Parenting and Cancer: Two Hard Things That Are Harder Together

Evan, our 4 year old, asked me the other day if I was still sick. It made me sick to my stomach when he asked me that, seemingly out of nowhere. And he will occasionally mention the time that he saw me in the middle of a grand mal seizure. Kids are oblivious to a lot of things but are also super perceptive and sensitive to other things, or even different parts of the same thing. This makes parenting as a cancer patient a little hard to navigate sometimes.

Usually I can speak about my cancer and approach the fact that I’m considered terminal pretty confidently as my hope and assurance rests in God and He is actively sustaining me every day. It’s easy to talk about, almost to the point where it feels normal sometimes, casual even. I mean, living with cancer is still living after all, and my day to day life doesn’t look probably all that different or more weird than anyone else’s, well, some parts at least haha. But when it comes to my kids, ugh, I have such a mental disconnect there. It’s all easy until the paths of my cancer and my kids cross. I try to keep them wholly separate, but that’s not always possible, like when my son asks if I’m still sick. That’s where I feel sad, desperate, and like I don’t have this as much under control as I like to think.

I mean, so much has changed in the past year, just so much. Still hard to believe, but I’m more and more able to wrap my head around it as these permanent changes are just becoming normal life now. Something that struck me as I was reminiscing (I do that way too much), is that the anniversary of my diagnosis, October 24th falls right directly in the middle of our kids’ birthdays, Brit turned 2 on October 15th and Evan turned 4 this past Monday, November 3rd. That means that half of our daughter’s life and a quarter of our son’s life has had the dark cloud of Mommy’s cancer hanging over it.

There was desperation when I was first diagnosed and lots of changes that absolutely affected the kids. For one, Mommy doesn’t look the same and she sure can’t do all of the things she did before. Surgery specifically was a really long and hard recovery where I didn’t feel like I could do all the things that I would have liked to as a mother. And now with this arthritis in my spine from the chemo, well, let’s just say it’s an issue sometimes. Mommy goes to the doctor a lot and Mommy is tired quite often. Through radiation, surgery, seizures, chemo, all of that junk that has limited me physically, I do feel bad on some level for my kids that they don’t have the mom that they should or that they deserve.

But physical demands of parenting aside, I do believe this experience has made me a better mommy in some ways. I have so enjoyed the intentional loving bonding time we have had. I know everyone says to cherish every moment with your kids because they grow up too fast, and while this is so true, my issue is that I want to squeeze every last drop of worth out of every moment so that they know in their hearts how much I love them. And that even if Mommy goes to heaven soon, that it was never my desire to leave them ever. I need them to understand what Christ did for us and why He had to do it and that I’ll see them again someday if they choose the narrow path. And, the deepest cry of my heart, as selfish as this may sound, is that I want them to remember me. I cry as I write this because, well, Brit just turned 2 and who knows what my timeline is going to look like, but God hears my cries and knows my heart and I believe He will allow this for me. This is about as close to despair as I’ve ever been. It’s a sense of loss, a sense of grief, and a very real sadness when I think of all the things that, without continued miraculous intervention, I will miss out on. Stories at night, little sicknesses here and there, silly dances and jokes, prayers and devotions, baptisms, sports games, report cards, driver’s licenses, weddings, etc. I feel a sense of loss for all of these things.

But if cancer has taught me anything, it is definitely to live with intention. Everything is an opportunity and every day can have meaning if we are open to allowing that. God has shown me, through the privilege of having my babies, just a glimpse of how He loves us and that motivates me to do the best I can while I’m still here to do it.

This year will be different. I’m determined to make 2 and 4 better for the kids than their last year was. I know that I can’t protect them from everything and I know that the suffering that they will inevitably face in their lives will produce endurance, character, and perseverance, as Paul reminds us in Romans. I just don’t want a single second of that suffering to be because of me. I know that’s not in my control, but as a mother, that’s how I feel. I pray that they on some level understand that Mommy is doing her best and will fight, as hard as I can and as long as I can, to stay with them. I hate these times where my cancer and my kids’ paths intersect a little, but at least it’s reminded me that I need to be present while I’m still here.

I read on a reputable cancer site that once brain mets are shown in melanoma, that the typical prognosis is 4-5 months. That was 6 months ago. I’m still here and I’m not going down without a fight, I have just too much to stay for.

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19 thoughts on “Parenting and Cancer: Two Hard Things That Are Harder Together

  1. Love you, Kim! Thank you for being so honest in your blogs. Praying that the Lord continues to prove His love to you and to your sweet family. Keep clinging to the promises of God! Hugs, Pam

  2. You are a brave and wonderful mommy and in no way are your kids missing out =) From what I can tell, life is never dull for you and those kiddos keep you on your toes!

  3. I am so encouraged by your post. You remind us all of how important it is to live intentionally. Thank you for sharing your heart. Praying you stay strong!

  4. “I mean, living with cancer is still living after all…” what a powerful and true line. You bring up an important truth. Glad to read your blog. Good thoughts for you.

  5. “Everything is an opportunity and every day can have meaning if we are open to allowing that.” You give such hope and motivation. Continued prayers for people to see God and His work in you daily. For your kids to be soaking in each moment just as you are. For life not to end just because you have a diagnosis, “I mean, living with cancer is still living after all…” That is so powerful. I know you do not write this to receive accolades, but you need to know that you mean so much to so many, even those that don’t really know you, imagine what you mean to your family.

  6. Hopefully you will read these even though I am later than the others in responding.

    Have you been able to connect with other cancer patients who are young moms also? I know that going to Penn is a long drive and you probably avoid any extra trips. Knowing that they provide comprehensive treatment, I am assuming they have specific support for you as an individual and for your family. Have you been able to tap into any of what they have to offer? If not, or you can’t get there, I do have another suggestion. Please call me or email 859-4814, csnyder@ephratanazarene.org. Blessings! Char

  7. Kim, my mom died of leukemia when I was 7. My sister was 5 and my brother was 4. We have few memories of her, but the ones we do have are very precious. We treasure any photos of her and any clues we can find into her personality. She liked reading poetry, toasted almond ice cream, and oil painting. She told us Bible stories and took us to stepping stone park. So just let them get to know you. Take pictures. Tell or write stories about special times you’ve spent together and stories about when you were a little girl. They will always value you more than anything else in the world. You’re their mom.

    1. Thanks so much, Beth. I’m so sorry that you had to go through that but it does help me when I hear about people who lost parents at a young age and what they remember or what was important to them that their parents left. Please know that I still pray for you daily!! ❤

  8. Kim…my husband pointed me to your blog a few days ago and I’ve been voraciously reading through it since. Our family’s stories have many similarities. My husband was diagnosed with stage 3 melanoma 5.5 years ago (his diagnosis was just a month after we got engaged). He was diagnosed five weeks ago with stage 4 melanoma after what we thought was just a bad case of pneumonia. Nope – his melanoma is now in and around a lung amongst a few other places. Like you, we have two young kids (4.5 and 1.5). It has been such an encouragement to read through your blog these past few days and to see your faith being lived out. We too are Christians, and if it weren’t for our faith, I don’t know how we would even wake up each day with the burden that this stage 4 melanoma brings. Thank you for sharing your story!

    1. I’m so sorry for what you’re going through! Oh the frustrations! Is your husband by any chance getting Keytruda or any pd-1? As stage 4 he should qualify right? I will add your family to my prayer list!! Let me know if there’s anything I can do, my email is andrewfamily08@gmail.com
      I hope you guys have an awesome Thanksgiving!

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