Let Others Help: With Love From One Mom to Another
- For Parents and Family
July 6, 2017
To all the parents of teens with cancer, this is the letter Amy (mother of 2017 Honorable Mention winner Abby, whose letter you can read here) wishes she had received, and the one she is writing you now. Her biggest advice is to cut yourself some slack — it’s a long, hard road. She also encourages you to let others help and gives practical tips on how to get started.
Dear Mother of a newly diagnosed teenage girl,
I know you are exhausted. You just spent the last 24 to 48 hours replaying in your head the words you heard from the doctor, “Your daughter has cancer.” Every time you close your eyes, you hear it wringing in your head. When you wake up, and your eyes open the next day, you are thinking that it’s just an ordinary day, but then that sick feeling creeps back into the gut of your stomach and you realize it’s all a reality. It’s not a dream. It’s a living nightmare.
I wish I could take the pain away from you. I know. I have felt that pain. I’m not sure if pain is even a word to describe the feeling. It’s like this gut wrenching feeling deep down inside that makes you not want to sleep or eat or drink anything. You are just existing while you watch the rest of the world pass you by. Your world has stopped. Except everyone else’s world keeps moving. Your child, your baby, is sick, extremely sick and you feel totally helpless.
I wish I could tell you that it gets easier with time. It really doesn’t get easier, but somehow cancer life becomes your new normal. The long chemotherapy drug names that are being spouted out to you right now will literally roll off your tongue in a matter of weeks. You will be able to look at a complete blood count and tell exactly what it means and be able to explain it to anyone. You will become an expert on how to flush a pic line or take a temperature half asleep. Somehow all that medical terminology and paraphernalia that you knew nothing about will become your day to day and you will become an expert in it all. But even though that is the case, there will be many days that you will reach over to your child and place your hand on their back while they are sleeping to just make sure they are still breathing. It’s only natural.
Give yourself some grace. Realize that you are not super mom. Your main focus is your child. I know you will feel guilty for not being able to give your other children your full attention. Or you will feel guilty that you are not being the wife or employee you want to be, but give yourself grace. Realize that you can only do what you can do. Live day by day. Literally, take it one day at a time. There were some days I took things hour by hour.
I will give you this little piece of advice. When people offer to help you, take them up on their offer. It may be something small or something big. Make a list of things that need to get done either around your house, or with your other children and start delegating things. People really do want to help. Usually people will want to make meals. Let them. Have a meal plan set up online that can be emailed out with one person as the contact person. Let someone clean your house or get your oil changed in your car or inspected. When someone offers to do a fundraiser, let them. You will run out of money, so let people help you. It is very humbling, but they want to help.
I will tell you this not to make you feel bad, but to prepare you. You will lose friends. You just will. I lost my best friend. You may even lose some family members. They don’t understand. They try to, at least some really do try. But others are so afraid that they will say the wrong thing or do the wrong thing, that they just stop calling you. And one week turns into a month, which turns into a year. Your main focus is your child, and rightfully so. It is ok to turn down invitations. I once had a friend say that I needed to take time for myself in order to take care of my child. I know people mean well, but they just don’t understand. What was I supposed to do? Tell my 15 year old daughter that I was going out with the girls because I needed to take care of myself. She could stay home and vomit on her own, while her hair fell out and she was too weak to walk. It’s just not feasible and they don’t understand that. But, you will also gain some amazing friendships with other cancer moms. You will have late night talks in the nutrition room or the hallway in the hospital with these other cancer moms. They will become friends that will last a lifetime. They see you at your worse, with no makeup, in your pajamas, with some days not even having a shower. But they love you through it and you offer each other hope for your children. You will come to love these other children and pray for them every day.
You are now part of a club that you never thought you’d be a part of. You are now a cancer mom. It’s a very hard thing to say out loud, but once you do, it starts to become your new normal. Know that you are not alone. There are many cancer moms out there. Reach out to them. You will begin to realize that you are all in this horrible cancer world together and somehow day by day you will get through it. One day will slowly turn into a month, which turns into a year and before you know it you will be counting down the days that your child has been off of chemo. You CAN DO THIS.
Amy, a fellow cancer mom