Becoming a mother is an exciting and wonderful journey. But what happens when that journey is disrupted with the diagnosis of breast cancer? What then? What are the best ways to handle motherhood and your breast cancer battle at the same time?
Being a mother is such an exciting, difficult, challenging, and wonderful thing. We thank our mothers for the love and care they've given us, and we strive to be the best mothers we can be for our children. But when a diagnosis of breast cancer steps into your life as a mother, what then? Naturally, the first thought will be of your children. How will I care for them? How will life go on for us as a family through my diagnosis and care? What happens when I can't care for them? What happens if I don't win this battle? In this two-part blog, we will be discussing what to do and how to handle parenthood while going through both your diagnosis and treatment. In the second post, we will be discussing and sharing some of the best resources out there for you to help through this journey.
At first, there might not feel like there are a ton of resources out there for you. As we discussed in our November blog, it's is still rare to be a young woman with a young family and be diagnosed with cancer. But, it still happens more than most realize. As a mother in this situation, you will be dealing with the same amount of day to day struggles and responsibilities, but it will get even harder when that diagnosis comes. You will now be facing treatment, care, long hospital stays, surgeries, and not feeling like yourself or very good at all while still dealing with your normal load of life. It is almost like your life has been split into two, and you have to live through both of them at the same time.
It is going to be difficult. That fact won't be a mystery to you. Being apart is hard, but with love and devotion, you've made that an integral part of your life. With this same kind of love and devotion, you can fight this battle as a parent. Please know that you're not alone. You might feel like you are, you might feel disconnected from your family and loved ones but you're not. Once the diagnosis comes, your first duty as you approach the battle is to rally your troops. If not for you, then for your children. Show them that they too will not be alone. The family dynamic might change while you're fighting your diagnosis, but there will be a parade of love and care for them and you if you let it.
There are many important things to keep in mind when going through your diagnosis as a parent. You will need to find the best fit for you and your family, make informed and family-based decisions on what's best for all of you, and your decisions will not be the same as anyone else's. This is all okay. Here are some tips and ideas to keep in mind as you begin this journey, together.
You are still a parent when you receive your diagnosis, this is not your fault. Your children want to help you, love you, and support you on this journey. Let them in. Know when to say no, be strong enough to set boundaries and to let people in, and know when it's time to ask for help. You will not hang up your superhero mom cape when it's time to ask for help or when treatment has you beat. If anything, it makes your cape that much stronger. We will see you next time for part two of this blog. Until then be well, keep fighting, and go into 2020 with your head up.
It's December already, how did that happen? Have you heard so many holiday greetings that you're going green in the face? Happy December! How ironic is that sentiment? The world around you is moving fast in Christmas trees, holiday lights, family gatherings, mountains of food, and holiday activities. But where does that leave you? We know a lot of people, especially this time of year, wouldn't come out and say this. But we will. When was the last time you were able to enjoy those things? When was the last time you went to a family gathering without dread or fear of being exhausted? How many festivals, plays, and fun holiday activities have you already missed because of the fight you're waging constantly? We realize with Christmas and many other holidays coming and going, it might not be a very happy time for you. A lot of people use the end of a new year and the exciting dawning of a new one as a time of hope, excitement, and starting a list of resolutions. But for you, it might be a different story.
It's hard to start a new year with hope when you're just hoping to get through another day. It's hard to have hope because you don't want it to be the last one with your loved ones. It's hard not to think that the end of this year might be the end of time, the end of life, or that you're running out of time. You might be focusing so hard on trying to make everything look and seem normal that you're overcompensating with buying more, doing more, and trying to be more. You're trying to make this time count. We understand that a new year for you doesn't necessarily mean new beginnings. It might mean the end of so many of your beginnings, your fight, your journey. The pink ribbons fade, you're tired of hearing the same news from your doctors and nurses, and you just want life to get back to normal. We want you to know that you're not alone. You might be tired, but you are worthy. You've gotten up time after time when you've fallen. You've kept going for your loved ones, for yourself, and sometimes maybe even out of spite. This year as you start decorating for the holidays - or decide not to celebrate at all - know that your silent thoughts, fears, heartache, and loneliness are not unheard or unfelt.
We respect that what this blog might offer might not be what you need or want to hear. Know that we respect your journey and someone is out there with the same weight on their heart as yours. The holidays are hard, there is no doubt about that. The stress of the holidays causes many people to get sick. Those with breast cancer will be affected by this stress much harder than the rest. Warriors, we know this might be your last holiday. The thought weighs on you that your families might not have you for the next. You could be worrying and thinking of other families who have lost their loved ones before this holiday. You might be worrying about who will take care of the little details and the special things that make this time of year special for your family. You might be thinking that you don't want them to think about a holiday without you, or about losing you in general.
But the holidays are still coming, nothing is stopping that. You want to enjoy them, but how can you bake or cook your favorite holiday meals when you can't eat? How can you enjoy going out and celebrating when this last treatment kicked you down? What about wrapping gifts, hanging ornaments, or playing in the snow when your hands and feet aren't working like they normally do, thanks to your chemo? Try and remember that this is your time now. Be gentle. Accept where you are today and where it will lead you tomorrow. Get rest, don't make hard plans, and know it's ok to skip out on a tradition or two. Talk about what you need and what you don't need. Throw out the "should be's" the "expectations for the holidays" how "you've always done it this way", and focus on your priorities. Pull your loved ones in, and let these other things go. Believe me, Santa will understand. Give yourself permission to celebrate in your own way, to have this day, and to know that you deserve the next.
What about the holidays after treatment? You've been so focused on just getting through and going through the motions that everything seems a little out of focus. What should you do now? Get outside, reflect on how far you've come, don't let the fear of missing out ruin your time. There is nothing wrong with changing how you celebrate. But there is also nothing wrong with trying to do the little things you love this time of year.
Families, let your warrior celebrate. Buy them the things they love. Maybe this year these things will mean a little bit more. If it's from the heart, it will always be a gift worth giving. Cancer may be a scary word, but your loved ones don't want to be feared. They don't want you to be afraid. This might be the last holiday, so why fill it with doubt or sadness? Life has already given them that. So it is your gift to give them to give love and light.
Warrior, I know you are tired. I know you are lonely. I know you feel unheard and unseen. I know you feel weak and sick. I know you feel angry, sad, confused, and lost. But warrior, I know that you have a good map, a good heart, and a good head on your shoulders. I know that this holiday can still mean something to you.
We have been reading some incredible blogs of women with metastatic cancer recently, and one ended with "survive and shine". It hurts to know that so many of these blogs were published weeks, months, and years ago and their writers might not be with their families this year. But this holiday season, I challenge you to survive and shine for you, your loved ones, and those beautiful warriors who are no longer with us. Make it your own, and make sure you shine as brightly as you can.