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 Christie Baucom
Christie is Mom to Ethen, who was diagnosed with stage 4 high-risk neuroblastoma at 13 months old. Ethen is currently 3-years old and is in remission.
The first word that comes to my mind when I think of the word “support” as a cancer mom is “essential.” I view support as the provision of something that meets the needs of the patient, the parent, or the family – financially, physically, emotionally, mentally, and/or spiritually. Support can come in a myriad of ways, seemingly little or huge, and all are helpful and necessary. Fighting cancer alongside your child often feels lonely and crippling, and we found that the support of others upheld us and literally fed and sheltered us at times.
Now being a couple years past diagnosis, I have thought often on what was most helpful to us as others supported us in the fight. If I could summarize my thoughts on what to say to someone who wants to support a cancer parent, I would say this: Be there – be there often, be there patiently, be there for the long-haul, be there when the parent feels like others have moved on, be there to meet needs as you see and hear them. And never stop fighting when the fight “seems” over. “Being there” may look like sending a text, mailing a card or care package, sitting in a hospital room or home in silence or tears, seeing cords and lines and scars and vomit that make you uncomfortable, listening to a friend vent, providing food or gift cards or a meal-train, praying with faith when the family feels none, doing laundry, helping to pay rent or utilities. For us it even looked like friends bringing a game into the PICU to make us laugh a little and bring a little life in the midst of darkness or driving over six hours in a day with donuts and snack replenishments. We saw the sacrifices others made for us and the care they had for our son, and we felt strengthened and less alone. Another huge support for us – and one that continues to be a support to us – is when others care about and give to the organizations and research we are passionate about.
One point I want to emphasize is being there for the long-haul and when others have moved on. A cancer mom’s fight, and more than that her child’s fight, does not end when the heavy stages of treatment end. We do not return to “normal” – we are forever changed in many good ways and possibly also in some hard or ugly ways. In my interactions with other cancer moms, many of us actually struggle more emotionally when our child is no longer in active or intense treatment – our roles change and survival mode fades into anxiety mode. Stay by that mom’s side, continue to be there to listen, be patient when she is paranoid or anxious, continue to step in alongside her to fight for better for her child or other children who will be diagnosed afterwards, help her know that she and her child still matter when the hundreds to thousands of “followers” are no longer checking in everyday. A mom may not know how to best say thank you, but we are grateful often beyond expression and we are able to fight because of those who do it with us.
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: