It’s Valentine’s Day…a day when we celebrate those that hold our hearts and fill everyday of our lives with love. Scrolling through Facebook this morning, I’m looking at picture after picture of couples in love, professions of adoration for spouses and children…and then a post comes up from American Childhood Cancer Organization. I had shared a post last night about Kylie, who was home now, under the care of hospice, surrounded by her family and those that love her with their whole life. She passed away last night, losing her year long battle to cancer.
In the first few months of Elena’s diagnosis, I could not bring myself to read these types of posts. The news of my child having cancer was too fresh, emotions too raw to read about the outcome I feared most of all for my own little fighter. I would unfollow different “cancer mom” pages so I wouldn’t have to read about the terrible side effects that many parents were facing with their children. Seven months later, I have found that strength. Sometimes, I’ll even share our experience, if called for, hoping that somehow it can help another family.
Reading of Kylie today breaks my heart. I’m in tears, thinking about her mother and family and how they are coping with this. I don’t know Kylie. I don’t know her family or her mother. Last night was the first time I had ever heard of her. But I don’t have to know Kylie, or her family, to feel my heart break for them. Most mothers have empathy for a mom who loses their child. We can’t help it to feel heartache so deep, easily putting ourselves in their shoes. The cancer mom community is a harsher, more tangible heartbreak. It’s the knowledge and reality of how precarious our lives, and more importantly, the lives of our children have become. Every single time I read of a child passing away from cancer, I bleed for that mother. Because it could have been, could become me. I hope that every “cancer mom” reading this knows that all of us feel your pain. We don’t know you, but your pain is our pain, truly.
Our club is the best and worst at the same time. It’s comforting to know that there are others that share this experience and can answer questions and give advice. I live in New Jersey and have become friends with a mother in Australia, whose daughter’s diagnosis and journey mirrors Elena’s. They could be twins. I’m thankful for that connection. I think that twenty years from now, I will still be periodically corresponding with her, as our girls are graduating from college, having long forgotten of their fight for their lives they had at the tender age of two.
While I am grateful for this bond, I wish it wasn’t there, and I know I’m not alone in that thought. We’ve all learned incredible life lessons, we’ve had moment that have been so positively overwhelming we were wiping away tears of joy and utter appreciation. But at the cost of our children’s health. This is not an acceptable trade. Because we’ve also watched our children get poked and prodded, held them down to keep them from fighting while getting another IV or port accessed. We’ve seen them puking and crying. Watched as we allowed dangerous poisons drip into their tiny bodies, desperately praying it kills the cancer without destroying everything else. Sedations, surgeries, more nurses and doctors you can keep track of….and fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of side effects. Fear of death. No, The Cancer Mom Club is not one to become a member of. But here we are, unwillingly so, tragically united in our heartbreaking, joyous or triumphant experiences.
On this Valentine’s Day, love those around you with every fiber of your being. Embrace them like you haven’t before. For them, for you…and for Kylie ❤️