Dear Children of Metastatic Breast Cancer Patients,
Hello. My name is Amanda and when I was a 16 year old junior in high school, I lost my mom to Metastatic Breast Cancer. My mom had been diagnosed with Breast Cancer approximately 5 years before she died. Thinking back, I remember how sick she was in the beginning. I didn’t quite realize exactly what the word cancer meant, but I quickly realized that when I would talk to my friends about it, they wouldn’t know what to say. That seemed to be the way it went throughout her five years dealing with the disease. I didn’t talk about it much as a teenager. It felt awkward. I felt very much alone. I didn’t know anyone else in my school who had a parent with cancer.
After my mom died, I felt like it was some bad nightmare that I would wake up from at some point, but that wasn’t reality. It was hard for me to even cry. I felt very disconnected with what was happening. I remember at the calling hours and funeral, it really bothered me most when people would hug me and say “She’s in a better place”. To me, as a 16-year-old girl, I completely disagreed. I wanted my mom with ME. She was supposed to watch me at my marching band competitions, she was supposed to walk me down the field at parent’s night my senior year, and she was supposed to see me graduate high school.
I’m now 31 years old and over the last 14 years since she died, I can say it doesn’t get easier to have my mom miss my big life moments (or little ones for that matter). Even something as small as getting to sing Happy Birthday to her doesn’t get easier after these years. However, learning how to cope and how to honor her memory is very important and helps keep her in my present life.
In my professional life, my most meaningful work has been to work for a General surgeon who specialized in Breast Cancer patients. Knowing I was doing work for people whose lives were turned upside down like mine because of breast cancer was rewarding to me. I was a comfort to my patients, having first-hand experience of how the disease effects patients and their families. Getting the chance to speak my mom’s name and her story has very much kept her alive in my life.
If there is anything I would say to someone who is young, going through this journey none of us asked for, it would be to find community; find somewhere you can talk openly about how you feel. Angry, sad, unsure, overwhelmed; it’s ALL okay to feel. There is no right way to walk this journey.
Hug your mom as much as possible. Record silly videos together. Truly cherish the little things that make you smile together because memories are what keep our loved ones close to our hearts and minds.
My two sons (5 years old, 1 year old) know who Grandma Roxie is and they know how much she loved to laugh and give the best hugs, even though they have never met her.
Grief is Love
I have learned that grief is just love; love that has nowhere to go anymore once your loved one has passed. You so desperately want to love the person that is no longer here. So, for me, doing things that my mom loved to do: going to her favorite places, listening to her favorite bands, donating in her name, telling stories to my kids of things we did together, or sharing her favorite apple pie recipe; these are things that will keep a piece of her here. Always with me. It’s what I’ve found to be the eternal hug I very much need from my mom.
It’s not what happens in our lives that defines us, it’s how we handle it. Turn the sadness into strength and use it as a driving force for good and happiness.
I hope by sharing my story it somehow helps you see that you are not alone. It’s okay to feel EXACTLY how you feel, no matter what that feeling is at any given time on this journey that you and I never asked to be a part of.
All my hugs,
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