences they were having. By them being away I was also given an opportunity to rest and relax more than usual. Then by the time they were home, I felt more like myself, and spending time with them was awesome! Then they would come home, give me a hug and a kiss, and my heart melted into a puddle and all I worried about was that moment.
But my kids also made me do things that I would have not done before. That summer, with no hair and at my heaviest weight, I went swimming with my kids in a pool. Part of me wanted to hide, but ultimately I said “fuck it” and put on that bathing suit and swimming cap and went in my with family. Guess what? We had a great time! I wasn’t concerned with how I looked or felt. For once, I enjoyed being in a pool and splashing around with my kids.
After my mastectomy, I was worried about how snuggling with my kids would feel, but they didn’t notice. My son just adjusted where he put his head. They instinctively knew to be gentle and calm around me while I was recovering. They understood my physical limitations and worked with me to make life easier. My daughter would cuddle with me, and we would colour or watch a show on Netflix.
Again, my kids proved to be my best medicine.
There aren’t enough cuddles, kisses or hugs in the world to thank them for what they have done: how they helped me through the roughest most difficult days and months in my life and how my experience with cancer was different because of them.
I initially made a choice to be positive for them, but it helped me too. For that, I will be forever grateful.