Me? I’m healthy. I’m young (kind of young). I have children! How the hell can I have cancer?”
Dealing with a cancer diagnosis is hard enough. Dealing with the diagnosis as a young-ish parent is heart-breaking. While others without children or with grown children can focus almost completely on their own healing and their well-being, a cancer patient with dependent children must juggle their own care with that of the care of their little ones, compounded with the potential reality that they may soon leave their little ones without a mother or father.
I was/am that person, that worried mom wondering who will take care of her children when she dies.
In 2009 I was diagnosed with a soft-tissue sarcoma. I had no history of cancer in my family. I had no high-risk factors. I had a month to go until my next triathlon. And I had a 4- and 5-year-old boy. The cancer came with a vengeance. After surgery, radiation, and chemo, it was gone. A year later, it was back. Another surgery. Four rounds of a different kind of chemo. A third surgery, not counting the installation of an earlier port. Two more rounds of chemo for a total of ten. “Please be gone now.” Another scan. “Shit! More?”
Now the boys are 6 and 7. I’m still alive. In many ways, I’m alive more now than I’ve ever been. This mom-with-cancer “expertise” allows me to write this blog and hopefully provide some hope for other parents with cancer. Until our lives end, we’re here. We’re here for our children and our spouses. We’re here for ourselves. Our friends. And maybe our parents. Most of all, we’re here for other cancer patients, serving as role models of how to live a gracious life of strength and class in an absence of self-pity. We’re given the gift of the realization of death. We are slammed in the face with the fact that we are not immortal. Yes, we all die. We will die of cancer or a car crash or a chicken bone stuck in our throats, or maybe a heart attack while having some really great sex. The gift of cancer is death looking us in the face saying: I’m here. You will succumb to me at some point. How are you going to live the rest of your life? What memories will your children have of you when you die?
This blog is for my children so that they will know me when I die and will understand the struggle I went through as a cancer patient while I was alive. I love you, T.J. and Marcus.
Visit Shannon Maveety’s blog at http://kickingcancersbum.wordpress.com/2012/01/16/nine-months-later/