In one split second, their world changed forever. A scary and isolating job that no woman could ever prepare for. Regardless of the type of cancer, the experience is long and difficult. Regardless of remissions, cures or unimaginable loss, cancer is part of their lives forever. Their moments in life are now marked by haunting memories and inconceivable feelings. Their family’s timeline is now marked by ‘before’ or ‘after cancer’. We are working during the month of May in honor of Cancer Moms everywhere, fighting for their kids. We will share stories of many incredible Cancer Moms this month and how they define support. We want to be their voices, reminding you all that the ONLY way we can make things better for kids fighting cancer is to do something about it. We hope we all find ways to lighten the load for our friends, neighbors and family members struggling quietly, valiantly, every single day, to keep their children alive. Donate today in honor of a mom. Donate in honor of a child. Your donation to ISF helps fund pediatric cancer research in our local community.
By Brandi Jansen
Brandi is Mom to Wren, who was diagnosed with High-Risk Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in 2016 and completed treated at the end of 2018.
Support isn’t “tell me if I can do anything” … it’s “I’m doing this x”.
Support isn’t being upset when I don’t meet some expectation.
Support is understanding I’m just surviving some days.
Support isn’t suggesting ways and trends and tricks someone’s sister’s next door neighbor read online that we should look into to best care for our child.
Support is knowing no one wants to save our child more than we do, and we leave no stone unturned.
Support is simply, JUST SHOW UP. Just, show up.
Support is not being one more thing that I need to direct, manage or worry about. Just be.
It’s ok to talk about cancer with me, really. It’s on my mind all the time… what I don’t want to talk about is how many people you’ve known who died from cancer or comparing adult cancers to my 3 year old’s cancer. Cancer sucks no matter the age, I get that, I’ve lost more than a handful of people in my family … but watching your own child battle and not knowing the outcome is a special kind of devastating.
Support is not asking super personal questions about whether I banked cord blood for any of my children “just in case” in the middle of the dairy section at Harris Teeter.
Support is not suggesting or questioning if I breastfed, vaccinated, fed her organic, did chiropractic, kept her out of the sun or let her play in radioactive sewage. Pediatric cancer doesn’t have any risk factors… except maybe radioactive sewage, but I can assure you, none of us did that.
Support is not commenting on a post about vaccinations that “immunicompromised children are a small population and if they are that sick, maybe they shouldn’t go out.” Would you ever say that to a mom with a kid going through chemo?
I feel like this all sounds so negative when I say it out loud, but truly, this is what I want people to know. I am a positive person and we have smiled and cheered through some hard days, but this is what I’ve yelled in my head many times.
We, as parents of kids with cancer, KNOW all of these things come from a good place. I don’t think anyone ever said or did or didn’t do something out of malice, but it does take buckets of grace sometimes to not be crushed or raged by off-handed, thoughtless comments.
It got back to me once that someone minimized Wren’s cancer in such a way, like “oh, she’ll be fine, leukemia is treatable.” I’m still swirling from that. Like, how dare you?! Come hold her as she is put to sleep while looking at the apparatus that will literally screw her down to a table so that her brain can be fully irradiated to catch and sneaky cancer cells lurking that eluded the chemo we injected INTO HER SPINE … then talk to me about how “easily treatable” it is. Sorry, that was a trigger tangent.
If you want to know what support looks like — look at the faces of the people in the pictures I post of long days in the hospital, fundraising runs, hikes, raffle basket nights at wine bars, blood drives, awareness events, pop-up shops, and all the celebrations in between. But also, its the often anonymous people who just did. They cooked, donated, gave blood, sent care packages, prayed, shared our story or dropped off whatever, whenever, never needing or expecting a thank you.
Show up. BE ALL IN. Be like those people.
I feel incredibly supported. I am forever and always blessed by those still standing by our side, always waiting to do more for us, for our cause, and still just showing up. I learned a lot from cancer.
I can’t even begin to go into the importance of feeling supported by the medical staff that treated Wren. They were always listening to my mom gut and never questioning my feelings or observations or worries. To tell what they have meant to me in all of this, I’m not sure could be written down.
But in our life outside of the hospital/clinic, the importance of being supported was always to not feel alone in the war. Without the support I received, I don’t know how I would have done it. I don’t know how my family would have made it as intact and as well adjusted/coping as they are.
Cancer didn’t just happen to our daughter. It happened to all of us that love her. To the people who showed up, you are everything. And you will always have me on your side. Always. For whatever war you may go though.
Donate in honor of these incredible women, your donation to the Isabella Santos Foundation helps fund research so desperately needed for rare pediatric cancer patients.
MAY CANCER MOM SERIES:
- Once a Cancer Mom, Always a Cancer Mom
- Defining Support, The Cancer Mom Series: Marianna
- Defining Support, The Cancer Mom Series: Christie
- Defining Support, The Cancer Mom Series: Nicole
- Defining Support, The Cancer Mom Series: Dianna
- Defining Support, The Cancer Mom Series: Eileen
- True Definition of a Mother, The Cancer Mom Series
- Defining Support, The Cancer Mom Series: Melissa