This is something I wrote in the fall of 2006 after getting diagnosed. I wanted to add it to my blog, so I hope you enjoy reading it a second time, if you've already read it once before. It was also published as the Parent Perspective in the Catlin Gabel Dialog.
Cancer sucks. There's no doubt about it. There isn't any way to say it nicely. Or even easily. The words don't roll off my tongue voluntarily. I have to force them out. Each time I say it, I can hardly believe it. It's hard to accept. I have cancer. It's true. Thinking or feeling otherwise doesn't change it. It's still there. No matter how hard I try and forget. I have cancer. Those three words have changed everything.
It's my new normal. If you can call it that. I can't change it. I can't control it. I can't make it all better. I can't pretend it didn't happen. I can't make it go away. I can't explain it away. I can't justify it. It just is. I just have to accept it and deal with it and live on the best I can. For my family and my children. I have to make the most of it, learn from it, become a better person because of it, and fight like heck so i can be there for my two children as they grow up and experience what life has to offer. I don't want to miss a single moment. I want to be there when they get their first girlfriend/boyfriend; graduate from high school, go off to college, get their first jobs. When they get married and have kids. I want to see them win Olympic gold medals. And I want to be a grandmother. I want to live to be 90 and die of natural causes. Not cancer. Cancer sucks.
I also want them to grow up with a mother who loves and knows them like only a mother can. I can tell by just a look if they are coming down with something. If they are sad, or happy. I know them like I know my own heart. They are my heart. Everyone needs a mom, even when they are 40 years old like myself. I want them to feel my love and draw strength from it; to know I will always be there for them, in good times and bad. I want to nurture them, love them, care for them, protect them and inspire them to be great human beings. And I want to be there to see how they turn out. It's what I look forward to most. But it's possible I might not be there to see it. Because...I have stage IV cancer. And cancer sucks.
There is no cure. Only hope that they will find one someday soon. Hope that I will win this fight and be in remission. Hope that I will live to see my children blossom into teenagers and adults.
So it's very important that I scrapbook and journal my memories for them today. I want to leave a piece of myself for them in photos and writings so, if and when I'm gone, they can look and read through their scrapbooks and journals and know how much I love them, whether I am here on this earth or not. I want them to know how I feel, what I think, and how very proud I am of them. I never want them to forget me and my love.
Cancer sucks. But life doesn't. Cancer actually affected my life positively, if you can believe that. Had I not been diagnosed with cancer on June 10th, 2006, I would not have known the strength and love of my community. I can honestly say that my family and I have a whole army supporting us. Bringing us dinners; cleaning our house; calling; sending emails, cards, letters; organizing playdates; carpooling my kids and I (I can't drive during chemo weeks) to our various activiities; sending gifts; giving pedicures and massages; scheduling movie nights; donating plants for the "healing garden" in our backyard; and countless other things. We appreciate it so much, and are so very thankful, grateful and lucky. It's like I got cancer and won the lottery all in one day.
Through this experience I've learned a great deal. I've definately learned how to become a better friend and member of the community from the examples that are being shown to us. I've learned to not sweat the small stuff. It's not important. I've learned to be thankful and happy for each day. To make and take time for the important things. To give more hugs and kisses. To tell everyone I love them on a daily basis. To talk on the phone more. To go on playdates with my friends. To slow down and enjoy the ride. To be more tolerant, patient and forgiving.
I've also learned how strong I am and can be. It hasn't been easy, that's for sure. Our world was turned upside down in a day. Without warning. But I survived the summer, and I'm doing well, and tolerating the chemo, and everyone tells me how great I look. I believe it has to do with all of the positive thoughts, wishes, prayers that have come my way via the community. It gives me hope. I tuck them all into a little pocket of my heart and draw strength from them. I must have done something right in this lifetime to deserve the love and support I'm receiving. I am so thankful for it.
I do have difficulty accepting help, but I'm learning how to do that, too. People want to help. They want to do something, to feel like they are making a difference. They care and want to show it. It's hard for me, an independent woman who is used to giving, to receive. But I'm working on it. It's making me a better person and, in turn, it's making my children better people too. Everyone around me is affected positively. It's quite extraordinary.
I've been journaling a lot since this all happened. It's so important to get the words down. I'm also keeping a journal for each child in which I write to them nightly/daily and they have the opportunity to respond to me in their journal - or not. This is difficult for them to go through, and giving them a safe place to record their thoughts and feelings or ask questions of me is very important. We've tried so hard not to have this disrupt their lives, but how can it not? Sometimes they respond, sometimes they don't. But they do look forward to reading their journals every day. I usually do my journaling at night before bed and leave the books for them to read at the breakfast table. Sometimes I journal about how well they did in their respective soccer games or on their homework. Sometimes I get heavier and talk about my chemo. I find that children open up more in their journals and find it an easier way to communicate. It provides a safe place for them to speak.
If and when my time comes, now or much later, I know that my children will have words and pictures to remember me by. Memories to hold on to and pull out and touch and read when they miss me or need some reassurance. They will know how much I love/loved them. They will hear my words and hopefully keep a connection with me to see them through difficult times. They can read through their journals and laugh and cry over the stories and adventures of the past, and draw strength from this mother's love. I always end my journal entry with "p.s. i love you." That love will live on in these books, whether I'm here or not.
So as you can see, I'm not "living happy every after" like the fairytale I had planned in my head, but I am "living" and I'm "happy." It's hard. Don't get me wrong. Cancer sucks. But like in the fairytales, you've gotta kiss a lot of frogs before you get to your happy ending. Cancer is just one of my "frogs." My life is now a "fractured fairytale."