Being a mom can be hard enough with feedings, laundry, driving everyone around, working, checking homework, etc. Now, imagine adding a round of chemotherapy and your life changes completely! So many women today are facing cancer and still raising kids (most of the time with an amazing support system behind them) but are still having to find the balance.
When I was a 30-year-old mom of a 2-year-old, I was given the diagnosis of Ovarian cancer. The diagnosis came as a hard blow after I had just gotten a hysterectomy to reduce my chance of getting cancer. I was sitting in a hospital bed, heavily medicated on pain medication, as the doctors came in to tell me that they found invasive cells on the omentum. It was listed as Stage 3 ovarian cancer since it had spread from the ovaries to a new location. It went from tumors on my ovaries that were borderline mucinous tumors, to cancer.
All I could think of was wanting to be there for my daughter. I wanted to be able to read her stories at bed time, do her hair in the morning, go shopping together, buying her prom dresses and eventually a wedding dress. I didn’t know my survival chances, I didn’t know how bad it was, it was just the word ‘cancer’ that threw me for a loop. Once you hear that, it is like everything else goes away, you go into a wind tunnel of nerves and nothing else can be heard.
My daughter had come to visit me in the hospital. She was so incredibly amazing as she took my hand and helped me walk down the hallway so that I could get better and come home sooner. My husband would bring her in little matching outfits and bows in her hair. If it weren’t for them, I would have never made it through anything. They were my rocks!
Finally, after 5 days in the hospital, I was able to come home. My doctor said it would be at least 6 weeks to recover, a lot of resting would be needed. I was assigned a visiting nurse to come and check me and I had to give myself blood thinner shots. I wasn’t able to pick my daughter up, I wasn’t able to run around with her as she wanted to play outside, I had to sit on the side of the pool as she splashed around, which was difficult especially since it was in the summer. My daughter watched as the visiting nurses came to check on me, she would imitate on her baby dolls everything that they did. She was telling them, ‘take a deep breath’, ‘in and out baby’. It melted my heart. I wasn’t sure how much she understood at the time, but I knew she saw that mommy wasn’t the same and she had to adjust.
Fast forward three months, I had go to an oncologist to discuss receiving chemotherapy to reduce the chance of anything else growing, forming, or anything that they didn’t get during surgery. As we were speaking, I felt brave and ready to take on this challenge, until he mentioned that I would most definitely lose my hair through chemo and I broke down. I don’t think it was out of vanity, but just the idea that people would notice that I was sick, I was sad. It almost felt like it was actually a reality. Before just talking about getting chemo all of a sudden became real and that it might not be okay.
I looked for different resources to explain to my daughter why mommy’s hair is gone, or that she may even go to heaven. That thought didn’t consume my mind, but it was always like a little whisper. All through chemo, as the hair started falling out, I had several side effects of the medicine, aches, my port broke, many things happened that I wanted to document them. I kept a journal which was very therapeutic but even after I finished chemo, something just felt empty. I kept looking for jobs within the cancer support community, I started thinking of an adult chemo-help book, but nothing seemed quite right. It finally came to me one night as my daughter said to me, ‘mommy, I don’t want you to have your hair like that again’… It made me realize that she just saw my hair being different but she knew something else was different. That is when I knew I had to write a children’s book to help other families explain to their kids.
I wrote the book Still My Mommy featuring a mother and daughter doing all of the normal things that families do together. They are baking, playing in the yard, drawing, and reading books. Then one day the mommy has to go to the hospital and take medicine that makes her tired and her hair fall out. That allowed them to go shop for funny hair styles, they still snuggled and read books together but it also mentions that even though mommy is tired, has no hair, and may act a little different, she is still the same mommy. I intentionally left out the word ‘cancer’ from the book because I don’t think it needs to be said to little ones. They understand that mommy has a boo-boo or doesn’t feel good, but they don’t know what ‘cancer’ means. I also wanted to leave at the end that all mommies are still the same amazing mommies because some little ones out there may not be so fortunate to have their mommy survive cancer, but I want them to realize how truly amazing their moms are!
My hopes with this book is that it can open dialog for families, friends, parents, teachers, and children that cancer can be a scary thing, but it won’t change the love that we share.
“Still My Mommy” can be purchased at https://mascotbooks.com/mascot-marketplace/buy-books/childrens/still-my-mommy/