I have had two disappointing days.

Yesterday, I missed my 9 year-old-daughter’s chorus recital.  As I approached the school at 3:30 I noticed the smiling children and their parents exiting the playground door. “It’s over,” one of the mother’s said to me with a pained look of pity on her face as she pointed to the auditorium, “Maeve’s in there.”

As I walked in, I saw her screaming at my husband through streaming tears. When she saw me she turned her back; I  was devastated. The disappointment felt oddly heavier than anything I had faced down this past year;cancer,chemo, the death of my mother.  For some reason, this slight mis-communication of the start time of an afternoon chorus recital broke me.  It was as if an orange DPW truck had been driven into the school,backed up and poured wet concrete all over me. There I stood covered in  hardening cement, unable to move or speak, while young and old turned and watched me falter under it’s weight.

A year of holding it together, I thought.  A year of running on auto-pilot  and trying to keep everyone’s schedule in tact while juggling hundred’s of doctor’s appointments, chemo treatments, and trips to the pharmacy. Hockey games, soccer games, baseball games, dance recitals and gymnastics meets.  Piano lessons, ccd classes,craft fairs,broken wrists, skinned knees, strep throat, and hurt feelings. I got through it all. Sick and shaky some days, crazy from the Compazine, lethargic from Ativan, — I always made sure my kids arrived at their destinations on time with the right equipment and a  belly full of food. And now, this, a silly little concert, a forgotten phone call to follow up and double check the time and I screwed up.  I couldn’t even blame anyone. It just happened. And it sucked. I felt defeated.

My usual tactic in dealing with this kind of disappointment  in the past would have been to get angry, tell Maeve to “suck it up, life is hard”  and tell her to forget it and move on.  I am not very proud of this method but it was usually my knee-jerk reaction to stress and I must say generally only exacerbated the problem.

I did not do that this time since the night before I had attended a parenting class–the 5th in a series of 6 free classes taught by a former teacher and counselor in North Reading.  This wonderful man, George McGurn, is big on getting hip to hip with your kids–really listening to them and validating their feelings without judgment or criticism. Nothing new.  Nothing we don’t all know.  But sometimes it is nice to be gently reminded and have positive parenting techniques brought to the forefront of our mind. It is so easy, after 15 years of parenting, to fall into negative patterns and get stuck there.

So the first thing I did when we got to the car is that I broke down and cried. I told her that I was sorry that this happened and that I was really very sad about it. I think Maeve was shocked.  She immediately stopped crying, touched my arm and tried to console me;

“Don’t worry Mom, someone probably videotaped it,” she said, “you can get the tape and watch it later.”

“Thanks, honey.”

Later that night  when I saw her laying on her still-made bed staring at the ceiling, I went in and laid next to her.

“You know,” I said looking skyward,” That was horrible , what happened today, and I feel terrible about it and I know you do too.  But you know what?  Tomorrow we are not going to feel as bad as we do now.  And the next day it will be a little better.  And before you know it, we will be saying,’remember the time you missed my recital?’ And we will laugh about it.”

And miraculously,it worked.

“You talk like this has happened to you before,” she said.

“Me? Disappointed before? Oh yah.  It has happened, and some stuff that is even worse than this.  But it gets better, believe me.  You will feel better.”

“You are right,Mom,” she said, “I already do feel better.”

Today, our conversation was still fresh in my mind when I received disappointing news at the doctor’s office..  My oncologist told me that after studying all the heart tests, it seems that my heart was damaged by the first 4 rounds of AC and not the Herceptin.  This means it is not reversible.   My heart will stay compromised and they are going to start me on a daily heart medication. The damage is done.

Again, like the fact that I missed the recital, this sucks, but also…there is nothing  I can do to change it, and no one to blame. I will validate my own feelings, and tell myself that each day it will get less painful and that one day I will look back on all of this and laugh( well maybe just a slight ironic chuckle).

One other thing.  They are re-starting the Herceptin next week and will try again to keep me on it through July – every 3 weeks.  I asked her why they couldn’t just scan me and see if the cancer has spread or wait until it spreads and then start the Herceptin.  She said– and although I knew this, it was the first time the doctors actually told me — that if it spreads then it is terminal . They want to stop it before it spreads and they are hoping the Herceptin will do that. Terminal is not a nice word. It was scary to hear her say it…but also somewhat reassuring since she wasn’t telling me I WAS terminal, just that they didn’t want me getting to that point.

Well, since she put it THAT way, by all means, I said — bring on the Herceptin. Which,by the way they will bring on starting December 23rd, the same day I go in for pre-op for my surgery and the same day I have a meeting with Dr. Plastic. 

Maeve is fine today. She has forgotten that I missed the recital yesterday. She has moved on, but not because I told her to.  She has moved on because I allowed her to be miserable for the day and really feel the hurt.

Tomorrow, I will be fine. Tonight though, I am going to allow myself to fully feel the pain of knowing that my heart will never be as strong as it was. And I will remind myself, that in life, sometimes things just happen.


8 Responses to Validation

  1. That is the best we can do! Allow ourselves to mourn, and then get on with things, knowing (or at least hoping) it will be better tomorrow.

    What a proud parenting moment! May you have many more!!

  2. Your post is very powerful. I will keep you in my thoughts and hope that the heart damage is minimal.

  3. Charlcie says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your story of parenting and cancer. I’ve had those moments where I’ve juggled it all, cancer included, and other when, like you, one ball fell crashing to the ground.

    I love the way you handled it. It will be better tomorrow.

  4. sprucehillfarm says:

    Very good post. It made me cry,because sometimes I feel the same way, We try so hard sometimes to keep it all together and sometimes you just have to let it all out!
    I am glad Maeve is feeling better about it! I will have to remember that little speech and tuck it away for future use 🙂

    Sorry about the heart damage. I will keep you in my prayers.

  5. tamarchansky says:

    I am so moved by your post. It brought tears to my eyes. I was doing a google search on “disappointment” because that is one of the things I teach parents to teach their kids about–it is part of life and it is our job to teach it. It is so moving to me that you had the presence of mind– with everything you are juggling to find the honesty, the levity, the perspective to empathize with your daughter’s feelings and then, meeting her where she is, to show her that with time things improve- -they don’t always feel the way they do now. What an incredibly valuable lesson.

    You are a very resilient person to be teaching others through your posts when you have so much going on. This is part of how you are strong and we are al the beneficiaries.

    With gratitude and prayers for your health,

    Tamar Chansky

  6. Amy@UWM says:

    That totally sucks when we forget things and disappoint our kids, but what a great way to deal with it — honesty. I’m a long-time survivor, but I was young, single and kid-free when I was undergoing treatment. I have a hard enough time keeping things together without the Ativan haze. You deserve a medal for championing through mommy-hood while handling your health issues. Despite your recent health news, you’re doing great.

  7. My heart goes out to you, I can totally understand how everything else we go through as women fighting cancer pales into the background when up against forgetting something important to our kids. You handled it so very well and so honestly, it was the honesty about letting it hurt, letting your pain show, sharing how it all felt later – just so much wisdom that you shared with your daughter, which I am sure is something she will never forget no matter what the future may hold. I am sorry to hear about your heart. Take good care and thanks for sharing such a loving post with us. Jen xx

  8. whymommy says:

    Oh, wow. I love how you write, Frances, and I’m so glad that you’re with us now. I know it must have felt terrible to miss the recital, but you handled it well and I love the image of you two talking afterwards. Good life stuff. And that’s the key, isn’t it? L:ife. We’re still here, we’re still living, and, even when we make mistakes, that’s all part of it. Life.

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