When envisioning life after cervical cancer, Tricia did not imagine how it would include or impact her children. Four years later, she is left feeling guilty when she has to tell her two children that they won't have any other siblings. She knows that one day they will understand, but how does she cope in the meantime?
My children know that cancer sucks and it can kill you. They also know that I had it and am still here. What they don't know yet is that cancer is reason why they don't have any more brothers or sisters. And to them, this is a big deal. To me, it is only part of the very big deal that is cervical cancer and how it changed my life forever.
As I was putting my five-year-old son, Jason, to bed recently he looked and me and said, "Mommy, I wish I had a little sister to take care of."
While my heart was breaking, as it had done countless times in the last four years, I looked at his angelic face and replied, "I'm sorry."
Jason reached up to give me a hug and the reassurance that it was "ok." He has an older sister he can take care of but that certainly was not the point.
Jason was only 18 months old when I was diagnosed and treated for cervical cancer. Based on pathology reports and the aggressive nature of the cancer, I decided to have a hysterectomy in order to rid my body of this disease and, of course, my future of having more children. The decision to do so was not an easy one and I know someday when I share this with my son he will understand. Hopefully at that point I won’t be apologizing anymore, but why do I feel sorry now?
Our plan was to have more children but cervical cancer wasn't something we anticipated when we drafted the blueprint of our family life. We could have never imagined something like this could happen to us. Nothing in life can prepare you for when you are diagnosed with cancer. In addition, my fertility was now threatened which made this experience all that more devastating and life changing.
No more apologies.
I suppose like most parents I want to give my children everything their little heart's desire. Yet here I am faced with a seemingly simple request that I cannot fulfill, which leaves me not only apologizing, but also feeling guilty. Had I rolled the dice and not had a hysterectomy, I could have had another child. Then I could say, "sure, here is your little sister (or brother) to take care of, Jason."
But I could have also had a recurrence which could have led to more serious health complications and a much less happy ending to "My Life: the Story."
You face so many unimaginable and surprising things when you have cancer. If you are lucky, you break through them and come out the other side feeling like a superhero. There may be the residual feeling that you need to apologize or random pangs of cancer guilt, but one day you will fully appreciate the decisions you made. I know that, eventually, both of my children will be thankful that I got a hysterectomy for my own health and for our family. By then, too, I will stop feeling sorry and instead I will feel good about beating cervical cancer and working to educate others on how to prevent it.
My children don't know how lucky I am. But someday they will. Until then, I will continue to be thankful for the second chance on life I was given and cherish those special hugs I get at bedtime.