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10 things being the mother of a cancer child gave me

There was a meme going around called “10 things motherhood gave me”. I have tons of opinions on that: stretch marks, saggy boobs, under-eye bags, my first experience of having someone poop down my shirt, all the best parts.

But the more I thought about it, I decided that I was better writing “10 things being the mother of a cancer child gave me”. This has been one of the greatest learning experiences of my life. I’m no one’s idea of the perfect mom, I’m a lousy housewife, I’m a mediocre soccer mom, but this life-altering experience has left a change in me that is astounding. I’m still a lousy housewife and a mediocre soccer mom. The way having a child changed the way I looked at MY life, having a child diagnosed with a life-threatening illness changed the way I looked at life as a whole.

Here goes: 10 things being the mother of a cancer child gave me

1. I’ve learned not to care what people think of my appearance. Not that looking nice isn’t important, but I’ve also learned that on the bad days, it’s ok to wallow in it. When I’m walking down a heavily populated hospital hallway, in my sweatpants and bathrobe, my hair hasn’t been brushed in 2 days, there might be some puke on my shirt and I’m wearing hospital issued footies…I’m proud. Because I got out of bed AT ALL today.

2. I’ve learned that it’s ok to walk away from it all and take a breather. Even though you feel guilty because your child doesn’t have the choice to take a break, and you feel like the worst parent in the world….I have to take care of me too. It’s something I heard a lot when I had a newborn, take time for you. I didn’t realize how hard that was until I was sitting on the floor of my closet, with the light off, holding the door shut with my daughter on the other side begging me to let her in. Sometimes you just have to leave and breathe so you can pull yourself together.

3. A phone call where you say nothing profound is sometimes better than no call at all.

4. I’ve accepted that I can’t do it all myself. I can’t really do 50% of it myself. I’m not ashamed to ask for help, to accept help and to be truly grateful for it. I learned that people who find themselves outside of the situation often want to help, but have no idea what to do. I’ve learned to just accept the generosity and compassion of others that allows them to help carry the burden we bear. And be eternally thankful that people care enough to WANT to help us. I have learned humility and pride at the same time.

5. I am no longer embarrassed to cry in public, I can hug a newly introduced person, I bare the most intimate parts of my soul for contrast and comparison. It helps, it’s like free therapy.

6. I understand that it’s ok to be angry with God, to vent your frustrations and anger at the situation you’re in. It’s impossible not to be full of all these negative emotions when you see such pain and suffering and loss happening all around you. When you can’t even comprehend a loving God that would let a child, any child, MY child, get sick and die, how do you not get belligerently furious with God. I also understand that God lost a child, watched him die a painful awful death. He gets that anger.

7. Being able to find the laughter in life, regardless of whatever you’re going through is a blessing. No matter how bad it is, there are always moments of joy, moments meant to lighten and soothe. If I can’t laugh, I might as well give up. People are kind enough to say that they like the positive attitude of our site, that they admire my ability to be funny in the middle of it all. Let me tell you, in the middle of it all is where it’s most important to laugh.

8. It doesn’t matter how smart someone thinks they are, what they feel is the right way to parent a child, no matter how educated their opinion, it doesn’t mean that they know what’s best for your child. I’ve had to shrug off overly opinionate strangers who felt I should take Peyton’s binky away, I’ve handled the LOOKS when I tell that Peyton crawls in bed with me EVERY night, I let her eat black olives and oranges for breakfast if that’s what she wants. I’ve also seen the horrified stares when I got on her case in a store for being ugly and hateful. How dare you bark at a cancer kid!? You know what? It’s my cancer kid and I have to live with her long after the cancer’s gone, so get out of my face!

9. I’ve become an oncologist, a research assistant, a personal chef, a therapist, a patient, a better friend, a more accepting mom, a pharmacist, a writer, a full-time-work-from-home-but-still-unpaid-mom, a referee, a coach, a nurse, an event organizer, an advocate, a charity taker and giver, and a motivational speaker.

10. I have strength in my heart, spirit and faith that I never knew I possessed. I’m very proud of it. The day Peyton was diagnosed I knew that I would fail her, I would not be able to handle this and she deserved a mother who could get her through it. I feared every day was the day I would lose it and become the person I most feared: a mom who was less than her children needed in every way. Yet, no matter how bad the day, how raw the pain, how real the fear…I’ve found my way through prayer, belief, faith and love.

f.r.o.G…fully relying on God

Late added ps…I’m going to challenge each of you who falls into one of these two categories to take the time to do the same. “What motherhood gave to me” or “What being the mother of a cancer child gave me me”. I would love to see them! anissa.mayhew@gmail.com

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17 Comments on “10 things being the mother of a cancer child gave me”

  1. #1 Holly Jo
    on Jun 26th, 2008 at 10:08 pm

    Thank you for taking the time today to help us out. It meant a great deal. You are an amazing person, and you so vivily pertray what this life is all about. Thank You.

  2. #2 Karalyn
    on Jun 26th, 2008 at 11:04 pm

    You rock Anissa!

  3. #3 Misty
    on Jun 26th, 2008 at 11:29 pm

    Heya Anissa,

    Although we have never met.. the love I feel in my heart for you all is soo very real!!! You are AWESOME!!

  4. #4 Dawn
    on Jun 27th, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    Hey Anissa,
    Great new site, very open and clear to read. I like the fact that the guest responses read from top to bottom now not the other way round. Makes much more sense!
    We’re away for the week from tomorrow for a family holiday. I’m taking my mother-in-law and sister-in-law as well so I’m not sure if I need a medal. I’ll tell you when we’re back!!
    I’ll catch up with you when I can. In the meantime, keep rocking!

  5. #5 Marc
    on Jun 27th, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    Inspiring as usual! Thanks again for sharing… not only are you helping Peyton, but anyone else reading these posts.

    Some olive trees have been living for more than 700 years so there is definitely something really good in olives 😉

  6. #6 Marc
    on Jun 28th, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    oh yeah… i go through a jar of olives every two days

  7. #7 Jenny, Bloggess
    on Jun 29th, 2008 at 10:01 am

    Featured on Good Mom/Bad mom on the Chronicle: http://tinyurl.com/6lwlue

  8. #8 Jozet at Halushki
    on Jun 29th, 2008 at 10:11 am

    Here from Good Mom/Bad Mom link, thanks to Jenny.

    This is a fabulous post. Thank you. Thank you so very much.

  9. #9 always home and uncool
    on Jun 29th, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    As the parent of a girl with a rare autoimmune disease, I can back you 100% on all these. Hang tough and keep fighting.

  10. #10 Rhonda Armstrong Trevino
    on Jun 30th, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    Hi Anissa,

    We have never met. A friend of mine sent me your latest blog and it inspired me to write my own

    “10 things being the mother of a cancer child” gave me”

    1. I learned to be more compassionate and understanding. I would get so mad when I would go to Wal-mart with a list of 5 things and go to the counter with a basket of 200 things and the person at the register would not speak to me. I thought how dare they, where is their customer service. After Abigail was diagnosed, I realized that not everyone was able to be at the hospital with their sick child, they may be working at Wal-mart to make ends meet.

    2. I realized that no matter how sick Abigail was, there was always someone sicker. When we were in clinic and we would see all those kids. Some kids had a brain tumor, some had amputations. We always found ourselves saying how very blessed we were.

    3. I developed a sick sense of humor along with Abigail. We would sit in the clinic with some of our cancer friends and talk about how we could use their now metal instead bone legs to bust out windows if we would fall off a high overpass to our watery grave. We had to find humor in all the pain surrounding us.

    4. I learned no matter how awesome the doctors are at MD, they could not save everyone. We met so many friends and we lost a lot of them. I never thought I would see so much death in such a short amount of time.

    5. I learned to look for rainbows. We were in the midst of a horrible storm and it was raging in my heart. I needed hope and I found it in what I like to refer to as rainbows. Whether it was in a free parking pass or finding out a very sick friend lived to see another day.

    6. I learned to ask for and accept help. We almost resorted to opening a strictly “cancer credit card” to help pay for parking, gas and food while at the hospital. I was good at complaining to the powers that be about the outrageous prices, but was not able to ask for help. I learned quickly.

    7. I learned that as much as I thought I was strong emotionally, I was a wreck. I had to stop going to the hospital for about a month. I could not stand to see another sick child or hear about another one dying. I survived only by the Grace of God.

    8. I finally understood how something like this can rip a marriage apart. I always heard about families divorcing after the death of a child and I just did not get it. Wouldn’t their relationship get stronger with that death? Wouldn’t they come together and conquer the pain together. Well, it is difficult to manage a child with cancer, 2 healthy kids and a marriage. My husband saw things in black and white and I saw lots of gray. My husband wanted to just do what the doctors said and I wanted to ask questions and be given choices. Abigail is alive and in remission and my marriage survived too.

    9. I learned that my daughter was stronger than I ever thought she could be. She endured unimaginable pain, uncontrollable vomiting and horrible emotional anguish. She maintained her smile and a positive attitude during her ordeal. She faced not only physical obstacles but emotional obstacles. She faced the GIANT and she WON!

    10. I learned that no matter how many surgeries, chemo’s or test Abigail goes through, I never get use to it. It never gets any easier to see Abigail get rolled back to surgery, to see her port accessed or to anticipate the results of her scans. I still hate cancer and I do not want my daughter to have it.

    Seeing Rainbows,

  11. #11 Adria
    on Jul 4th, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    What a powerful message. I am bookmarking this. Thank you.

  12. #12 Wendy Thompson
    on Jul 4th, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    What being the mother of a now deceased cancer patient gave me:

    1. A broken heart.

    2. Time. We had 8+ years from Olivia’s initial diagnosis until her passing at the age of 11 (brain cancer).

    3. A broken heart.

    4. Not enough time. We only had 11 years and 49 weeks together.

    5. A broken heart.

    6. A very clear understanding of what is important and what is not.

    7. A broken heart.

    8. A very clear understanding that life throws very, very few real problems at you. Mostly, inconveniences. Rarely are there truly REAL problems.

    9. A broken heart.

    10. A soul that is shattered. Broken heart is too meek of a phrase. I am shattered beyond repair and beyond hope. While walking the journey with Olivia, hope was a constant companion. Every moment she was alive, there was hope. Now, there is no hope. Only the shattered remains of a mother’s heart left bleeding in a quick second when my daughter died in my bedroom that cold morning in November of 2004.

  13. #13 bhavna
    on Nov 24th, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    Hi there,

    It was great to read this. I am at work and cannot write much. My sister lost her 8 yr old daughter due to the cancer. She was the only child. I did ask her to have another child, but she is scared that the other child might not get the cancer as well. Please advice. I will send your advice to her. Please please help

  14. #14 Chrissi
    on Dec 20th, 2008 at 11:29 am

    I will write mine too – after the holidays. But I must say, this struck a cord with me..

    “there might be some puke on my shirt and I’m wearing hospital issued footies…I’m proud. Because I got out of bed AT ALL today.”

    amen, amen and AMEN.

    I remember walking around the hallways, or better yet – even gathered by one of the other families doors and talking – wondering if I even brushed my teeth!

    God Bless you sweetie!

  15. #15 Dana
    on Jan 16th, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    #6 touched my heart, brought tears to my eyes. I, too, think God understands that I am ticked off at Him. I think He still loves me and understands and has a plan, but I sure as heck wish He’d share that plan with me! My priest says not to be angry with God, but he has never had a child, will never understand. I believe God “gets” it. (Although I often tell Him that His Baby made it to his 30’s before He lost Him.)

  16. #16 Anna
    on Jan 10th, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    You are so inspirational. Thank you for sharing!

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