No, of course those aren’t my nicknames. “The Sick Mom” or “Cancer Mom.” But sometimes I feel like they are. “Cancer Mom” actually sounds kind of like a superhero name doesn’t it? If you say it in a deep voice with enthusiasm maybe? Cancer Mom! Let me tell you, cancer fighters are definitely superheros. I don’t feel like a superhero but when I read the stories of others battling cancer as well & the war they are raging against this beast that is cancer, I know they are true warriors, real life superheros. As are the doctors who work to fight against cancer, they are legit superheros!
When I was diagnosed with cancer last year, probably one of the worst parts initially was having to tell others. It broke my heart actually. People would feel so awkward & not know what to say. I totally get it, up until last year I used to feel awkward & not know what to say when I heard that kind of news too. Now it was me on the other end though, being the bearer of bad news. And people would be shocked. And I could see the instant fear in the eyes of those who are around my age. I could see them thinking, “Wow, it could be me.” People would be sad & cry, which would then make me cry. But I understand because I was feeling all of those emotions as well-shock, fear & sadness. And what ended up happening is that I would find myself giving people pep talks. “Don’t worry, my prognosis is good.” “It’s going to be ok, I’m not going to die tomorrow.” “I’m strong, I’m brave, I’ve got this.”
I only actually told a few people about my diagnosis-my immediate family, a few close friends from church & the girls’ teachers at school. It was selfishly just easier for me that way. I would rather have everyone find out through the grapevine-from my hubby, my parents or from my friends. Then I didn’t have to keep hearing & seeing people’s reactions. I didn’t have to keep re-living the shock, fear & sadness. I didn’t have to continue giving everyone my upbeat pep talks about how my prognosis was good & that I was going to be ok.
Because I didn’t know if any of those things were true. To be honest, I was living in a fog. A surreal world where I was scared about what the future, both short-term & long-term would bring, but at the same time life was continuing on normally around me. I remember looking at people’s everyday photos on Instagram & wondering how they could continue on with their lives while I had cancer. Because my world had stopped. At least inside of my head. Cancer consumed every thought. I remember walking my kids to their classes at school or going to church & I would feel like everyone was looking at me. Looking at “The Sick Mom” or “Cancer Mom.” I kept my smile on my face & wondered who already knew. It’s like I could feel them thinking, “there goes that young mom with cancer.” I’m telling you, my mind was in a very strange place.
I’ve been done with treatment for 10 months now. I feel like I’ve made my comeback! I am still struggling with numerous side effects, but overall life has resumed its normalcy around here. I still don’t bring up cancer with people unless it’s an absolute necessity. I don’t want people feeling bad for me. But still sometimes other people bring it up. Last week at school I met a mom from 6th grade & when I said who my daughter is she said, “Oh you’re the mom who was sick last year.” Yes. I’m Julie, The Sick Mom. Cancer Mom. My alter ego. Will this title follow me around forever? And I’m not trying to be a jerk. And I promise I’m not offended. I know people mean well. It’s just hard to move on with your life when cancer keeps popping up in various ways all of the time. Just something I am still working on adjusting to.
And I don’t want to ever use cancer as an excuse for things. Even though it inevitably is. It is the reason that I can’t help in my kids classrooms regularly this year. This was supposed to be my year! The one year where my girls are all finally in school every day, at the same school. I’m not into the PTA thing, but I do like volunteering in the classroom, helping the teachers out & helping the kids. It’s probably because of my background in education that I know how invaluable parent volunteers are to teachers. This year I was going to volunteer in all 3 of their classrooms. It was going to be great! But I still have certain limitations. And I know things are slowly (ever so slowly) getting better, but I’m just not there yet. So I will do what I can, helping out in ways that I can. That’s the best I can do right now. And that’s ok. I think parents, whether you have cancer or not, need to be reminded that we are all just doing the best we can in our given circumstances. And that’s ok. And our kids will be ok too.