A Mother and her Two Daughters

23 July 2010

Children & Cancer, with many thanks to my Council of Moms

Today Allyson will come home for the weekend, and it will be GIRL WEEKEND here at my house.  The last time all three of us were together was the Komen Race for the Cure weekend in St. Louis in June.  What a wonderful two-days we enjoyed together, also formally recognizing the tough battle of breast cancer by participating in the Komen race, along with Jeff, his family and many of Allyson’s sorority sisters from Mizzou.  Although my legs were probably at their worst in terms of pain and lack of strength, it was the perfect weekend for a Mom with cancer and her two daughters. 

One of the things I’ve learned about cancer is this – a cancer diagnosis for Mom is as frightening for her children as it is for her.  Together we are scared to death about death, but all of us are trying to stay strong for one another.  Isn’t that what loving family members do for one another? 

Staying strong and putting up an emotional front is one thing.  But it’s critical that families who face cancer face it together.  With love and hugs and age-appropriate communications, children will adapt if their fundamental and emotional needs are met, if they understand what cancer is all about, and have some warning about the treatment process that lies ahead.  It serves nobody in the family well to talk in hushed tones or to ignore the inevitable.  Instead, parents should empower their children to face the significant new illness demands of the family.  Looking back, my advice would be: 
  • Communicate with your children that most families experience changing times and tough times too, whether it’s a family illness, divorce or a financial crisis. 
  • Explore their feelings and talk with them about it. 
  • Make sure they have others to share their feelings with, whether it’s a counselor, an understanding schoolmate, a youth minister or family friend. 
  • Understand that Mom now requires special medical care on her path towards the ultimate goal – regaining health. 
  • Recognize what will change, while also recognizing what will stay the same.  This is very important, as children must know that some things will remain constant. 

 But unlike other families in crisis due to job loss or relocation or behavioral troubles, children of a parent with cancer or other potentially fatal disease face the overriding fear of uncertainty, loss and possible death.  With lifestyle changes happening almost immediately, anxiety about the future can be at the highest level for a child.  In the past, it’s been Mom who took care of life’s TO-DO list and problems.  However, during this time, children can find themselves often caring for Mom, and also feeling as though they are facing their own problems alone.

When it comes to cancer, some things will not, cannot and should not change.  All children, including teenagers and young adults, still need their mothers.  As they say, “A mother’s work is never done” – even when we are sick.  Children should know that love is forever and that somebody will be there to pick up the pieces, if needed. 

I am thankful for my Council of Moms who have helped me out during this time – my own mother (and Dad and Mike too), dear friends, mother’s of schoolmates, work colleagues, church members, neighbors and schoolteachers.  And how many times has Tim stayed at my house while I remained in a chemo-sleep to make sure Anna-Lee returned home safely and on time.  So many great people have substituted for me from time to time, have remained in close contact with my girls, have made sure they had good meals, and have been a loving friend and advisor to them both.  Their love for Allyson and Anna-Lee has meant more than I can ever articulate. 

For a Mom with cancer, there is no better gift than the comforting words and hugs from your children who understand and who also have high hopes for a brighter day.  I’m looking forward to a weekend of love and comfort and hugs with my two girls.  And all three of us remain hopeful for a brighter day, filled with good health. 

With much love to Allyson and Anna-Lee . . . you are soulful and heartfelt and I’m proud of you both! 

And with much appreciation to my Council of Moms - you know who you are.   Thank you for all that you’ve done to help me care for my girls.  I will never forget.  

I experienced a post-surgery upset yesterday when I began vomiting and became covered in a terrible itching rash.  As luck would have it, I was allergic to the pain medication prescribed.  After a quick visit to UAMS, I'm now on new meds and feeling much better, and sleeping well too.  


  1. You sounded so good when we talked. I hope your mother daughter time is wonderful. Thank you for sharing your experience with the world. love you

  2. Another wonderful commentary on life with cancer. I always find your blog inspiring and think of you often. Have a great weekend with your daughters.


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