“I won’t give you up mom; you can be my mom forever.” Those were the words of my then three-year-old as we cuddled before bed on August 11, 2013. I held back the tears because I didn’t want to upset her. My three- and four-year-old daughters weren’t aware that I was diagnosed with advanced Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma just three days before. Our world was about to be turned upside down!
Due to my stage IV cancer diagnosis, my husband, two young daughters and I moved to Houston, Texas for the next four months so I could receive the best treatment possible at MD Anderson Cancer Center. My step-daughters stayed in Kansas with their mom, meaning our family was fragmented, leaving everyone without three primary members of our support system.
The Hardest Challenge
Four months of challenging treatment followed, and managing the medications, side effects and parenting my two little girls at the same time was the hardest challenge I have ever faced. During times when the side effects limited my strength and stamina, I also experienced extreme sadness and guilt because I couldn’t meet the needs of my girls. My heart ached when I didn’t have the physical or emotional energy to help them get their jammies on at night or make them lunch during the day.
After starting treatment, we told the girls that I was really sick and told them the sickness was called “cancer.” We said we hoped that the doctors could stop the cancer so Mom could feel better. They usually didn’t seem too bothered by my sickness or the fact that we moved thirteen hours away from the only home they knew.
No Big Deal
However, one memorable and heart-breaking moment occurred when I told them I was going to cut my hair short because the medicine was making my hair fall out. I also told them that I would eventually be bald. My four-year-old fell on the floor in tears because she didn’t want me to cut my hair. I pulled her up in my lap and told her that I was still going to be her mom just with short hair, then no hair, but it would grow back. My three-year-old then said, nonchalantly, “Yeah, she just won’t have any hair” and went back to playing. From that moment forward, throughout my treatment, I tried to mirror my three-year-old’s attitude… no big deal, just do what you need to do and get on with it! Keep calm and rock on!
How has adopting a “Rock on” attitude helped when you’ve faced challenges? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.