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: #MeToo

mother

With the recent social media movement of standing up against predatory behaviour, we decided to put our cancer diary on hold this week and insert this one that just came in. It’s way too important not to share. Hoping this anonymous mama finds comfort soon.


 

mother

 

“Mama, I’ll carry you when you’re old”

– my daughter, age 5.

She’s about 4 years away from when I was a victim of an act that no child should ever have to endure. An act of someone who I had trusted. Someone who had forced himself on me and said words to me to think I was safe.

She’s 4 years away from when I began keeping secrets. Secrets from my mom, my family, everyone.

She’s 4 years away from when I began hating myself every time I looked in the mirror because I couldn’t even understand what was happening to my body, my emotions, my world.

She’s 4 years away from when I began actively lying to everyone and doing things against my parent’s request just because I felt the need to be bad for “being bad.”

She’s 4 years away from when I had my innocence taken away. And it’s not until now that I realize how innocent I really was. None of it was my fault. None. Of. It.

I was just a child. I see that now. A helpless child who was put in a very wrong situation. And it continued, for a while. There was so much fear of telling someone. Who would believe me? I was just a child. And if they did believe me, it would rip every single relationship I had with my family. Because that was it, it was in the family. And I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t risk breaking my family apart. Did I tell anyone? Yes. I told my younger sister. But there was nothing she could do either, but cry with me. I told her never to tell anyone for fear of breaking up the family. She agreed, even though I know now it probably took every ounce in her not to tell anyone.

Now, decades later, it still haunts me. I try to store it deep inside and refuse to let it rule my life but every now and then, some stories of sexual abuse victims come up and it brings me back to when I was just a little girl. There’s still so much anger and hate towards this person, and to every individual out there who thinks he can engage in such a horrific act towards another person – to a child.

Recently, the hashtag #MeToo has taken over social media. The goal is to encourage those who have been a victim of sexual harassment or sexual assault to stand up against predatory behaviour. It serves to provide a visual marker of how often these acts occur and how we all need to stand up and make it stop. That’s the upside to it all. The downside? Well, it’s caused a lot of ill feelings for folks like me who have lived in silence. Silence for reasons some may not understand, but still… silence. And now for the first time when something is shared online, it is blasted so quickly that a simple gesture of support becomes a movement. So it’s hard to “get away” from it all when really, you’re not ready to revisit these emotions because it was so fucking hard to let it go the first trillion times. So on this day, I stand with all my friends who unfortunately have gone through some form of sexual harassment, assault, and abuse… but I’m sorry – I cannot see anymore of these hashtags because it just makes me go back to where I’ve been trying to escape for nearly my whole life.

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

One More Day

Long Table Dinner

outdoor long table dinner

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.

Mahatma Gandhi

 

What we do for others, we truly do for ourselves.

Last June, a group of women and small businesses came together to put something incredibly special to honour some deserving moms in our community who are currently battling the effects of cancer. Every year, we set out to raise funds through the sales of our ‘One More Day’ shirts so that we can surprise the community with a random act of kindness. Once again, this year, we dedicated an afternoon Mama Retreat to help lift the spirits of mothers who often put others above themselves – even while fighting the battle of their lives – and we simply wanted to show them that we care and that there is an army of people rooting for them.

Starting off with a private yoga session from Studio Yoga B, each mama was treated to a session that was simple, calm, and healing. The objective was to leave the world outside and enter the retreat with an open mind and heart. Immediately afterwards all our guests partook in a private cooking class hosted by Jennifer Brott from My Edible Advice. All our amazing produce came just down the road from the Local Harvest and everyone was treated to an amazing farm to table dinner.

Although we have closed the door on our online apparel shop, we will still continue to raise funds this year in various ways with some of our community partners in order to continue supporting some of the most vulnerable families in our community. More on our community projects to come, but here’s a look back to that amazing summer afternoon:

 

https://vimeo.com/225281675

 


 

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