My kids were 11, 9, and 7 when I first got breast cancer.
Back then, I thought of breast cancer as an "inconvenience." It did not scare me. My grandmother survived breast cancer, and was fine. My mother survived breast cancer, twice, and was fine. I was young (39) and strong. I would be fine.
My greatest concern was for my kids. I did not want them to miss out on anything, while I was busy dealing with cancer.
Friends informed me that cancer would takes over my life for 6 months to a year. Then, I presumed, I would be done. In the end, it took a bit more than a year and a half, but by the spring of 2007, I was ready to move on. My kids were just at the end of their 12th, 10th, and 8th years.
I was full of energy, glad to get my life back.
I had plans, so many things to do.
God had other plans.
My kids were 13, 11, and 9 in June/July, 2007, when I was diagnosed with mets to my bones, liver and lungs.
Those few "good months," when I thought I was done, were suddenly overshadowed.
I still felt young and strong; determined to keep doing the things I was doing.
I was not that strong. I could not keep up the pace.
I realized, this is it. I am never going to be the person I was before.
That realization was hard enough. Then I was struck by the even more aweful realization: This is how my kids will always know me. They will not remember the me who I was "before." They were too young, when it all began.
My kids will only remember me with cancer.
They will not remember the mother with boundless energy, the activist who brought her three young kids to all the demonstrations, the leader on long hikes and camping trips, the tour guide, the educator, the..... person I used to be.
They will only know me like I am now.... tired, in bed, apologetic.
I know, it is not so black and white. I do a lot with my kids. I am not in bed all the time. But I am not the me that I was "before."
Yes, I am now over 40. All my friends are slowing down. But it is not the same.
My kids were 15, 13, and 11 when I was diagnosed, in June, 2009, with brain mets. The new diagnosis hasn't changed much about how we live our lives.
My husband and I work hard to keep our kids informed (on their level), so that they won't live in fear. They know we tell them everything, so they do not need to worry or wonder. There are no secrets.
I think we have been quite successful in this area. Our kids are "bored" with cancer. To them, cancer is an inconvenience. It is frustrating when your mother is tired and not readily available. But they are not scared. Why should they be?
My kids will never remember me when I was healthy, not even my oldest. That is very sad for me. But living with cancer is normal for them. They do not know any other way.
My biggest desire is to live long enough to see them married and, hopefully, to be around at least for their first births, to help them with nursing and be there for those new beginnings, when support is so important.
Sometimes, I look at them, and think "they are so young....."
I pray, a lot. Not so much formal prayer, but just talking to God and making sure He knows how much I want to live.
I can live with cancer. I just want to be here for my kids.
Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.
With love and optimism,