Notes from a Mother with Cancer

“Ever since you got cancer you are so mean!”  

Theses are the delightful words of my teenage son, who truly thinks that because I have cancer I am taking it out on him.  That I am just pissed off at having cancer and that he never does anything that deserves to be yelled at. He also feels that he should be able to do whatever he wants and that I am far too controlling.

When I tell people that I have a 15 year old son, the comments I receive sound oddly familiar to the one’s I got when I told people that I had cancer:

“Oh you poor thing.”

“This too shall pass.”

“You will get through this with time.”

“I will pray for you.”

The double whammy this year of dealing with my illness and also with the hormone laden mood-swings of my eldest born self-serving-entitled teenager has all but blown the roof off my house. This past week brought our frustrations to new heights when the doctors told him he had a knee disorder and ordered my jock son to rest the knee for 4-6 months causing him to quit his beloved JV hockey team and sit around the house playing X-Box 360. This coupled with the fact that the doctors have ordered me to lay-low for 2 weeks after surgery has turned our house into a battlefield.

I hate X-box.  I hate all computer games.  I always have.  This year was the first time any gaming system was introduced into our house and now we have two –the Wii, which I bought them last Christmas and the X-Box 360 which my son purchased with his own money thus making him believe he can play it whenever he wants for however long he wants. This on-line live contraption means he sits in our playroom for HOURS talking into a Janet-Jackson like headset to his friends who are sitting in their play rooms and play these games together.  No human contact…no outdoor fresh air. It came to a head the other night when I found him on it at 2:00 am, 7 hours after he started!

My other two kids,age 12 and 9, seemed to understand my need for peace this year.  They were easy on me after chemo and surgery and generally have really tried to be good.  My 15 year old — well, it seems like he has gone out of his way to irritate me.  He claims that I am meaner since I got cancer. What he can’t seem to understand is that even if I didn’t have cancer, I would still be angry about X-Box and I would still be telling him what to do.  It’s all about timing.  He happened to head full fledge into teenager-dom at the same moment I got cancer. Unfortunately, as a typical first born, his only perspective on things is about how they effect HIM. My cancer has been an inconvenience to him on more than one occasion.  Also unfortunately, he, like my husband has a difficult time expressing his feelings and therefor much of what he may be feeling gets swallowed up into a world of inane sports facts and weather talk.  This is something I continue to work on daily.

As I pondered our fight the other night it dawned on me just how difficult it is to be a “Mother with Cancer”. I blog on this website that goes by that name; and there is a reason it needs it’s own special site. Mother’s who have cancer have an extremely difficult time. No matter the age of the children.  Each phase of child rearing brings with it it’s own set of problems and when you heap on the sickness and fatigue of battling cancer and dealing with treatment not to mention the impending feeling of anxiety over “what if”…the combination of mothering and cancer is overwhelming.  Yes, it is horrible when father’s have cancer, but no matter how involved Dad is in the family, it is always easier for him to take to his bed when he is not feeling well.  Mom always has to be “on” no matter what.

Weather it is the physical exhaustion of chasing a toddler or the mental anguish of dealing with a teenager, mother’s who have cancer are a special breed.  Tough as nails as my mother would say, we have no other choice.  Every day we put the needs of our kids before our own (as do all mothers) and wait till the wee hours of the night to think about our own worries.

I know that eventually my teenager will outgrow this phase. I also know that I have many things to work on when it comes to dealing with him. Since he is my first I do a lot of “test” parenting on him. Sometimes I have to change my expectations and my tactics when things start to go awry.  Eventually too, my cancer, will fade into the background of our lives; He will find something else to blame my “meanness” on; maybe it will be my new job, or my book tour (ha), something other than cancer.

For now though, my hats off to all Mothers with Cancer and their ability to get through another day.  Lord knows it aint easy.

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8 Responses to Notes from a Mother with Cancer

  1. cancervisa says:

    Mental not don’t let kid by game system for themselves. Thanks for the tip

  2. sprucehillfarm says:

    I have a 15 year old girl, Talk about hormones! I think sometimes they think that just because we had cancer that we feel sorry for then and be easier on them? They do seem to feel entitled about just about everything!
    Hope you are healing well 🙂

  3. My eldest is a 14 year old girl. Sometimes I wonder how much of what she does is normal teenage stuff, and how much is affected by having a mom with cancer.

    About the computer…. my husband and I have really different approaches to this (which doesn’t make my job any easier!). I would really like to limit the kids and my husband doesn’t see anything wrong with them spending all day on the computer (as long as they have done their homework and chores). My husband sees the computer as representing the future (ok, so he’s a computer programmer and a major Trekkie, so there should be no real surprise there.) I used to feel that I had a strong argument, but as the games become more interactive, it is harder to say why it is less valuable to spend time with a kid via the computer than in the same room. After all, look at us, we have built ourselves a virtual community…. Are our friendships any less real because we have not met in person and know each other only via the web?

  4. My diagnosis came at the end of my daughter’s 12th year. The year when I was saying who took “my” daughter and dropped off this pre-teen.! Now she is almost 16 and I often wonder what is “normal” teenage stuff and what is exacerbated by what she and our whole family has been through these past few years? I must say it is easier now that I have more energy to deal with it all, but I try to take it one day at a time like we have to do when we are battling cancer.

  5. Karen says:

    I have 3 teenagers – now 15, 17, 19 – and it is tough going though those stages – doesn’t matter if you are sick or perfectly well. Setting limits can be a battleground so its easy for the blame to be put on the cancer. We just do the best job we can – a day at a time.
    Keep well – and keep smiling.

  6. Liane says:

    Wow can I relate. I have 2 girls now 17 and 15. In early 2005 my mom was diagnosed with advance gallbladder cancer, She had lived with us for 7 years and passed away exactly one year after diagnosis. It was a horrible year and my girls were so good despite the stress and grief that enveloped our lives. My oldest had to give up her room for Oma because stairs became impossible and my youngest lost the comfort of having her sister close by (they had adjoining rooms). Exactly 2 months after my moms death I was diagnosed with BC. Now what. The hospital social worker had offered counselling services for our family when mom was sick but we never took them up on it, prefering to deal privately. This time I made contact for the sake of my girls. All I could think of was what is this doing to them? And how much of the behaviour coming from my eldest was because of teenage hormones and how much was because of everything else she had to deal with? Although I know that there were many other kids in our neighborhood involved in much more dangerous and unspeakable things, I was more concerned for their developing psyches than the outwardly obvious acts of (mildish) rebellion. The social worker saw them, gave them the information they asked for – showed them that there were people out there who could help if things were really bad and I don’t know how much it helped but it made me feel better to know that there were options available and we weren’t in this alone.
    You mothers that write here are amazing. The theme that above all we want to make sure our kids are okay repeats again and again. It helps explain to me why my mom tried to pretend to her children that everything was okay (sometimes to the point of ridiculousness). She just wanted to protect us. Just like I had to protect my girls. I insisted on getting up and making their breakfasts every morning no matter how sick I felt and when the Chemo almost had me knocked down as far as I could go, I still struggled to complete that halloween costume for my youngest. She was so proud and so was I of both my girls and my husband and how they weathered these storms.
    Mothers with cancer indeed. Thank-you all for sharing! Sorry for the length – I think I may have gotten carried away a little.

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