My daughter has cancer. There. I said it.
It took me a long time to say it and even now, as those words fly out, I shake my head in disbelief. How does my daughter have cancer? How am I telling the world about it? I never pictured being one of those moms–a Cancer Mom. A mom who has to keep it together for the big stuff-the treatments, the late nights cleaning up after a sick baby. The panic at every warm keppy (head), the fear when I hear someone cough in the elevator. I am now that Mom. No one wants to be that Mom.
I “came out” as a Cancer Mom on Facebook on the Thursday after Yom Kippur. I took the plunge and let my world know that my baby daughter Stella, has cancer. She is only 6 months old.
My husband and I hesitated for so long. We weren’t really ready to let the world into our nightmare. To answer the questions, to the provide updates, to ask for help. To ignore the pity looks. To feel like we had to be cheerleaders and positive and optimistic. All. The. Time.
Once we put it out there–we could not take it back. Stella’s cancer would be out there forever. Once it’s out there, the nightmare is reality.
We initially decided to come out because we are hosting a fundraiser (Stella’s Superheroes) for the practice where Stella is being treated–the Cancer Center for Kids. We knew we had to share our story if we wanted to raise money for the amazing practice and the patients that really need it. We decided to put aside our privacy for what we felt was a greater good.
Minutes after I posted, I literally became ill. To me, it was the equivalent of posting a naked picture of myself (after having two kids!). What had I just done? The panic set in. But what happened next was truly incredible.
People immediately started donating. They started calling and emailing and texting. They were “liking” and sharing and reposting Stella’s story. It was like receiving 1,000 hugs all at once. Hugs that I really, really, really needed. The support was incredible. Our baby Stella became known as “Superhero Stella.” And anyone who knows her knows there is not a more fitting name; she is so smiley.
I also finally felt free. No more hiding, no more lying, no more pretending everything was OK. No more internal struggle with how do I tell neighbors and friends about my sick baby Stella. It was liberating.
Being a cancer mom stinks. It really really does. But I hope one day to tell both my girls about how we decided to share our story. I hope they learn about the power of support and how healing friendship can be. I hope they know there is no shame in being sick and it’s OK to ask for help.
I also hope they know how important it is to be honest and put yourself out there. I hope they learn that they are strong enough to face their fears and fight through, even their worst nightmare. I hope they see what I finally see in all this–how important it is to accept yourself, be yourself and love yourself–Cancer Mom and all.