Does your child have cancer? In this guest blog post, the mother of a 3 year-old Rhabdomyosarcoma survivor talks about her experience of befriending other cancer families and the importance of those friendships.
As I sit at the funeral of a four year-old brain tumor patient, the saying "It's better to have loved and lost, then never to have loved at all"
is rolling around in my head. I question my decision to get close to fellow cancer families. Why do I do this to myself? Here I sit at yet another kid's funeral and my heart is ripped apart. I FEEL this Cancer Mama's pain...and it's not even my child.
Why do I put my heart out there? Why do I become friends with these kids that I KNOW have a really good possibility of dying?! I can hardly deal with my own child's illness and possible mortality. Yet here I am, with silent tears running down my face as they bury one of "our" babies.
It hurts too much, so I make a mental note to become one of those silent Mamas. No chitchat in the hospital halls, no checking up on the status of the admitted kid, no play dates with masks for everybody, no late night Facebook chats with a Mama in distress. "That's it, I'm cutting myself off." I'm done, I'm sick of my heart getting ripped open again just when I get it stitched up again.
As I sit here, I think of the families that come into clinic and avoid eye contact. They dip into a treatment room and hide from us (it feels like that anyway). At first I felt sorry for them, never communicating with anyone. But now I thought these "hidey" people were the smartest people in the world.
I sit a little taller and wiped my tears, trying to be proud of myself for making the decision to protect my heart. As I look around, I thought my new-found shield was gaining strength, but then I met eyes with the Cancer Mama who just lost her baby. She looks at me, starts crying and moves toward me with her arms open. "Shit, this is not part of my 'heart is closed plan,'" I think to myself.
I don't know what to do. She gives me the biggest hug ever, thanks me for coming, says that it "must be hard for me to be here" and whispers in my ear, "Us Cancer Mamas gotta stick together." SHIT shitty shit shit. She used my own words against me! I say that all the time to my group of fellow cancer Mamas, and here she is quoting me with my own words.
Cancer Mamas Stick Together
At that point I realized that it's true - us Cancer Mamas DO have to stick together! Through thick and thin, sickness and in health, we have bonded through our different paths with Cancer but we all are in this fight together. Even though our hearts hurt at the moment, they beam when we see each other and when we get that Christmas card with a healthy, fully grown-in haired child on the front. And you know what? Even at the funerals.
I'm here, my heart hurting for my fellow Cancer Mama. I'm here to represent all us Mamas out there. I'm here to respect and say good bye to the littlest cancer warrior I've ever met. I'm here, I'm present and I always will be. I hope we can blaze a trail of friendship and understanding for new cancer families coming in behind us! Do not be afraid to love your fellow cancer kids and supporters. You will be thankful that you did.
Thank you fellow Cancer Parents for opening your hearts to me, to us. Thank you for putting your heart on the line and your heart on your sleeve. I understand the risk you take opening your soul to others. I understand and I'm thankful.
Are you a cancer parent? Share your experiences with other cancer families in the comments below.