People are always asking about the kids: “How are they doing with all this?”
I think this picture about sums it up. It’s the picture of me that Jack drew for Mother’s Day—with a big smile, modest amounts of hair, and my chemo rash.
Early on, someone told me that kids experience cancer largely from the perspective of how it affects them, which I have found to be true. As time goes on, Nathan and Evelyn have gotten better at reading how I feel, physically and emotionally, and being empathic and helpful. On the other hand, the twins have mostly stayed tuned in to what they can see - my rash, my hair - and to some degree, worried that others will see it as well.
“It’s ok,” I say. “My cancer isn’t a secret.”
They monitor me closely each morning—“Your rash looks better today!”—seeking signs I’m healing. (I may be, but the rash remains a constant.)
Late at night they whisper, “I wish you didn’t have cancer.” I say I wish that, too. They want to know how much longer for chemo. “Probably nine months,” I say, and we count it together. They are incredulous when we count past Christmas, as far out as they can imagine.
I’ve tried to stop feeling guilty about what I can no longer do for them—like cook dinner each night—and take greater joy in what I can, even if that’s just one dinner a week, even if I can’t eat it. I used to tell the kids I cooked to show them I loved them. So it’s sort of weird that as I cook less, it feels more true.
Still, it’s so hard not to worry about how my journey is impacting them. When I do, I try to see it all from their eyes, and then suddenly something brings it back into focus, like the “All About Mom” Mother’s Day card the teacher made Jack fill out:
I love that she: IS A GOOD COOK AND IS ALWAYS HAPPY.
She is the best mom because: SHE LOVES ME.
So I have a rash, and I have cancer. But I still like the me they see.