Letters from Moms with Cancer: Advice for When You’re ‘Mom’ and ‘Patient’
No one intends to write cancer into their motherhood story – and it’s not easy news for any mom to hear. Your diagnosis is likely to challenge you physically, mentally, and emotionally, but it won’t take your mom hat away. You are still you, and you’ll always be “Mom” to your little ones.
On this Mother’s Day, we wanted to bring you the encouraging words of other moms with cancer. These fierce, brave, and inspiring women have been in your shoes, and they want you to know you’re not alone and they’re rooting for you.
With no history of cancer in her family, Vaishalee was in complete shock when she found out she had breast cancer. Her life as a 32-year-old mom was thrown off course, but she quickly found a positive mantra to focus on: “I am strong, my body is strong. I will beat cancer and I will live to see my kids grow up.” She encourages other warrior mamas to find strength in their own mantras, silver linings, and new perspectives.
To a warrior mama,
I once was in your shoes and I am so sorry that we have this experience in common. As much as everything seems out of your control there is still something in your control: what you choose to do with your diagnosis. You should and will feel all the feelings when something unexpected like a cancer diagnosis gets dropped in your lap. However, you can choose to move past the negative emotions and focus on the positives.
I found it helpful to focus on a daily mantra – mind over matter. Find something that resonates with you and repeat it to yourself as much as you need. When you feel like you can’t go on (trust me, those days will come), repeat your mantra and believe it. You are a strong, fierce warrior and cancer will not take you down.
Find the silver linings, there is always one, and hang on to them. Ask for help – you will need it and there is no shame in admitting that you need help. Be specific in the help that you ask for. Friends and family will want to help, but won’t know how, so get comfortable asking for specific things – cleaning service, groceries, meals, play dates. Cancer has a funny way of showing you people’s true colors and some friendships may be lost while others may be found. That’s ok. Focus on the quality relationships. Keep your partner in the light, not in the dark.
Cancer changes your perspective on life, motherhood, relationships, and everything in between. Be open to the change in perspective. Maybe this was a wake up call, maybe it wasn’t. Whatever it is, be open to it and allow it to come in, embrace it. When you get through this – and you will – take time to appreciate where you have been. Feel proud of what you have achieved and overcome, but most importantly, always remember to give yourself grace. Even in cancer, you are enough.
From a fellow warrior mama,
Robyn has been a cancer patient three times over, but that hasn’t changed her ability to be a superstar mom. She knows firsthand how hard it can be to uphold your mom role while being a patient, and she’s here to tell you that no matter how difficult the balancing act gets, you deserve to wear your superhero cape.
Yes, I am talking to you. You are 100% a real live superhero!
Look at you, balancing the full-time job of cancer patient alongside the even harder job of being Mom. Let’s face it, those darn kids keep it real. No matter how old they are, they keep needing things from you: hugs, homework help, dinner, etc. Never-ending!
I have been where you are three times and even though we have never met in person … I see you.
The role of patient/Mom is a tough one:
- There will be dark times when you fear you are losing yourself and turning into the “Cranky Cancer Lady.” You are sick and tired of being sick and tired. Guess what? Your toddler doesn’t notice. Your tiny human is too busy having his own meltdown to care.
- There will be mornings that you simply can’t see past the bald, puffy, grey-skinned woman in the mirror. You dread leaving the house because you are scared of catching a cold, or worse. Buck up Buttercup! Your tween is too busy fixing her scrunchie and getting that perfect shot for her next TikTok to notice.
- There will be evenings that you find yourself coming home from the hospital after seeing your doctors or getting chemo. You just want to go cry in the shower and hide under the covers. The house is quiet; your rising high school senior has made himself some mac ‘n’ cheese. The note on the kitchen counter says he is at a friend’s house. There is no one around to hear your cry.
We are mothers and it’s normal to worry. We believe we are letting our children down by missing things – games, concerts, greeting them off the afternoon bus. Mentally, we are miles away dealing with our own personal version of the “what if” game.
Focus on each moment. The belly laughs when you watch a silly comedy with your teenager. The joy you feel as you watch your kids through the kitchen window build a tree fort with their friends and spray each other with the hose in the front yard.
Keeping my girls’ schedule – the boring and routine – as normal as possible was my number one priority during treatment. Only then was I able to focus on me. Doing what I needed to do and giving myself time to hurt and heal so that I could be there for the next moment.
Be there with and for them.
The road back to Mom after living with cancer is hard. Having bad days are universal experiences and how we treat ourselves in those moments, allowing ourselves to feel, can make all the difference. Be the magical unicorn your kids believe you to be.
You’ve got this.
Lots of love!
A single mom who was diagnosed with stage IV colorectal cancer in 2015, Amy is currently undergoing definitive chemotherapy treatment. Even on the toughest days, Amy finds reasons to celebrate life and rejoices in sharing her words of encouragement with fellow moms.
My children and I want to wish you a Happy Mother’s Day!!!! What a blessing it is to celebrate this day with you on your special day. Although, every day is a day to celebrate your life.
May you take this day as well as more minutes, hours, and days to breathe life in. You give so much of yourself, you forget about your own needs and wants.
Cancer and your identity get tangled up so quickly – it becomes too strenuous to breathe as you choke down your fears, tears, your needs, your dreams.
I want you to know: You are loved beyond your scars and insecurities. You are perfect.
Those battle wounds are imprinted on your body … not your heart!
You are a new creation, let the old fall away … grow!
You have all you need … you are rich beyond belief!
You are a priceless one-of-a-kind masterpiece!
I see the beauty in you and all that you encompass.
You are a queen, a princess.
Give yourself grace! Laugh at yourself, talk with yourself, giggle at people who say the most crazy stuff about cancer, walk away when you feel you need to. Ask for help – and don’t be afraid to get specific, like ABC123 specific! Scream, get mad, cry, sleep – do it all.
Remember who you are and whom you are.
I believe God has used the cancer in my life for something greater than myself. This is a perfect example: I get to write this letter, share these words to encourage you.
Isaiah, Esther, and I are sending kisses and hugs to you forever and always,
Always walking the fine line between her right and left brain, Stevie brings her creative and strategic thinking to her role as Marketing Coordinator. Through writing and design, she amplifies Family Reach’s voice and puts financial toxicity in the spotlight.
Attendees learned from expert speakers about how social determinants affect cancer patients and discussed strategies to address inequities.
Find out diverse ways you can get involved with our beloved Hope for the Holidays campaign and make a difference for families facing cancer.
In honor of her retirement from our Board of Directors, we spoke to Andrea about her thoughts on the organization she helped create.