Breast Cancer: Moms With Cancer Supporting Each Other
Breast Cancer—I could not take care of my baby. Post-mastectomy, and in the midst of chemotherapy, I could not be left home alone with my baby because I was not strong enough to take care of her. That was my low point. It was also the point at which I discovered a group of young women with breast cancer, many of whom were also moms.
If I could offer one piece of advice to other moms diagnosed with cancer, it would be this: Find other moms with cancer. Everything I learned about surviving and helping my family thrive through this cancer experience grew out of this one step. Friends and family members sympathized, but it was these women who had been there who truly understood. Finding a tribe of women with similar cancer experiences improved my quality of life. Existential fears kept me up late at night, but there was always someone online, someone who’d had the same fears, to talk me back down. Every element of life was complicated by cancer, but I also had access to the collective knowledge of thousands of women who had been there before me, who were going through it with me. Increasingly, I have found opportunities to contribute my own experiences to help other women through this experience. The ability to discuss the cancer, its treatment, and its impact on every aspect of my life helped me understand that I am not alone, and it allowed me to discuss these issues, find solutions, and occasionally vent in a safe and understanding environment. You are not alone. Your children are not alone. I remember my first BBQ with a group of young breast cancer survivors, and watching all their bright, engaging, well-adjusted kids running around. It was the first time that I really understood that my cancer did not have to ruin my daughter’s life. These kids are growing up with cancer as part of their life, but they are growing up strong and compassionate, and every once in a while, they’re surrounded with other kids in an environment where having a parent with cancer is normal. Once I started looking, I was amazed at how many other women were also raising young children while battling cancer. There are a number of online networks and forums where moms with cancer can share information on everything from how to tell your kids about cancer to much more practical issues, such as how to coax your little one into his car seat when you’re not strong enough to pick him up. I found my tribe at the Young Survival Coalition, which is specifically for young women with breast cancer. Planet Cancer has a several groups for moms with cancer, and is for all different types of cancer. Gilda’s Club has clubhouses across the country and is an excellent resource for anyone with cancer, and they have programs for the kids as well. Parenting with Cancer and Mothers with Cancer are both blogs that can connect you with a world of women raising children while battling cancer.
Do you or a loved one have cancer? What has been the most helpful resource for you/them?
Judy Schwartz Haley owns the blog CoffeeJitters.Net, where she writes about raising a toddler while battling cancer, finishing a degree, and fending off ninjas. Also, she needs more coffee. @coffeejitters CoffeeJitters Facebook Page Featured image courtesy of Flickr.