This Time Next Year

February 12, 2009

Tomorrow is my birthday. The fact that it is on Friday the 13th makes me very nervous.  I am considering not leaving my house, which is quite impossible as I have to run a Valentines Day craft in my daughters class and my friends are taking me out to celebrate later that night.  Still, I could very easily stay under the covers and not surface until it becomes Saturday the 14th.  I suppose, though, it can not be worse then my birthday last year. I don’t like remembering my birthday last year but unfortunately it has been on my mind all week, playing out like a b-rated movie:

  I see myself sitting on the edge of my bed. I remember feeling happy that my mastectomy surgery was almost two weeks behind me and that I  finally had my 2nd drain removed.  Soon I would be running again.

I remember hearing the phone ring and walking to the hall to answer it, knowing  I was alone –Mark had  gone back to work after taking care of me for so many days and the kids were in school.

I smiled when I heard Dr. Christian’s voice assuming he was checking on my well being, returning to the chair next to my bed to sit and chat with the surgeon I had become so fond of . I felt forever indebted to him for removing all the cancer from my body.

But he did not call to chat.

“The lymph nodes which on initial inspection were clean, showed, on further investigation to be cancerous,”  he said.


“You will need to come back in for further surgery.  We will need to take more lymph nodes to see how far the cancer has spread.”

I remember the panic and devastation.  I remember crying, thinking there was no way that I could handle another surgery. More surgery, more anesthesia, another drain, the possibility of lymphedema– thoughts that bounced around my brain, exploding like popcorn kernels in hot oil. 

I remember the rain. A heavy and hard driving rain  that lasted all day. The kind of rain that makes you think about Arks.

Friends starting showing up to console me, family members called.  Everyone wanted an explanation.  How could this be. We all thought the lymph nodes were clean; we had celebrated that fact.

“But it’s my birthday” I said to anyone who would listen.  It didn’t seem fair.

The next day, I remember talking to my angel, Maryanne, from the Brigham who you may remember, helped me so much with the first surgery.  She tried to console me and allay my fears of more surgery, more cancer, and the increased risk of lymphodema. She said something that at the time seemed so far in the distance that it was unfathomable.

” This time next year,” she said, “when this is all behind you, you should plan a trip, go somewhere and relax.  Try to focus on that now and think about a year from now when this is all said and done; focus on a vacation or  getaway.”

She was right of course.  At the time I still had so many hurdles to jump, some I couldn’t even see, so it didn’t seem possible.  But she was right.  She knew that a year is a long time and that people recover, scars heal, hair grows back, and life goes on. So here I sit facing down another birthday a year later.  And I am ok.  I got through that surgery and 3 others after that.  It truly amazes me when I remember this past year and what I have been through. Sometimes the memories make me sick to my stomach, sometimes they make me cry, and sometimes, they make me smile when I think of just how strong I have become.  That day was only one of many disappointing days filled with bad news but somehow I got through each catastrophe. Instead of each blow making me weaker,the opposite happened.  With each scary premise I faced down, I grew more resiliant. 

Tomorrow it will be “this time next year” and I am taking my family skiing  for the weekend, just like Maryanne said I should.  It is not a trip we can really afford financially but emotionally I can’t afford NOT to take this trip. And tomorrow, instead of worrying that it is Friday the 13th, I will be thankful that I am a year older and many years wiser.


Notes from a Mother with Cancer

January 19, 2009

“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.

Cleared for Takeoff

January 6, 2009

Tomorrow marks the next phase in this cancer journey I began a year ago.  After meeting with the doctors today, I have been cleared for my breast reconstruction surgery tomorrow morning.   The virus I had at Christmas seems to have dissipated enough that they can operate and the impending ice-storm does not seem to faze my fearless Dr. Plastic.  He assures me that no matter what weather the God’s reign down upon us tomorrow, that everybody will be there including himself and the anesthesiologist.

The only other concern at this point was my platelet count.   I had a bit of a scare on December 23rd when I went for treatment and pre-op.  It appeared that my platelet count had been dropping steadily since June.  The possibility of Leukemia left me weak-kneed and caused a few sleepless nights.  Dr. plastic ran a blood test today and was happy to inform me that my count was back up to 260 something ( I had fallen below normal range to about 154).

Anyway, all is set for tomorrow, after which I will unfortunately be stuck with another nasty drain and 2 weeks of absolute rest, but will also, if all goes according to plan — have fabulous breasts! 


Welcome, new writers!

November 16, 2008

We have a happy event here today — we’re welcoming two new writers to the Mothers With Cancer site.  Please join me in welcoming Fran, from Kicked by an Angel, and Hedgie, from Princess Hedgehog Chronicles.  Here’s a little bit about each of these new authors.


I am a 45 year old mother of 3 kids; 14, 12 and 9 year olds. This year I was diagnosed with stage 2,er/pr positive, her2/neu positive breast cancer. In the last 8 months I have had a mastectomy,lymph node removal surgery, port-placement surgery, 4 rounds of Adriamycin/Cytoxin chemotherapy, 3 rounds of Taxol, and 6 rounds of Herceptin and have begun my 5 year stint with Tamoxifen. I was in the midst of trying to write a memoir when this dilemma hit, changing the focus of my writing considerably, but also giving me a new thread to tie it all together with. My biggest challenge has been how the treatment is affecting my ability to run and train for triathalons which was a big part of my life before diagnosis. I also blog at francesbarrie or kicked by an angel.


Princess Hedgehog lives in an enchanted forest created by my children. The year she came to life was the year my existence was tempered by the firestorm of a breast cancer diagnosis. Hedgie wanders through the forest we both inhabit, giving me a voice and perhaps, a way back into the world of published words. Essays, short stories, journal entries all cohabit peacefully here in Hedgie’s Kingdom. Since you have found your way here, please stay awhile and offer a comment or two. The writing muses are in need of discourse! Love, Hedgie

Want to be our next new writer?  The only catch is — ya gotta be a member of the club.  A mom with cancer.  (Email me if you are and you’d like to be considered….)