02 March 2010
As I write my blog, I'm actually at UAMS between tests. They have a great wireless connection here so I’m going to write my update between the MRI and MUGA Scan. Mom is with me today.
One thing for sure that I’m learning about cancer: It doesn’t just affect the patient; it affects every member of the family, and in very different ways.
For my parents, it’s been that feeling of why did this have to happen to you? My mother even said to me, “I wish I could go through this for you.” Anyone who knows my mother knows that this would be a very natural reaction for her as has long been the incredibly strong matriarch of our family, even the extended family.
For me, I feel as if I’m in an emotional time warp with Mom and Dad all over again, going back to 1987 when a drunk driver killed my husband, Allyson’s father. I will always remember the night my own father shared with me his feelings of helplessness: “I always believed I could care for you and protect you from harm; but there is nothing I can do to take this away.” For parents who deeply love and care for their children, this is probably a very typical reaction anytime we watch our children go through a painful experience.
Dealing with a parent’s diagnosis of cancer can be a little more delicate, especially if your children are still at home and emotionally and financially dependent. And for children living in a single parent home, those feelings probably become exacerbated.
For children of the cancer patient, I’m told to expect a variety of reactions – confusion, sadness, anger, worry, fear, and even guilt. Reactions can differ based on the age of your child, the cancer prognosis, and the pre-cancer relationship between parent and child.
For me, it’s been important for my daughters to know a few things:
· I want you to know as much, or as little, as you want to know about my diagnosis. That’s is completely up to you.
· Whatever you feel, don’t be ashamed of it, or feel guilty about it. Others in your situation have felt the same. You are not alone in your feelings.
· “Cancer” is not a synonym for “death.” As new treatments are discovered, more people are beating cancer today.
· Even though cancer has imposed on our family, our job is to keep on with life. That means it’s YOUR job is to go to school and church, enjoy your friends and keep up with all your other activities. Life is not on hold!
· You will not be burdened with a new job of “caretaker.” It is my doctor’s job to treat me, not yours. If there is an occasion when I’ll need special care at home, family and friends will step in to help.
· You can be involved with my treatment as much as you like, including no involvement whatsoever. It’s completely up to you.
· For Anna-Lee, I’ve told her that if she gets tired of cancer and needs to escape it for a night or two or three, she just needs to tell me that. She has permission to escape.
What I really want my girls to know is this: The only thing we are guaranteed in life is change. Change is constant. How we as a family will respond and rally around a multitude of changes largely depends on how comfortable and effective we are about communicating our feelings with one another during those times. We have handled other life changes together, and we’re going to get through this one just fine too.
Today Allyson will come home for almost a week. The nice professors at the Mizzou Journalism School have granted her somewhat of a furlough. She has admitted that she has a strong need to get home for hugs and dinner and movies and the like. While I’m sure we’ll have a few “cancer discussions”, I’m looking forward to a little down time with both of them, just being a family. We’re going to cook, watch movies and do some things that we normally do. Oh, yeah – and we’ll slip in a chemo treatment too. A slight change to our normal schedule, but we’ll handle it just fine.
Posted by Stacy Sells at 12:44 PM