Dana Stewart was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 at the age of 32. She is the co-founder of a cancer survivorship organization called The Dragonfly Angel Society. She volunteers as an advocate and mentor, focusing on young adults surviving cancer. She enjoys writing about life as a cancer survivor, as well as connecting survivors to the resources, inspirations and stories that have helped her continue to live her best life, available at www.dragonflyangelsociety.com.
When I was asked to be a godmother as I was going through cancer, I started my journey as a godmother. Seven years later, I am seeing what I wasn't sure I'd live long enough to see.
This past month, I had the opportunity to see my godson's first communion. It was a special moment for me for multiple reasons. For starters, I can't believe how grown up the little guy is getting. It feels like just yesterday we were celebrating his birth and now, seven years later, we are celebrating his first communion. The other major reason is that I wasn't sure I'd live to see this day. I was diagnosed with breast cancer a month before he was born. I don't have children of my own, so being a part of his life as a godparent is one the most important roles of my life.
As I mentioned, I was diagnosed with breast cancer about a month before my godson was born. I was 32 years old at the time. I was trying to make all the important decisions that need to be made in the blink of an eye. One of those decisions on the breast cancer road is what to do about fertility. Of course, I had no clue this was yet another decision I had to make. I thought my choices were mastectomy or lumpectomy and potentially a choice of chemo or radiation. I didn't realize I had to decide what I wanted to do about my fertility. That decision was surprisingly a lot more painful to me than any other, and one I rarely talk about. It's just too painful. With that being said, the decision I ended up making means I am unable to have children and I will leave it at that. So, a month after my friend gave birth to her second child and approached me with the biggest question someone can ask of another — "Will you be my son's godmother?" – I almost couldn't speak. I was so overwhelmed, honored and let's be honest, a bit scared. However, the answer was easy and with no hesitation I accepted the amazing honor.
Move forward a month and the baptism coincided with my chemo treatment #3. I had no hair and felt less-than-stellar, physically. However, I was so excited for the day as I felt like I was making my new role as godmother official. To be honest, I am not very really religious, so I was not 100 percent sure what to expect but knew this day was a biggie. As I drove to the church, I found myself reflecting on the honor my friend had graced me with. Then I started wondering how in the world she could choose someone going through cancer to be her son's godmother. All I kept thinking is what if I don't make it? What if I don't live another year? How could she possibly choose me? I know it sounds a bit morbid, but to me, it felt like a natural form of questioning and it scared me a bit. Here I was at my godson's baptism making a pledge to this child, as I stood there with no hair, feeling burnt out from the cancer treatment and probably looking as sick as a cancer patient can look halfway through chemo.
Flash forward seven years later back to the communion. Oh, had things changed. I felt great — my hair was back on top of my head and the best news so far is that I was still living in this world seeing this day as it was happening. Some of my friend's family who didn't know me quite that well and/or haven’t seen me since the baptism looked at me as if they knew me but weren't sure. One family member asked me if I was his godmother. After saying yes to her she was so excited. "You are healthy and look so well! I thought I remembered you but…." And I finished the sentence for her: "But I had no hair and was going through cancer treatment, yes." She smiles, asks about my health and we chat about how long it's been.