I woke up this morning to news of another young women dying of cancer. This is the challenge when you read blogs and follow people’s cancer experiences on social media – you have to deal with the fact that one day they will die. They don’t know you, but you feel like you know them very well because you have followed them, sometimes for years, through their treatments, struggles, but also watched them live.
A friend and hiking buddy of mine, wrote this lovely bit of advice to help those who are suffering from anxiety that often hits immediately after active treatment. It is both sad and happy – a reminder that I often hear from those living with terminal cancer – live every day that you can. Enjoy life, because it is life. I try to remember that every time I’m feeling crappy or having a bout of anxiety. Remember to live.
I was, also, stage 2A, when I was 1st diagnosed (April 2011), and my son was 4 yrs old. I remember being consumed by anxiety & fear, every time a young mother died of cancer. I was totally overwhelmed and crushed by the IDEA that I could die and my baby wouldn’t remember me. Just writing that sentence, now, makes me cry, even though he’s 10 yrs old. I HAVE progressed to stage 4, but he WILL remember me and I have had 5 yrs to create memories with him and try by best to brainwash him to think like me (or at least share my world view). ?
I WILL die of this disease, but there’s no telling when. Maybe 6 months, maybe 6 yrs. Meanwhile, I LIVE. Every day, I get up and enjoy coffee sitting next to this bigger kid, talking about whatever nonsense is interesting that morning.
I have lived long enough to be the person he asked about what sex is and how do babies get into a mom’s tummy. That is a Big Deal for me, because I am the only adult, I know, that is comfortable talking to children about sex. I DESPERATELY wanted to be the one to introduce the topic to him, when he was ready, in a healthy, non judgmental, respect and love your body, and the bodies of others, sort of way,8 and I was able to!
It probably sounds crazy to many people, but my son asking me about sex, and our conversation about it, was a HUGE bucket list item for me. SO much more important that exotic travel, or anything else. Even though I’ve progressed to stage IV, and am living with cancer (death sitting here, next to me) I am still here. I am still here!
Some days and weeks are better, or worse, than others. Treatment kicks my ass. My son has seen me puke for days on end, and become less “wide” (he notices how WIDE people are, not fat, which I think is hilarious). He has been in the infusion room with me, which is frowned upon. He has gone to many blood draws, etc. He knows my cancer will kill me, but he also knows it could be many years from now, and no matter what happens, he knows that I love him like crazy. He will always know, deep down, that I did everything humanly possible to stay here to be his mom. That’s another Big Deal for me.
I think my message to you, and every other early stage person, is that ~75% of women do NOT progress after “finishing” early stage treatment. The odds are still better that you won’t become stage 4, and, even if you do, it takes a while to die. And all that “while”, is time to LIVE. Living with a terminal illness is a crazy, emotional rollercoaster ride, but, at the beginning and end of each day, it’s living.
I still hike, when I can, and it feels awesome! I volunteer at my son’s school more than most healthy moms. I have spent this entire Summer, doing fun stuff, with him. I drag him around on boring shopping trips and teach him to eat dinner without electronic devices distracting him from the meal and conversation.
I am 100% a mom, and am here to snuggle and discuss life, even though there are weeks I can’t do dishes. I understand, and remember, that fear. It will get better/less, over time. Meanwhile, give yourself room to feel however you feel, know that how you feel will change, and re-learn how to live, fully, each day despite the fear. You may not feel like it, right now, but you’ll be okay, and your son will be okay, no matter what happens.
~ By Lori Wallace