This post is written as a response to the thoughts that have been knocking around in my head since reading Blondie's piece from yesterday.
I wrote last year after finishing chemo (the first six rounds, that were supposed to cure me) that it was the hardest thing I'd ever done.
But yesterday, Blondie reminded me that I was wrong.
The hardest thing that I have ever done was tell my oldest son that I have cancer.
And then that it had come back.
To knowingly inflict pain this way on my child. I don't really have the words to express how much this hurt.
Blondie and I met at the BlogHer conference. We had a conversation at the end of a wine-soaked evening, during which she told me about her mother's cancer and how Blondie would sneak into her mother's room and hold a mirror under her mother's mouth, just to make sure she was still breathing.
The very thought makes me gasp a little.
Like Blondie's mom (who is now healthy and who told me that we had at least one chemo drug in common, in yesterday's comments), I spent the days following each chemo (which were always over a week end), lying in the dark, unable to tolerate movement, sound or light. My spouse (as well as family and friends) would make sure these week ends were full of distractions for the boys but I know they found it confusing and frightening that their mother was unable to respond to their needs.
And then, last fall, I put chemo and radiation behind me and returned to work, only to find out within weeks that the cancer had spread to my liver.
When the oncologist confirmed this diagnosis, my first words were, "I have two beautiful children!" When I asked him how much time I had, he said, "Years. Not decades."
When we told S. about the recurrence, he was very stoic and calm. We explained that I would once again be in treatment but that I had very good doctors and that we were going to do everything we could to fight the cancer. This time, he didn't ask if I was going to die. I'm glad, because I didn't want to lie to him.
I was in so much pain during that time (and so swollen from fluid buildup on my liver).
And, then, like Blondie's mom, I found myself in hospital with an infection. S. did not have to step through an airlock when he visited me but he did have to wear a mask, due to a cough (one that started when he entered the hospital and disappeared as soon as he left).
Those first few weeks after the metastasis was diagnosed are very blurred in my memory, made hazy by shock, pain and the drugs used to relieve those things.
And through it all, S. did not talk about the cancer.
Then, one day, after the dust had settled and the benefits of (much gentler) chemo had begun to take effect, there was an incident at school that revealed how much anxiety he'd been bottling up inside.
I took him home, told him that the principal had told me what happened.
I told him that I wasn't angry.
I said that I loved him very much and that he could talk to me about anything.
I told him that I was already feeling much better (which was true) and that I wasn't going anywhere any time soon.
And I set about finding a therapist.
But S. balked at the idea of talking to a therapist.
And as the weeks, then months, passed and my health was obviously improving (and ultrasounds indicated that the tumours had stabilized), we saw him relax.
By the time we went to Florida in March, he was the happiest, most confident and most at ease that he had been, not just since the cancer, but since starting school, a couple of years previously.
He ended up having a great year at school and, in July, we were able to share the news with him that my latest CT scan had revealed that my "innumerable tumours" have disappeared.
So the therapist got put on the back-burner.
But Blondie has me thinking that it might be time to make finding a therapist a priority. Someone S. could meet and to whom he could turn should he need to talk.
Because who knows what the future will bring? I plan to continue to defy expectations but I need to make sure that my children are cared for, in every way, and no matter what.
I realize, too, that the impact of cancer could manifest itself months, years or even decades into the future.
Even little D., who seems oblivious (but who knows how much he is taking in?), will not remember a time when his mother did not have cancer.
Like Blondie, I've done a lot of work in therapy (and like her, it took some doing to find the right therapist), dealing with issues from my own childhood.
I need to trust that my kids will have the strength, the resources, the willingness and the courage to deal with their own cancer fallout, if and when they need to, just as Blondie is doing now.
This is not the most eloquent piece I have ever written.
But it was the hardest.
And it was important to me to write it.