Another Guest blog. Enjoy
My ( ex) hairdresser said the dreaded words. “ Well, you know. . this will only make you stronger! **wink,wink** “ My usual retort used to be “Really? I thought life was hard enough without a bout of cancer to toughen you up. “ But I didn’t have the energy that day. I just smiled and thought “Just cut my hair lady - this is the last time I’ll be in your chair for a solid year.” That was almost 3 years ago now and still I wonder what my children really thought of my cancer. We tried to keep life pretty normal, but we weren’t hiding anything either. They knew about the surgeries and chemotherapy etc. Yet, it is truly hard to tell how it impacted them until something else sneaks up. Like when my daughter’s boyfriend had to go to the ER for a twisted ankle. I assured her that her beloved was to be a.o.k and then it came out. “Yeah, like the time you went in for the lung biopsy and they collapsed your lung! Things happen to people Mom, things happen and they are not o.k.“
I’m going out on a limb here and give you a fat cliche. “It made our family stronger.“ Actually let me rephrase. Cancer didn’t make us stronger - the way we chose to support each other made us stronger. My kids and my husband got to see me in a different light. It gave me the chance to be vulnerable and them a chance to step up to the plate. I cried in front of them - I let my daughter stay in the hospital with me because she needed to. It was her way of dealing with the crisis. They had the chance to see me as a person and not just someone nagging about homework and curfews. Did they grow up faster because of it? Yes. But is that a bad thing? Isn’t it better for our kids to learn that life happens - it’s how you choose to deal with it that makes the difference?
Teen #2 came home from school the other day and told me about a girl who was very troubled, using drugs etc. and said “ I think she has a bad home life.“ That’s when Teen #1 stepped in to remind him “We had a bad home life for awhile too Brandon. When mom was sick we could have starting messing up- but we didn’t. It’s choice. She has the choice.”
It was a choice to share my experience with my family. I could have kept it all to myself pretending to be strong and shelter them from life, but in doing so I would have robbed them from their experience. This is an excerpt my daughter wrote for her a scholarship essay:
It’s an indescribable pain to watch your mother cry because she can’t breathe. It’s even worse when there isn’t a single thing to do to help her. Ultimately, I was just mad. Mad at the doctors, at the nurses, at the cruelty of the universe in general. But with all my anger came a renewal of the way I saw my mother. She was so strong and she had so much patience and clarity. That night, I saw her not only as my mother; I saw her as a wife, as a “Tough Girl,” and as a woman who, despite all of the terrible things she was enduring, was able to still have love in her heart for her daughter. My admiration for her grew in ways I wouldn’t even be able to describe. And after that night we spent in the hospital, she also became more than just my mom.
I felt so sad reading this - knowing she was hurting so bad inside . And in the next breathe, I was so grateful I let her see ‘me'. I realized my experience made her a better person and yes, we are ‘stronger’.
Founder of Inner Tough Girls