Realizing My Daughter Is Here Because of Luck

A caregiver writes about her daughter’s breast cancer odds. “One of the most difficult things I deal with on a daily basis is realizing that I didn’t have to say goodbye to my child because of luck,” she writes.

I was contacted in the spring by another mother whose “too young” son had been diagnosed with cancer. When she went looking for resources to guide her in the best way to support her child, she found my article “You’re Never Prepared to Learn Your Adult Child Has Cancer” that was posted in September 2020.Because as an author I have a very open social media presence, she was able to message me, and we have communicated several times about how things are going. The most recent news was, to say the least, disheartening. Scans following the end of chemotherapy showed that his cancer has spread and so they are on to whatever plan B may be for him.

A 44-year-old woman with two young children I met this year was diagnosed with breast cancer in June.She was scheduled for chemotherapy to start and in preparation for what she knew was the impending hair loss, she dyed her beautiful long red locks blue because she knew they’d be gone in a few weeks and she wanted to do something to say goodbye in a fun way. The morning her treatment was supposed to start, she got a call that it had been cancelled because scans revealed that her cancer had metastasized to her liver. So, for now, she’ll be keeping her blue hair. Not sure what will happen to it with her plan B.

A close friend of mine who was diagnosed the month before my daughter Adrienne was with stage 3 breast cancer, which is curable if treated aggressively, died two weeks ago of brain metastases after undergoing almost constant chemotherapy since February 2019.Both of her children gave her grandbabies during that time, and she often told me that they were one of the main reasons she walked through every single treatment door the medical community offered her – plans A, B, C, D and to infinity.

Adrienne went through one cycle of chemotherapy and her cancer was fully responsive.

She didn’t do anything differently than these other people I know. She didn’t eat more kale or less sugar.She didn’t exercise more or less or meditate on a daily basis. She isn’t a better person, or a more faithful person or a more inspiring person. Her treatment wasn’t some radical new therapy or something from a clinical trial that she joined. She certainly didn’t fight harder, and she gets very annoyed when people speak of patients with cancer as having won a battle or a war because that suggests that those who didn’t could have defeated cancer if they had somehow done better. Like most people who are diagnosed with cancer, my daughter put one foot in front of the other, walked onto oncology wards, sat while chemotherapy medications were dripped into her veins, experienced the physical side effects and trauma that too often comes with cancer treatments and hoped it would work. And in her case, it did.

One of the most difficult things I deal with on a daily basis is realizing that I didn’t have to say goodbye to my child because of luck. I am lucky that she caught it early enough. I am lucky that her medical team was able to respond with such speed to get her into treatment. Most of all, I am lucky that the particular chemo cocktail they started with was the right match to kill her cancer, because cancer is still in the realm of mystery and in so many cases treatment is like throwing spaghetti at a wall hoping it will stick.

That’s a hard truth to accept when your loved one’s life is at stake. I’m still working on it.

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