Mother, grandmother, librarian, military spouse, family life educator, take your pick! Debbie Legault was born in British Columbia, Canada to a former RCAF airman father and a Scottish War Bride mother and has lived in other Canadian provinces, Germany and California. Her latest role is as the author of “Mom...It's Cancer”, the story of supporting her 27-year-old daughter as they experienced breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.
The old saying is that spring is the season of hope, and this cancer caregiver writes how it feels like this spring has a bit more bounce in its step.
We are all coming out of a long winter that has felt even more difficult by the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on all our lives, but there appears to be light at the end of this long tunnel.
The old saying is that spring is the season of hope, and this year it feels like even spring has a bit more bounce in her step. And while fall will always be my favorite season, the hope that comes with this time of year is something I know a lot about.
There are practical sides to supporting someone going through cancer treatment that most of us are familiar with. What is spoken of very little, researched very little and recognized very little is the long-term impact on caregivers.
For the 16 months following my daughter’s diagnosis, I was more intimately engaged with my daughter than I have been with anyone in my entire life. We did a choreographed dance that only she and I will ever understand, the steps so intricate and complicated that it would be impossible to teach it to anyone else. Pieces here and there, yes. The whole dance? Never.
My daughter was one of the lucky ones and her cancer had a full response to treatment and her condition is now what is commonly called remission or no evidence of disease (NED). The truth of the matter is, however, that once you have had cancer, you can never really un-have it again. The fat lady never sings. She just keeps doing her warmup exercises in the background and you are never certain of whether she will appear on stage.
There is “The Before,” and there is “The After,” separated by hearing the words, “it’s cancer.” This is my life now. It will be my life until it ends. Because my daughter was so young at diagnosis, we both have a long time to live in “The After” and her future is full of a multitude of tests to go through and the unimaginably stressful waiting for results and the fingers crossed that it will be good news.
I have good days, and great days. It’s not as if my world has gotten so small that I can’t enjoy a little person climbing up into my lap asking for a story to be read. I laugh, hard, with my friends and family. I weep with joy when someone I love accomplishes something they’ve been striving toward.
I look at the sun shining through my window and experience gratitude in waking up each day to all the wonderful things that are in my life.But always, hovering on the edge of my consciousness, is an awareness that part of that gratitude is knowing that she is still here. That she lived. And because she lived, I have hope.
The hope that when she is far enough away from treatment that the baby she wants so badly will come to be. And then the hope that she will live long enough to enjoy all the wonderful things that motherhood can bring. All the wonderful things that I have been given from being her Mom.
Hearing her laughter, the first time a butterfly landed on the ground nearby. Watching her tie the satin ribbons of her ballet shoes. Smelling the rain in her hair after she had been outside jumping in puddles.Seeing her flip the tassel as she crossed the stage after accepting her degree. All the wonder that makes me hold her a little bit longer than she would like whenever we see each other now.
For me, hope is a constant companion. It runs a hand across my back in times of despair, whispering in my ear that it’s all going to be OK. It tells me that because she was so young, science is going to catch up with her disease and give us all the time we want. It tells me that I will hold her baby on my knee reading a story of what a brown bear sees.
Most importantly, hope lets out a warrior yell to drown out the fear when it gets so loud I am struggling to breathe. Hope makes it possible for me to live in “The After” without needing to crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head on that last night before she finds out test results.Hope is my superhero, and it has a mighty big cape.
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