A Letter To The Mommy Whose Child Will Be Diagnosed With Childhood Cancer Today:
Dear Sweet Momma,
Today will start out as it does every other day. You will do the mundane tasks around the house that sometimes make you feel like your living a not so ordinary life; the dishes, the laundry, picking up toys and making meals. Then, your day will take a paradigm shift, and you will end up in the doctors office with a sick child. Nothing out of the ordinary, perhaps a fever, nausea, or fatigue. Oh sweet momma, how I wish I had this glimpse into the world of pediatric cancer, so I would have known what to expect when this exact moment happened to me three years ago. I heard the words your child has Cancer just like you are. Instead, I was clueless, uneducated, and terrified. I don’t want you to be clueless and terrified, but instead brave, educated, and exactly what you are at heart: A Momma Bear.
It feels like forever ago, but then it also feels like just yesterday, that our lives were changed forever with this riveting diagnosis that you are experiencing. It’s a punch in the gut and comes completely unexpected. Just three short years ago, we were on our way to celebrate the Fourth of July, excited for a beach trip to Sea Island, with fun at the beach, good food, sweet friends and fireworks. Knox wasn’t feeling well, so we took him to the doctor. He hadn’t been well for months, but doctors kept telling us he was a healthy baby. We had tests run and saw specialist after specialist all confirming he was just fine. They were wrong, and we ended up in the ER and the doctor spoke those dreaded words, “Knox has a tumor on his spine.” I wish there had been someone to educate and prepare me, but I was thrust into a world that I had no idea how to navigate. My sweet new friend, I want to be that friend to you, because I know today wasn’t supposed to turn out like this. You had other plans and now your world has been flipped upside down and is rotating at a speed that you can’t comprehend. Trust me, I’ve been there and I understand.
I never knew a child who had cancer and quite frankly didn’t know that it was so rampant. I vaguely knew that it existed through only seeing commercials and hearing telethons, notably the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta WSB telethon on the radio, where I would donate here and there. Mainly, I would just turn the channel, because it broke my heart to listen to the parents and innocent children tell their stories to listeners, vying to help raise much needed money to find a cure. Never in my wildest imagination would I have thought I would be the parent with a child battling pediatric cancer and I’m certain you never imagined you would be getting this news today either. Childhood Cancer doesn’t discriminate and excludes no child type. Don’t worry, though, you have friends, momma bear. LOTS of them, and we will all help take care of you. You are not alone in this journey and there is HOPE. When you get the news, your body will go into shock. You will feel like the walls are closing in on you and your whole body will go numb. You will feel stinging, as if sharp needles are pricking you all over your body. You won’t know what questions to ask, because you’re shaking your head with eyes wide open still trying to comprehend what the person in the white coat in the cold exam room just bluntly delivered to you without blinking. You will be dumbfounded. You will cry immediately or with a five minute delay, perhaps scream a cuss word or three, and then throw the bubbles that you were using to entertain your sweet baby across the room in a rage of anger. You will then pull yourself together, because you realize you need to call your family to break the news to them. Some will come meet you at the hospital, but some will take on the reaponsibilities to care for your other children, because it’s time to check in to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit or the Cancer Wing. This part is so scary, but you’ve got this momma. That room will become your home and you will adapt and so will your sweet child. Call your best friends from the private bathroom down the hall, and not from your room, so no one hears you breaking down, but them. Go to the library, walk the halls, and make friends while you are there. Those friends will become some of the best friends you will ever have. They know your pain and feel your hurt.
You will feel every emotion in the book from grief, terror, anger, and confusion. Those emotions will run the gamut. You will witness and have to do things you never dreamed of. You will get your nursing degree without even going to nursing school. Don’t worry, you will make it through, but as everything does it will take time. Lots and lots of it. You may feel depressed and want to run away or fall to your knees in complete despair. And that’s completely expected and totally okay. On those days, take a break, because you have to be clear headed: go home and take a bath, step into the hospital Chapel or ask someone to come visit to re-energize. Let people help you and accept their help. Don’t think you are burdening them; you need their help. Your friends and family won’t know what to say, other than I’m sorry, delving out words of encouragement and prayers. LOTS of prayers, and those prayers will lift you up and fuel you, day, after day, after day.
We checked into the Pediatric ICU and doctors immediately started speaking medical terminology that we had never heard. They will either immediately schedule surgery or chemotherapy. You will have so many questions, but there’s really no time to prepare, so you just have to choose to trust the amazing physicians that do this every day and know your baby is in the best possible hands.
You will begin to do your own research to understand and begin to question what YOU did wrong. Dear friend, you did NOTHING wrong, and this is NOT your fault. Please believe me when I say you will search for answers, but unfortunately there are none. Did you hear me?! You are NOT to blame.
That’s why we need to raise more money and keep educating. I hope you will be apart of Momocology, a place to connect with other moms that understand what you are going through and will help answer your questions and help you through this nightmare. We all work together to advocate for not only our own child battling this deadly monster, but the children that will be diagnosed tomorrow, the next day, and the day after that. Did you know a classroom of children are diagnosed every day? We are fighting this fight together and we won’t stop until we find a cure. Thankfully, CURE Childhood Cancer is leading this fight for all of us. Get to know them and have your friends and family donate on behalf of your brave warrior.
You will most likely get a call completely unexpected from Make-A-Wish for your child to Make-A-Wish. You will be truly humbled, and grateful, for the constant love, grace and how they will shower your child with gift after gift. Whatever your child chooses, it will be an experience of a lifetime that will help your child and your family to have a reprieve from what you are going through. It will be filled with memories that none of you will ever forget and a peace that will help calm you. Most importantly, the best piece advice I can give you is that this is you and your family’s journey and every journey is different. Don’t compare your’s to anyone else’s, because this is your child’s walk and Jesus is carrying all of you. I will be praying for you and my heart will ache for you, as I know the pain and discomfort that both you and your child will experience. It won’t last forever, though, and your mama bear instincts, coupled with faith will get you to the other side. Then it all becomes a faded distant memory that you will never lose feeling of, nor forget. But until then, stay strong, love deep and find a way to make your child laugh everyday, as you now call the hospital your new home. After all, laughter is the best medicine of all.
I will never forget so many friends and strangers that said to me, that they wouldn’t be able to do what you are having to do right now. I always politely corrected them and said, “if you had to, you would find a way, because that’s what mommy’s do” and trust me brave mamma, you will, too. People are covering you in love and prayer and cheering for you and your little fighter. You’ve got this and I will be right there cheering for you, when you come out on the other side! Now, go kick cancer’s booty!
Here’s a prayer to pray upon your child for strength, comfort and healing and one scripture verse that helped get me through the long day’s and night’s, along with another post of how I made it through that you can read here:
“Dear God, I pray for (child’s name) as he/she deals with childhood cancer. I know You are the Master Healer and that You also provide times that are symptom free for this dear little one. Please comfort and protect this dear child during this hard time. Help them to know that they can come to You for the peace and health that only You can provide. Please be with the doctors as they continually study to find medicines and treatments that will comfort all of our babies that suffer from this deadly disease. I leave this in Your precious hands oh God my Father. Amen”
Isaiah 41:10 fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Blessings, Love and a Very Unique Friendship,