How I felt when I heard my mom had cancer: I was scared and worried.
What I did to help: I was only 11 years old when my mother was diagnosed, so there were limits to the emotional support I could give at the time. I did help physically as she had to sleep with me several weeks after surgery during recovery, because I had a bunk bed and it had places for her to hold on to sit up and more easily get out of bed. In general, I was an aid while she recovered in doing things for her that she couldn’t.
A confusing time: Because my mother’s cancer was caught early and removed without any “further issue,” it was confusing to be young and not have time to process what was going on. One day she has cancer (and the thought of her dying is scary), and in the next couple of weeks, she was “cured” physically (whew!! Not dying). And on top of that, it was difficult and confusing to experience distance and unrecognizable behavior from your own mother. I was just too young to understand that the experience left her scarred emotionally…something she did not even know how to deal with.
My advice for others: With love and understanding trying, it is important to help your loved one understand the fact that cancer can make you both physically and emotionally sick. It is important to treat the emotional affects as fervently as the physical.
What I learned during this time: I learned that my mom felt scared and alone and spent many years trying to manage the best way she knew how. I also learned that these and other types of adversities do not define you – they grow and stretch you.