A Mother's Wish: On Cancer, Health and Being There for Loved Ones

I really don't understand why some of us bear heavier burdens than others....

I have been in mourning the past five weeks. I haven’t written a word about cancer since the last quick edit of a piece that I frantically submitted to Cure from a hospital bed. This hospital stay was not for myself this time. This was a week in Boston’s Children’s hospital for my 8-year-old daughter. Without getting into the very long, terrifying and complicated story…my 8-year-old will be just fine. But she will face her own medical challenges day in and day out for the rest of her life with a new medical “condition” as we call it…because “disease” is one of those words we try not to use because it sounds like something with an end. And frankly, after living through the big C word, well…we try to keep things on the lighter side these days.

These past weeks, I have learned the highs and lows of navigating through this new normal of keeping my daughter alive and well. I have had many opportunities of emotion seize me…the kind of raw emotion that writers long for when the well is dry. But, in these very trying and overwhelming five weeks, I can’t even come close to my computer; I am too afraid to lose control, to let it all out — everything I have kept in control of since that ambulance ride down to Boston with my 8-year-old barely conscious, and of course, all the spillover from battling my own medical crisis the year before…all those months of pure numbness in between surgeries, pet scans and bloodwork.

This new normal for me and my family brings out some hidden and suppressed anger I have had since my diagnosis, recovery and now so-called “remission” from cancer. I am so mad I could shriek. It is just not fair. My girls have always been my “why.” But to now have one of them with a disease she will have to manage and live with the rest of her life scares me to death and makes me fear my own mortality. I MUST be here to keep her well. It is my job. I am a mother, and it is my job to be alive and well and keep my family alive and well.

I pride myself on being someone who is tough, someone who displays strength and control despite chaos going on around her. Right now, I feel close to completely unravelling, and I blame this all on the beast, cancer. My child deserves to have me around unconditionally so she can learn to roll up her sleeves, dig deep and fight a proud, dignified and brave fight.

I have moments when I really don’t understand why some of us bear heavier burdens than others. I sometimes wonder if I were a little weaker maybe the universe would leave my family alone or at least give us a break for a few years. Some might say we only get what we can handle and that God only gives us what we can handle. I’m not sure I’m falling for that one. But I do know there is absolutely nothing I can do about the cards I have been dealt…regarding my health and that of my daughter’s. What I do know is I can play the hell out of the hand I’ve been given and hopefully, my girls will follow my lead and continue to put the big girl pants on and fight like hell.