A New Meaning to Being a Mom: Cancer Mom Michelle
[Presented by Atrium Health Levine Children’s]
Being a mom with a child who has cancer changes you. Being a mom who treats those children with cancer changes you too. Follow along Mother’s Day week as we hear from some of our Levine Children’s cancer moms and their oncology care providers, who are moms as well. Listen to what Mother’s Day means to them. And how living through a pandemic impacts momlife.
- Mom: Michelle Khounthikoumane
- Mom To: Amelia (4-years old), Stage IV Yolk Sac Tumor; Annabelle (20 months); Baby #3 (Due Dec 7)
- Diagnosed: November 16, 2019 (shortly before Thanksgiving)
- Status: Remission for one month
- Updates: CaringBridge, Site name: ameliak2
What does Mother’s Day mean to you? How has your child being diagnosed with cancer changed that meaning for you?
Mother’s Day is truly special to me. First of all, having my daughters, Amelia and Annabelle, is a true blessing especially after being told that it might be challenging for me to become pregnant. Additionally, I will be celebrating this Mother’s Day while expecting, which is an additional blessing for our family. I remember celebrating my first Mother’s Day as a mom, holding Amelia at about 2.5 weeks of age, looking into those eyes and realizing how special this mother/daughter bond is and how much love I truly had to give. I realized how important it is that she and Annabelle feel my unconditional love. That love can mold and develop them, and I always want both of them to feel that. I already see the compassionate, caring, and loving side in both of these girls via quick mom check-ins, hugs, and kisses.
This day is also a day for me to reflect on my own mother and her ways. Sadly my mother passed, losing in her battle with cancer. Unfortunately Mother’s Day is also a reminder of what will never be. My own mother died before we could celebrate Mother’s Day together as moms. Now that I have first hand experience of how challenging being a mother can be, I wish with my whole heart that I could embrace her just once more and thank her for her tireless acts of love.
Having a child with cancer has truly challenged my strength as a mother. I now appreciate this day and celebrating with my daughters even more. A mother is thrown in different directions constantly, and I’ve learned to be prepared for anything. My daughters are my life, but now more than ever I know how important it is to be their comfort. What’s amazing about having a child with cancer is that you learn not only the strength that you possess, but also how strong your daughter is, and that you borrow some of their strength to keep you strong. It is amazing to see how strong my daughter, Amelia, has already become. Mother’s Day will truly be cherished this year and for all years to come.
How has the current pandemic impacted you being a mom?
When Amelia was diagnosed in November, we had a timeline for her treatments. There would be 4 treatments, 3 weeks apart with a probable surgery at the end. Her surgery date was March 2; post surgery she was considered in surgical remission. We had to wait for another week and half to find out her cancer marker had dropped to within normal limits. Finally she was considered in REMISSION and we could go back to a normal or a “new normal”, but we couldn’t due to the pandemic. My husband and I would always consider us as “quarantined” during treatment to keep Amelia healthy and to minimize risk of exposure to germs; however now everyone is quarantined. So we have been “socially distancing” since November.
Honestly, at first I was heartbroken and devastated. I struggled initially with the pandemic because I wanted to celebrate Amelia’s remission and I wanted a normal even if it meant a “new normal”. I wanted Amelia to be able to return to her preschool and for our family to attend church as a family. Additionally, just adding simple events to our lives like letting her play on playgrounds and going to library story times…. BUT then I realized the bigger picture! She is CANCER FREE! So yes, it is a struggle to continue social distancing; however we are blessed and I need to focus on that.
After my initial struggles, I realized I needed to mentally take care of myself as a mom to be the best mom for my daughters, which for me meant joining a book study via zoom meetings, daily exercise, and having a reflection time at the end of the day in which I write a list of what I’m thankful for. Just adding that quiet time after putting the girls to bed has really helped me focus with what is truly important in life: time as a family! It’s not what we are doing, but that we have each other. Additionally watching the sister bond that has developed between Amelia and Annabelle truly fills my heart with joy. Shifting my frame of mind has helped me significantly cope during the pandemic.
What about this time has inspired you?
This time has inspired me to become more creative. We still wanted to celebrate Amelia (both her remission and her birthday). What would this look like? What could we do? For us it meant, having a day of celebration and activities that Amelia wanted to do. We surprised her by decorating our whole upstairs outside of her bedroom. She seletected her clothes for the day. The drive by birthday parade was also quite a hit! Zoom call with family singing Happy Birthday and watching her blow out her candles. And if you ask her about her birthday, she will definitely mention her Skye pinata and her Skye cake. Now we fluctuate our days of the week with various activities: baking, art projects, dance parties, playing in forts, obstacle courses, etc. Pinterest mom here I come somewhat.
This time has also inspired me to truly appreciate the family time. My husband is currently working from home so we are able to have all meals together most days. I’m focusing on being in the moment vs skipping ahead to what is coming next, treasuring these special moments with our family. We also now embrace nature via family hikes, “climbing mountains” (hills), picnics, playing in dirt, etc. It’s a breath of fresh air to see them experience the world around them and to catch a glimpse of what they see and process for the first time.
Featured Moms this week:
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**Disclaimer: photos featured were taken before masking and social distancing guidelines were in place.