How to Juggle Cancer and Parenting: Karey Gauthier’s Story

by | How to Juggle Cancer and Parenting, Parenting with Cancer

Age at diagnosis: 29 Diagnosis Date: 2/23/2011
Type of Cancer: Breast cancer – Triple Negative Stage at Diagnosis: Stage 3
Treatment Plan: Chemo, surgery (single mast) and radiation Current Status: No evidence of disease

How to Juggle Cancer and Parenting: Karey Gauthier


How did you tell your kids about the cancer diagnosis?

She was too young

How did your kids respond?

Too young

What are some things you did that worked really well for your family with regards to dealing with the cancer, and treatment, while raising children?

Allowing our community to help in any way they were willing and able. I also had to let go of a lot of my parenting ideals and live in survival mode. An example is letting my child watch tv younger and more often than I’d planned.

Is there anything you wish you’d done differently?

Not really

How did the impact of cancer change as time passed, and your children grew? Did it change?

Gratefully my daughter was so young the impact of cancer was minimal. The only thing I noticed was once treatment was over I had to rebuild my relationship a bit as she was used to spending more time with other caretakers.

Do you have concerns about the long term impact of your cancer on your children?

Only in my fear of recurrence.

What advice would you give to other moms who are diagnosed with cancer?

Ask for and receive help. We are all super moms but we don’t have to be supermom

What concerns or fears troubled you the most?

Death, not being there to raise them.

How did you deal with those fears?

Counseling and antidepressants

Have those fears and concerns changed over time?

They’ve lessened some

What was your darkest moment?

After surgery I really struggled and ultimately decided to go on antidepressants when I was crying every day and not feeling relief

What was your best moment?

When my diagnosis anniversary passed by and I didn’t notice until a week or so later. I felt to some extent I had moved on from cancer

Did you decide to add more children to your family after your diagnosis? How did cancer figure into your decision? Do you have suggestions for other women considering a post- cancer treatment pregnancy, surrogacy, or adoption?

I underwent fertility preservation prior to treatment to ensure we could continue our family post cancer. Then I accidentally ended up pregnant two and a half months after finishing treatment. Since I was hormone negative my doctors weren’t concerned about the timing even though ideally they had wanted me to wait two years. My advice is you need to live your life despite the cancer. Do what makes you happy, because the truth is you never know- you could beat cancer and die in a car accident.

What did you do to take care of you? How did you splurge on yourself?

As finances allowed I splurged on alternative treatments such as massage, acupuncture and chiropractors. I also made sure to do things that brought me pleasure such as pedicures and singing in annual performances.

Were you able to get help from friends and family members while you were going through treatment?

I have had the privilege of experiencing the depth and breadth of love and support my community has to offer because of my cancer

Was it difficult to ask for help? Do you have any suggestions around the topic of asking for help?

I struggled asking for and receiving help because it felt somehow like I was less than. If help is offered- take it. If someone says “what can I do?” Be honest even if it is cleaning your house or cooking a meal. The website lotsa helping hands was immensely helpful in managing the help also. I recommend asking someone close to help you manage it.

Did you have an online resource that helped you through this experience?

Young survival coalition and lotsa helping hands were my two primary online resources

Did cancer/treatment impact your relationship with your spouse/partner?

Yes though I’m not fully sure how yet. We are still recovering

Do you have any relationship advice for young moms dealing with cancer?

Take a deep breath, you can get through this

What is something you wish your friends and family members understood about your cancer and its impact on your life? What would you tell the friends and family members of other mom’s diagnosed with cancer? What would you want them to know about what she’s about to go through, and how best they can support her?

Cancer is a medical diagnosis, not an identity. It colors who you are just as any major experience would, be it pregnancy, pets, kids, diabetes, etc. However, it does not define you or your future.

For loved ones, give offers of help, but be specific. Patients don’t have the capacity to figure out what would be helpful most of the time. If you plan to do something in honor of the person, ask first if they are comfortable with that. I had a family member walk in my honor twice and make a big deal about it and want me there. I felt like a prize pig on display and it felt awful.

Were there any cancer-related activities or events in which you participated that you think were especially helpful to you or members of your family?

I was connected with one other woman who was a young mother going through treatment at my center. It was so helpful to have her to talk to. Counseling was also very very helpful.

Are there any resources that you recommend?

Young survival coalition
Lotsa helping hands

Do you have a blog or website where you share your stories about parenting while battling cancer?

What are some solutions you found to practical problems of combining cancer treatment with raising young children?

Ask for help- neighbors, friends, family. You can’t do it alone. If all you can manage is a movie marathon and take out food, that is ok. It is a temporary situation and will not do permanent damage. Talk to your doctors about your unique needs in caring for your child during treatment and how to adapt accordingly. Sometimes snuggling in bed with a book or a movie is all they need when you can’t pick them up.

You can find more on the How to Juggle Cancer and Parenting Series here:

manage cancer and parenting

Judy Schwartz Haley


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