I am a cancer mom. Your identity forever changes from the moment you hear your child’s diagnosis.
People say there is life before cancer and the life after and nothing is more true. If you are like most, you have very little frame of reference for what is being told to you, where to start and how life changing it is to find out your child has cancer. Maybe that is for the better – you need to walk the road regardless of potential outcomes, next to your child, with your head held high.
My Mason was diagnosed at 4 years old with T Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in February of 2016. At the time his white blood cell count was over 975,000 which later we would find was “record breaking” at Children’s. He had hemorrhages in behind his eyes, lost his vision (for two long months until an amazing retina surgeon would later restore it), needed to learn how to walk again all while figuring out chemo and getting him in remission for the first time.
BUT, as any cancer parent will tell you, there were so many good moments filled with resiliency, hope and joy. You learn quickly to ride the highs because you know at any moment it is possible to bottom out. Mason was able to go to kindergarten and part of his 1st grade year – he loved it all, smiling through it, despite dealing with side effects of chemo on a daily basis. He never knew he was dying, we never treated him like he was and until his last week he lived life to the fullest. Mason ultimately passed in March of 2018. He taught me everything there is to know about embracing your circumstances, living life and choosing joy – I am forever grateful for him and his six years on this earth.
September is childhood cancer awareness month and back to school. Many cancer parents will tell you they struggle with this month. I have a hard time scrolling through my social media feeds and looking at some of the darkest days of my friends and their children as they raise awareness. I love the happy return to school pics but every year I feel further removed from it and this year I wonder what Mason would be like entering his fifth grade year. This year, layered with the pandemic taking its toll, the month is tougher for our cancer warrior families. Hoping their child can return to school, weighing their child’s safety returning to school, or grieving the child that should have been in school. Please grant these families grace, please walk beside them and make them feel seen. My village has and continues to lift me up. I could not do it without them.
I implore you to continue to raise awareness, find ways to drive funding for research, lift spirits of the families in battles or suffering losses, and make sure our survivors live long, healthy full lives.