Mama Diaries: What Cancer Does to a Mother

cancer stories

This week’s mama diary is a resubmission from a warrior mama who found a lump in her breast while her second child was only 7 months. She battled with herself knowing she had to stop breastfeeding and move onto formula – not that formula was wrong, but that it she had to give up the connection a lot sooner than she wanted to, especially when her body at the time was still producing. She ended up receiving a double mastectomy and this was only one of the many things that cancer seem to have taken from her. Her diary entry, below:


 

cancer stories

If you saw me walking down the street or met me at the park with my kids, you would have no idea the nightmare I have been thru. It is even hard for me to believe it, that is until I look in the mirror and the harsh reality stares back at me. My once long beautiful brown hair is now something resembling a mop of brown hair that stands straight up! Sure, my boobs may look full and great (no longer saggy from breast-feeding two children), but to me they are completely numb, and sometimes feel like strange weights that are somehow glued to my chest. I always joked about wanting a boob job after kids, but I’d take my old saggies any day just to feel like me. These things suck, but they are just the surface, and if cancer teaches you anything, it is that there is so much more than what is on the surface.

Cancer steals the ability to not look beyond the surface. It forces you to go deep within and think about the scary dark stuff that our minds usually protect us from thinking about. The thoughts of what will happen to my children if I am not here? Who will kiss their little heads a million times a day and breathe in the sweet smell, that no other being on this planet has. Who will wipe their tears when they fall, and what if I miss seeing them grow up and walk down the aisle or become parents themselves. Then I realize, I am surrounded by love. My husband a pillar of strength and reason, my family, one that only knows how to love and support, and my friends who made sure our family was fed for months on end when I was undergoing treatment. Yes, my children would be ok, but what is not ok, is me. I am not ok with the idea that I would miss those things. I am more than not ok, I am pissed off and I will not accept that. I am strong and “brave,” but honestly, isn’t this how any mom would respond? Sometimes, I just have to let myself be angry. No this is not fair, I hate that cancer took away my ability to be invisible. I hate that sometimes I still reach for my head at night to check if my hair is there, to confirm that this is in fact my reality and not just a nightmare. I sometimes wonder why me? I could answer this a million ways, but the way I choose to look at it is that I don’t believe life would deal me a hand that I couldn’t handle.

cancer stories

Cancer is scary. It makes us re-evaluate the way we see the world. As cliché as it sounds, it forces things into perspective. For me, it has made me think about my own identity. I didn’t want to be the “girl with cancer.” I spent the 8 months focusing on healing and trying to be as normal as I possibly could. To continue to be a mom and a wife when it felt like the world around me was falling down. Cancer gave me the chance to live, and focus on being a better version of myself. A me who can put my cell phone down and roll around on the floor and listen to my little monkeys as they wrestle each other laughing their little heads off.  I really don’t think there is anything better in the world.

Despite, all the pain and ugly, I do feel blessed. Even the challenging times like when my 3 year old refuses to get dressed, or when my son tries to climb every piece of furniture while I attempt to wash dishes, I am grateful. I get to experience this! I am not lying in bed or sitting on the couch watching my life go by me, that part is over, and I get to be present. It’s hard to not let cancer make you bitter, but when you focus on the sweetness you have, it makes every day you feel “good” a small victory to hold onto. There are good days and bad days along this journey, but somehow you get to the other side and start to regain a sense of normalcy.  Never the same carefree life as before, or one without that sick feeling you get at the thought that cancer can come back, but a sense that it is ok for you have to keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward.

Mama Diaries: Faith in Me

woman motherhood lonely

As we enter Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’d like to repost one of the most heartfelt diary entry of a mama who had gone through cancer, twice. It is something that had touched many hearts in the past and felt it would be a good start to the month of October. This mama dairy was submitted courageously and anonymously and we hope you will appreciate the realness in her words.

 


 

I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.     Douglas Adams

woman motherhood lonely

I thought I had done my time with crisis 11 years ago when I had found myself in the grips of anxiety and depression. It was a journey…one that took months..years actually..to feel that we conquered that dragon. Those years were hard but I came out the other side with a deeper faith, a cemented relationship with my husband and the feeling that I had earned some hard fought for strength.

Fast forward to 2 years ago. I remember the day I found the lump in my breast… it’s so cliche but I really did know it wasn’t good. It just didn’t feel right…it burned and felt incredibly hard. And while everyone told me it was sure to be nothing, the feeling in my gut told me otherwise.  Those weeks of waiting were filled with me bargaining with God…And when I was told that I had breast cancer the words were crushing. I had thought I had prepared myself for this.  The fact is, you just can’t. We innately hold out hope for the best.

I was scared…terrified actually.  Our kids were 15, 13 and 10…still ages where their biggest worry should be what outfit they should wear the next day… It felt unfair that their world was rocked. It felt unfair that my husband once again had to take up the sword again as protector, encourager, advocate and master of all to our kids. Hadn’t we gone down a hard enough path years earlier? I guess deep down I felt sorry for myself.  I had been taken down a couple pegs 11 years ago… and now again? The strength that I had thought was now woven into my being, no longer felt reachable.

holding hands motherhood

That’s where all the credit goes to my peeps who didn’t let me get comfortable in that hole of fear and self pity. They helped dig me out and get me back on my feet, promising to walk with me every step of the way. And with that support, we just did what we had to do. Albeit it in a bit of a fog, I went through chemo and then a double mastectomy coupled with reconstructive surgery. Many of those times literally felt like I was watching someone else rather than myself. I suppose that’s the positive of having a ton of appointments/tests/treatments/consultations. It’s a bit of a whirlwind and you just do as you’re told.

It’s been the after cancer part that has been a crazy time of processing what the heck just happened. Who am I now? I am different. Period.

The new ” me”  physically feels grateful and cheated at the same time.  So weird that the two emotions can co-exist so easily.   The grateful part is simple…and obvious: I have my life. I am on the “other side”.  There aren’t words to explain the amount of grateful I have in my heart.

The cheated part sneaks in when I look into the mirror…I’m still shocked. These two fake breasts make me look normal on the outside but truthfully they feel anything but.  They aren’t me…there’s no feeling…that area remains completely numb. Kinda gives new meaning to bolt-ons. They honestly do not feel like a part of my body. The new layer of fat on my body, thanks to the hormone therapy I’m on, is ridiculously uncomfortable. The hardest part is the guilt. Why do I care that I’m different physically? I should just be grateful that I am alive.  And I am.  And yet the feelings are in there…and they run deep. That’s the part that still plagues me.  In these moments I feel like cancer not only took my breasts but left me with a wounded body image. The challenge continues and I feel like the ending to that story is still to be written. Self love is going to take a bit of time, but it’s going to happen. Time is a healer and I rest on that and my faith to recognize that my body has faced an assault and I need to be patient.

motherhood alone

Some have suggested that this was a blip in the road. Yes and no… Maybe more like being put in front of a mountain and told you need to get to the other side. It’s like climbing to the top and pretending that the view still looks the same as before.  Not possible.  Cancer has changed me and while I deny it defines me, its mark has been left…in how I view life, in how my decisions are made, in how I process life.

I am humbled at how those who love me (and many who didn’t even know me, let alone love me) cared for me.  And, at the end of the day, I recognize that I was stronger than I thought. Those days of working through the crippling anxiety prepped me for this hurdle. I may not have enjoyed that process (at all!) but I am grateful that I had some tools to meet this dragon head on. And not only to meet it, but to slay it…that’s been our family saying throughout the process. Slay the dragon! And is it possible that my faith in God is even more meaningful and pivotal in my life? My relationship with husband even more solid (honestly he’s got the “for better or worse” commitment DOWN!)? My love for my kids more fierce? YES! And while I would never EVER give cancer any creds I can say that beauty can blossom on the most dark places. My faith in the goodness of people’s hearts has been re-ignited. My passion to focus more on relationship and less on the other unimportant things has taken root. Indeed, beauty shines as a beacon in amongst the turbulence that life can throw you.  I know this to be true. xo