Pediatric cancer makes you a more empathetic, patient, and kind parent.
Quarantine and coronavirus and chemotherapy and grief are four tons of weight. Sometimes, I don’t know how I’m still standing. Sometimes, I just want to lie down and cry hysterically, but the 1 year old won’t let me. Tonight, after dinner, I basically flung the three children at my husband and ran to my bedroom to hide. It lasted less than 20 minutes.
Let’s be real. Pediatric cancer is incredibly isolating under the best circumstances. Cancer amidst a pandemic is terrifying and stultifying. I feel utterly alone.
Today was a stressful, endless day. Steroids cause ‘roid rage. It’s not a joke; it’s a real thing. Hazel is ravenously hungry and furious all the time. When she’s not eating, she’s arguing with her sister or screaming or weeping. I would love to say that my sympathy overflows for how unfair this is. After all, she has cancer and is taking all kinds of drugs that make her feel terrible.
And I do have sympathy. I do.
But I have nowhere to go—physically or emotionally. I am never without my children except at night, and then, I am always perched on the edge of my seat, waiting for one to wake up and need me. It happens every night. To illustrate my point, both Hazel and Gemma have gotten up in the last twenty minutes.
So after today, I hit my limit. I wasn’t empathetic. I was angry and stressed and wanted to hide. And I finally did something for my mental health. I told myself it’s ok. It’s ok that I’m not perfectly patient and understanding and sympathetic every minute. Even if Hazel does have cancer. It’s ok that I’m angry on the inside and stressed and didn’t want to play Go Fish. It’s ok. It’s ok. It’s ok.
It doesn’t mean that I’m not a good mother or that I don’t love my daughter with all of my heart.
It means that I’m human. And I’m tired and scared. I’m doing what most of us are during this incredibly uncertain time—taking it day by day and not looking too far ahead. Because the future is so clouded. But isn’t it always? We think sometimes that if we just do everything “right” then life will follow some prescribed course. Derailment is unlikely.
But my life was derailed 4 years ago, and I’ve been on a parallel track since then. So is this really something new?
I write this for everyone out there struggling right now, because I know many are. Handle yourself gently. Forgive yourself for being impatient or losing your temper or whatever fault you’re lamenting. These are unprecedented times, and we need to give ourselves grace.
And even when times are not unprecedented, we need to be forgiving of ourselves and of others, no matter how hard it is. And it is hard sometimes. It is really, really hard.