Being A Single Parent Is Hard Enough, Now Cancer?

Single Parents can understand the weight of taking care of their children on their own, but when it comes to their own health, and for Sunny, being diagnosed with kidney Cancer, it's a whole new story. Read more.

Four years ago, I was diagnosed with kidney cancer. In a matter of twenty-one days, I went from an initial routine health appointment, to having my left kidney removed. It was a whirlwind, and I don't think I ever fully processed what having cancer meant to me. Two years later, the cancer returned, choosing to take my remaining right kidney.

My local doctors confirmed my diagnosis after a painful biopsy, which left me bedridden for ten days. Initially the decision was to do Cryoablation for the tumor. Something about this didn't sit right with me. I had limited resources with my insurance coverage. My mother was in the hospital, and my father lived in Florida. Any advocating for my medical options would have to be done on my own. After days of online research and countless phone calls, I found hope at a hospital in Chicago.

I was touched and blessed when my father and his wife traveled to help with my kids while I went for a consultation. The doctor in Chicago disagreed with my local doctor and was concerned about maintaining my kidney. He did not feel Cryoablation was the best solution, as it presented too many risks of metastasis in the future. I needed major surgery to remove the tumor, so that I had better odds of avoiding dialysis on my remaining kidney. A week into January of 2014, I had my surgery. Just 48 hours later, I spent a gruelingly painful drive home to finish my recovery.

My father and his wife stayed and helped with my children, the household, finances, and cared for me. My life was already in a complete disarray. I was trying to stay strong for my three children. I didn't want them to be scared or worry, so I hid my tears and anxiety from them. Two weeks into my recovery from surgery, I faced more heartbreaking news. My mother's cancer was progressing, and her time was running out.

I eventually returned to work, but my life would never be the same. I have 90% of one kidney. Within six months, my blood pressure went up due to the additional strain on my kidney. I made diet changes in order to lower my blood pressure, but eventually I started medication for it. I saw it as a small price to pay considering the overall value of my health. Every doctor visit, whether oncology or primary care, has focused on my weight, diet, exercise, and stress levels.

Many single mothers will tell you that the hardest part of being a parent is taking care of yourself. We push ourselves to do the work of two parents. We are both a mother and a father on a daily basis. Taking care of myself is now priority, and trying to balance my health needs with my home and work responsibilities is a constant challenge.

This last year has been a wake up call for me, and I have surrounded myself with supportive friends who remind me to dedicate time for myself. I've set small boundaries for myself as a parent, like no longer killing myself to make it to every volleyball game. I continue to make my trips out to Chicago for medical testing and doctor appointments. I turn them into mini vacations for myself, so that I can make the most out of my health care visits.

I still struggle every day emotionally. I get angry and ask, "Why me?!". Exhaustion is a constant companion. There are still sleepless nights where I find myself worrying that the cancer may not really be gone. I struggle with my independence as a single parent and realize how necessary it is to ask for help from time to time. That being said, I feel like I can take on the world the day I get to walk out of my oncologist's office, with the report in hand that I am cancer free. Today I can say, I'm a single mother, I had cancer, and I am a survivor.

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