When the doctor said to me “Your child has cancer” is the exact moment when everything changed. That one moment. It’s like everything flashes before you but you’re numb. You can’t think. You are empty. Somehow in your foggy daze of trying to make sense of everything, you ask God to trade places. It is your baby. This isn’t ever meant to happen.
You feel helpless, sad and scared. And at that moment, you don’t think you will ever be able to laugh again. That you won’t even function properly ever again. You’re just going through the motions.
Everything changes and no matter what anyone says, it will never ease the pain in your heart or that dazed feeling in your mind but at some stage in your grief you realise: I can smile again, I will smile again! Because every moment is precious and there are positives in everything, you just have to search a little harder. You question everything, you think to the past, you try to find a reason, a cause. But being advised by numerous experts that it was nothing she has done, nothing you have done for this to happen, offers little comfort. You promise never to cry in front of your child again, even if that means 3am tears in the bathroom after you have been up late researching everything or that rare moment alone in the car.
As time goes on you feel grateful. You have love. You have your child’s smile. The things that you see at the children’s hospital should never ever happen and makes you aware that no matter what your situation is there are people worse off than you. There are families saying goodbye to their children. There are people who have less time in life or don’t even get to say goodbye. You acknowledge other children’s diagnosis and try to understand what the other parents must be going through.
You vow to hug your children so tight every spare second of the day and somehow you push on, get the ball rolling. Get the treatment. Learn all the medical terms. But most importantly you make memories. You learn to laugh again and you learn a lot about yourself. You find you have no time for other people’s bullshit. You don’t want to hear about how their neighbours cat had cancer. You don’t want to hear about some fad miracle cure. But then you realise, that people only want to help and once upon a time you would probably have done the same. It’s like on one hand you have zero toleration for any crap, but on the other, you’re totally engulfed with empathy.
Some days are good, some days are hard, and they will be for the rest of your life. Every pain, every temperature, even “why has my baby slept in?” is enough for that fear to creep back in. No matter how hard you try to force it out.
You feel overwhelmed. A lot. Not only by the diagnosis and treatment, but by other peoples generosity and compassion. You discover a whole new world of friends. One that you could never imagine, brought together by the common factor of being an ‘Onco mum’ and it is a relief to find other people who know exactly how you feel. Who you now are. And for that you are thankful.
But most of all, you are thankful for your child. Thankful that you were chosen to be their mum. That this is your journey now, amazed at their courage and strength. And without even realising it, teaching you the biggest and most important lesson in life. Love.
Jenna 34, lives in Heybridge Tasmania. She is mum to Elvie, 4, & Peyton 5.