A New Meaning to Being a Mom: Dr. Pope
[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: Dr. Jen Pope, Pediatric Hematology & Oncology
- Mom To: Claire (11 years old); Carter (9 years old)
- Length with Levine Children’s: 8 ½ years
What does Mother’s Day mean to you? How has caring for kids with cancer changed that meaning for you?
Mother’s Day is a day that I set aside to be grateful to my own mother and everything she has done to support me over the course of my life. I am so lucky to have a mom that has not only been by my side for every big moment, but has truly made my daily life work for the last 8 ½ years. When we moved to Charlotte 9 years ago, we had two small children and my husband and I were launching dual careers as physicians. There is no way we could have made that happen without my mom. She graciously has lived in our home part time so that when I go to work, I can focus on my patients knowing that my own children are in the best hands. Taking care of children with cancer and their families requires you to be fully present to support them medically and emotionally. I have only been able to do that with my mom’s help. I don’t think one day a year is enough to celebrate the enormity of what my mom’s presence allows me to accomplish both professionally and personally.
Being a pediatric oncologist has changed every day of my life, including Mother’s Day. To walk alongside families who a caring for a child with cancer, guiding them through the highs and lows of treatment and the emotions that accompany that journey, challenges my perspective on life. I am reminded daily that the most important things in my life are my relationships – with my husband and two amazing children, my extended family, friends, coworkers, and of course my patients and their families.
How has the current pandemic impacted you being a mom? How has it impacted the way you care for cancer patients and their moms?
I think I can empathize with most moms about the changes that have come during the COVID-19 pandemic. While moms during regular times often wear many hats, I think adding hats during a time of stress is extremely challenging. I am working really hard to keep my kids on track with their school work, cook three nutritious meals per day, and help my kids process all the emotions they are feeling – grieving the end of the school year, missing playdates and slumber parties, fearing for the health of my husband who works in the emergency department and their grandparents who they understand are older and at risk, all while continuing to work from home, because we all know that cancer doesn’t stop even in the midst of a pandemic.
I have been working from home for the last 5 weeks now. I am so grateful to have virtual phone visits every day of the week so that I can check in on patients and their families. This has been an amazing experience in which I am mostly talking to moms. I have really enjoyed calling them and making sure that their children are feeling well and thriving off therapy. It is certainly challenging not to be able to see them or hug them (everyone knows I am a hugger!), but I think what is clear is that compassion and caring are a feeling that come through in a conversation. I have worked hard to help relieve anxiety both about life after therapy and what that looks like during a pandemic. Another message that I have been relaying to moms is to trust their mom instincts. They truly know what is best for their child, our clinic staff are just here to virtually support what they know their child needs. For my on therapy patients, we have had to make very difficult decisions together over the phone. I think the ease with which we have worked through this process shows that relationships are stronger than COVID-19.
What about this time has inspired you?
There is so much to be inspired by right now – those heroes who are supporting patient care (from environmental workers to physician leaders and administrators who are responding moment to moment with new information); people who are continuing to work so that we have food to eat, internet to be able to connect and work, and all of the first responders that guarantee our safety; people who are out there spreading positivity and hope in anyway that they can. But especially this week as Mother’s Day approaches, I am so inspired by moms. Moms wake up every day with a to do list longer than the hours they have to complete them, but give it their best day in and day out. Moms do their best to support, teach, entertain, nourish, and love their children through an unprecedented time. I could not be more proud to belong to such an amazing tribe of women across the globe.
If you are looking for a way to honor a mother in your life, make a monthly donation that keeps on giving. Support research that will help create better treatments and outcomes for kids with cancer in honor of Mom! Donate Now.
**Disclaimer: photos featured were taken before masking and social distancing guidelines were in place.