Cancer, Chemo, and the Whole Family
Cancer effects the whole family not just the person going through it. Every member of the family deals with different emotions and needs support. This has been very true for my own family.
On July 16th it was 7 months since I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer.
7 months since my life changed. I'm now a woman with breast cancer.
7 months since my husbands life changed. I'm now his wife with breast cancer.
7 months since my children's life changed. I'm now their mom with breast cancer.
7 months since my mothers life changed. I'm now her daughter with breast cancer.
7 months since my sibling's life changed. I'm now their sister with breast cancer.
7 months since my family's life changed. We are a family fighting breast cancer.
Physically Im the one going through the surgeries, the chemo, the radiation and the body changes. They are the ones watching me go through it all, being supportive, taking me to my appointments, helping me do the day to day things I can't always do, and fielding questions and calls from our extended village. I try to be as positive as I can for myself and for my family, but I have days I cry and days I can't control my moods swings. They have watched my lose both breasts, almost bleed to death, lose all my hair on my head and on my face, see me pale and tired after chemo. It can't be easy on any of them and I can see that.
I've watched my husband fall into emotional slumps at times but then bouncing back to support me when I break into tears. My mother has taken me to appointment after appointment, making sure I eat and hydrate, making dinners each night and helping me immensely with my kids daily routines. My kids have made sure to give me kisses every day and unsolicited hugs and "I love you mommy". All of this and life still goes on. Cancer doesn't pause life, it becomes part of it. Another added unnecessary stress.
My children have dealt with this in the most incredible way. We promised them to always be honest with them and answer any questions. At 10 & 8 years old this is a lot of grown up feelings and situations to have to be part of. They both have had hard times and emotions run all over the place. But they are still kids and its hard to control emotions. Heck, adults can't control them so how can we expect children to be able to.
I try to talk to each of them when they seem to be over taken by these Big Feelings. We try to get to the root of what is bothering them. My motto with them is "If we don't talk about what's bothering us it will make us sick on the inside. Our bellies and our brains will get sick. Once we let it out we will feel better already."
One specific instance that sticks with me was a night when my daughter had a meltdown. She was just having a full emotional roller coaster. It was a night that I wasn't feeling well and Daddy was going to put the kids to bed. That was the trigger. She wanted me and I was tired. For about 20 mins there was fresh talking, attitude, angry with everyone and then came the tears. She ended up running up to her room and crying on her bed. I went up to talk to her and see if we could calm down and get to what's really wrong. Thats when the flood gates opened and her truth came out...
"Everything is always about you! All the time it's just about You! No one cares about anyone else!"
WOW- a punch in the gut feeling but she was right. It was all about me right now and it sucks.
She was being honest and I responded to her honestly too. "Yup You are right! It is all about me and I wish it wasn't too. I don't want it to be all about me but right now it is. Everyone is worried about me and how I'm feeling. Hopefully this time next year it won't be all about Mommy. It has to be hard for you guys too. I agree its not fair. Do you think you need a hug?"
"Do you feel better letting all that out? That had to be hard to keep inside. I'm proud of you for letting all those feelings out."
And that was it. We had a nice big hug and the conversation ended. She was able to release it all and feel better and so was I. All those BIG FEELINGS inside this little 8 year-old body needed to be validated and released. I felt like these feelings she had are also the feelings everyone in my family has had at points. No one wants to say it out loud but the past 7 months have been all about me. And its not fair and it sucks.
Just took the youngest member of the household to say the words we have all been feeling.