I know that one of my jobs as a parent is to teach her how to deal with disappointment – but not like this; this isn’t what I had in mind.
We should be working on learning how to gracefully accept that she gets what she gets for dinner, and not necessarily a doughnut.
We should be working on accepting the fact that she’s not getting a pony for her birthday.
We should be working on understanding that all fun activities end eventually, and when the playdate is over, we need to gracefully go home.
Instead, we had to cancel our vacation last minute because I came down with influenza. She was so excited about our trip to Alaska, but I was far too sick to take her anywhere.
I sat down in her kid-sized green and white polka-dot easy chair and pulled her into my lap. “I have some bad news,” I said, “we can’t go to Alaska tomorrow because Mommy is sick.”
“No, no, no, no, no,” she repeated several times, and then she stopped. “It’s okay, Mommy. I know sometimes we can’t do things when you get sick.” She rested her head on my shoulder a bit, then ran out to the living room to play as if nothing had happened.
It hurts the way she has normalized my illnesses, Mommy being sick is just part of her life. Stupid cancer keeps messing with me, even when it’s not cancer.
How did you tell your kids about the cancer diagnosis?
We used the local Gilda’s club
How did your kids respond?
It was a very positive experience
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?
I kept their routine as normal as possible
Did not give them too much information
Let them asked questions if they wanted to know more
Kept very open lines of communication
Used a lot of professional help- Gilda’s club and local help from my hospital with this
Is there anything you wish you’d done differently?
Do you have concerns about the long term impact of your cancer on your children?
What advice would you give to other moms who are diagnosed with cancer?
Don’t give your children too much info
Cancer is very scary for children.
Children process info VERY different than adults. Let them ask questions (if they have any) and follow their lead
What concerns or fears troubled you the most?
How did my diagnosis and treatment impact my children
How did you deal with those fears?
Time will tell
Have those fears and concerns changed over time?
Yes, As more time passes-I think about this less
What was your darkest moment?
Mental breakdown and depression 18 months after diagnosis
What was your best moment?
Every day (including today)
I love my life and my family and still think I am a very lucky person!!!
I am blessed
What did you do to take care of you? How did you splurge on yourself?
My husband put me first. Everything just fell into place: Whatever I needed – I got – whenever I needed it.
Were you able to get help from friends and family members while you were going through treatment?
Yes- I have an amazing group of friends
You know the statement-it takes a village. I have a village.
Was it difficult to ask for help? Do you have any suggestions around the topic of asking for help?
Very difficult. It is very humbling. Especially when you are used to doing and not needing.
Did cancer/treatment impact your relationship with your spouse/partner?
Yes, Not in a negative way. I fully understand how much my husband loves me. As I said- I am a very lucky person
Do you have any relationship advice for young moms dealing with cancer?
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?
Just because you look ok on the outside- it doesn’t mean you are ok on the inside.
Cancer is not like strep. You are not better in 5 days. It can take awhile (even years) until you are ok.
Yesterday, my little girl turned three (yes, she shares a birthday with William Shatner). Today, I’m making calls trying to find a venue for her birthday party.
I’m that on top of things.
How important is it to throw a party anyway? I didn’t even think it was on her radar, but then a few weeks ago, as my daughter was explaining to a random cafe customer that she’s almost three and going to have a birthday party with a cake and presents and candles and new dress and and and [deep breath] and and and and – it occurred to me that I do have responsibilities in this department – and apparently, this year, she has expectations.
And, I know this is a taboo topic but, I don’t know how many birthdays I will have with her. I can’t promise her I will always be here for her. I’m not planning on going anywhere, of course, but I got a big wake-up call with this cancer diagnosis. I need to cherish every moment I have with her. I can’t promise tomorrow, but I can give her today.
So what about school and everything else? I can’t count how many times a day I ask myself what the right thing to do is, and I don’t know the answer. In the moment, when she’s desperate for my attention, I want to say forget school. So what if that paper is due in 4 hours? When I sit back and look at the big picture, school is just so important. Hopefully it will help increase my earning ability, but more importantly, it’s an education. An education is so much more than just vocational school, and the more classes I take, the more I understand this. It’s critical. And I want my daughter to see that, come hell or high water (and I feel like I’ve seen both recently), I got an education. But attendance in school isn’t just about an education, either. We depend on my student loans to pay the rent. As much as it’s digging us deeper into debt, it’s also my way of helping to keep us housed and fed. Hopefully, someday it will pay off by leading to a decent paycheck.
But, I also want her to understand how important she is to me. When I hear her say phrases like “I’m trying to get this done,” “I have work to do,” and “In a minute,” my heart breaks a little bit because I know exactly where she’s getting them.
So I’m going to throw her a birthday party. I know it wont make up for all that time with my nose in a book, but it’s important. It’s important to her, and it’s important to me. It won’t happen till April, but this time, I’ll make sure it happens.
And the gift? One of our little traditions is right before bed she picks out what she wants to dream about; we can get quite fanciful, because amazing things can happen in dreams and anything is possible. More often than not, her choice of dreams involves dancing, and several times she has chosen to go dancing in an orange dress, and holding orange flowers. (Before this, I had no idea she even liked orange, but I think it’s becoming a favorite color). The other day we were at the store and she ran right up to an orange dress and said “I danced in this dress in my dream.” I think I need to find her an orange dress.
Also, is orange the big color this year? I seem to be seeing it everywhere.
I like to joke that no one really knows what I look like without a camera in front of my face. I’m THAT girl at parties: the one who hides behind the camera, capturing moments more than participating. The one who rarely actually appears in photographs…
Put Mom in the Picture
When I was first diagnosed with cancer, this really bothered me. For the first time ever, it was REALLY important to me that I have photos of myself, and photos of myself with my husband and daughter.
I wanted my family to have them – not just in case I died, but also to mark who I am right now, because I’m evolving. My looks are changing daily as my hair grows back. My outlook is changing daily as well; each new day brings a new challenge, and something else at which to marvel.
I’m trying to teach myself photography, and in that process, I spend a lot of time studying the work of some of my favorite photographers. Each has their own unique and identifiable style. What I’m learning is that a picture doesn’t just tell you about the subject matter in the frame, it tells you a whole lot about the photographer. You can see moods, attitude, approach… you can see respect, affection, and love.
The photograph is a record of the world as I see it
That realization eased my mind a bit about my absence from the photographs. I understand now, that I am in all those photographs that I have taken.
The photograph is a record of the world as I see it. It’s an opportunity to look at life through my eyes, to see what I see.
My hope is that someday in the future – when my daughter is 13/16/18/whatever, and mad at me because I wouldn’t let her stay up late/take the car/have my credit card/whatever – that she will, every once in a while, glance at one of the millions of photos I’ve taken of her, and see that the person behind the camera loves her with everything she has to give.
I can see my attitudes in the photos I’ve taken. I can see the difference between the photos taken to simply to document a place, thing, or an occasion, and those that seek out the magic of the moment. Mood, attitude, and approach do make a difference.
The camera bag of my dreams
Long before I had a real DSLR camera, I had my eye on a camera bag. Not just any camera bag, a beautiful camera bag from Epiphanie Bags.
After I was finally able to get my good camera this summer (with some help from my mom – THANKS MOM!), I bookmarked my dream bag, and revisited regularly. But purchasing the bag was out of the question. The price was prohibitive.
Not to long ago, I even posted the link on Facebook with the words, “sigh… someday.”
A couple weeks later that bag appeared at my door.
But here’s the thing: I didn’t order it.
I don’t know who sent it to me. It was delivered by the UPS guy with no note attached.
I laughed, I cried, I jumped up and down and squealed, even scaring my baby a bit till I convinced her it was a happy dance. I am completely in awe of this bag, and the kind, anonymous, generosity that caused it to become mine.
A Sense of Gratitude and Magic
I tear up every time I look at the bag, I also stand a little taller with that beautiful braided strap over my shoulder. That kindness now travels with me everywhere. Each time I reach for my camera, I am reminded of this generosity, and as I look through my lens at the world, I do so with a sense of gratitude and magic, and I hope that will show in my photographs.
Thank you my friend, whoever you are. You have given me so much more than a gorgeous bag to cradle my camera. Bless you.