So God Made a Mother Collection ➔

“30. She’s 30 years old, Katy. It’s not fair. What can I do?” she asked.

My heart ached for this woman. A follower to the page wrote those words last night, and I felt my heart breaking for her.

Her best friend of 20 years, a mom, a teacher, a wife, just received a cancer diagnosis.

“How? How can I make this better? How can I help?” she asked.

It completely took me back to my own diagnosis.

RELATED: To the Moms Who Conquered Cancer

Thoughts of Susan.

Thoughts of Carla.

Thoughts of Mel.

Thoughts of my team.

Thoughts of my neighbors.

Of course, thoughts of my family.

Thoughts of the miracles He lined up.

And thoughts of how heartbreaking my own diagnosis was for my army. How helpless they must have felt.

My response was simple:

“Don’t be the one who washes away.”

My journey with cancer was like a tidal wave. Like the drift of the ocean . . . people are brought in, they help you rise. Like hope, they keep you afloat.

And yet others simply fade out, wash away . . . leaving only traces on the sand of what they once were.

Cancer, it changes everything.

And no one really told me about those waves.

If you are standing on the shore, watching as a friend prepares for the most epic swim of her life I say this to you, as I did to her: 

Be OK with the waves. Get ready to ride them with her.

Be OK when she forgets to call. Be OK when she’s too scared to talk, just let her sit. Be OK when she’s not so nice. Be OK when she just cries for no reason. Be OK when the waves just crash.

Be OK with the waves.

Be OK when she’s sick when she doesn’t look good. When she has hair clumps in her hand and tears in her eyes.

Be OK with the waves. She knows what she looks like, so remind her how beautiful she is. Remind her that her heart is more beautiful than her hair. And buy a hat, or a beanie, or a bow or something that says, wear it if you want, but it’s cool if you don’t.

RELATED: Important Advice For the New Cancer Mom From a Mom Who’s Been There

Be OK with the waves. Go out of your way to research for her so she doesn’t have to. She doesn’t need to WebMD it. Give her a naughty romance novel. C’mon, you know. The one that will crack a smile, that she won’t admit she’ll read. She’ll read it though. She will. She reads for pleasure. You read to save her from that unnecessary pain.

Be OK with the waves. Be OK to carry the load. She’s carrying the emotional ocean of treatment, of healing . . . carry the hard by handling the rest. Go over with dinner. Put her kiddos down for a nap. Netfix it with her. Remind her that in college you may have chugged the beer, now you help her chug the water.

Start a support group, a meal train, and an army of people who will sweat for her.

Be OK with the waves. Don’t tell her you understand. You don’t. But you know He works all things for good. She can do hard things, and you are going to fight with her.

Be OK with the waves. Be OK holding her thinning hair back or just sitting with her when the medication is too much. Remind her she can do hard things and together you’ve got this.

You’re just riding some waves.


Fight with her.

Change the phrase, you have cancer, to we are fighting this cancer, our army is fighting with you, and we’ve got your back.

Above all, let her know she is not battling alone. It’s a we thing. You are riding the waves, too.

RELATED: How Cancer Taught Me To Pray

When you feel in your heart that it’s not her battle but your battle together, He will work in the most amazing way to remind you He’s riding the waves with you both.

That’s how hope floats.

You see, when you ride the waves with your beautiful bestie, cancer doesn’t ever win.

You are too busy letting hope float to ever let the cancer sink the spirit.

Katy Ursta

Hey all!  I am Katy Ursta married to my college sweetheart for 12 years, a mom of two boys, and a stage four cancer survivor. I started writing as a way of coping with my diagnosis, but found the more I shared about cancer, the more universal cancer became, and the more connected I felt to others and the less isolated I felt through the struggle.  I own a virtual health and wellness company and commit to helping my clients find a deeper motivation to fight for their own health. 
When I am not in the stands of my sons' hockey games, I am usually found folding the never ending piles of laundry, looking for the matching sock, breaking up hockey fights, or (let's just be honest) with my hand buried in the bag of chocolate, asking the question, "what do you want for dinner?"  You can find more of my work on instagram @katy_ursta or on my website,

How Grateful I Am for a Mother Who Believed in Me

In: Cancer, Grief
Mother and grown daughter, color photo

It was a hot summer day sometime in the middle of high school. I was young and naive, but the ugly six-letter word was looming over our family: cancer. Although I didn’t know it then, this would be our last normal summer before my mother’s health would worsen. Cancer would give way to terminal cancer. It’s funny how something so big can seem so small in those moments. My mom and I were sitting on our back porch, encased in a narrow hedge of yew bushes. It was a yellow, lazy Saturday, and my brothers and father were at Cub...

Keep Reading

A Medical Diagnosis Challenges a Marriage

In: Cancer, Living, Marriage
Bald woman holding clippers over husband's head, color photo

It is no secret now that Albert Pujols and his wife have announced their divorce shortly after she had surgery to remove a brain tumor. As a breast cancer survivor, this news hit me in a special way. As I was reading through an article from Today, there was a quote that hit me hard, “But a marriage falling apart is far more common when the wife is the patient, researchers have found. A woman is six times more likely to be separated or divorced soon after a diagnosis of cancer or multiple sclerosis than if a man in the relationship is...

Keep Reading

When You’re Barely Hanging On, It’s OK to Ask For Help

In: Cancer, Living, Motherhood
Worn mailbox, color photo

I’m a bundle full of fun. My list of fun things include being diagnosed with cancer at age 33, having the BRAC1 gene mutation, doing six months of oral chemo, having a hysterectomy at 34, my ovaries and tubes out at 34, enduring a double mastectomy, and a million scans and procedures under my belt, followed by five months of oral chemo. I was a stay-at-home mom during this time with a 7, 5, and 2-year-old.  Sometimes I feel like I experienced a whole lifetime in one short snapshot of a year.   At the beginning of my diagnosis, our mailbox...

Keep Reading

This is What Cancer Looks Like

In: Cancer, Motherhood
Mother lying on bed with toddler sprawled across her, color photo

While I was going through active treatment and recovering from procedures and surgeries, certain moments during the day triggered this thought in my head, This is what cancer looks like. I envisioned a still shot of that moment and that title above it. One of the first times I had this thought was when I was lying on the couch watching my daughter play. I was fatigued and my heart was racing, but I was still a mom needing to supervise my 2-year-old.  She came over and held my hand.  This is what cancer looks like. In the days following...

Keep Reading

Cancer is Not in Charge

In: Cancer, Living
Mother with bald head holding child, color photo

My entire life, I’ve felt much pride and comfort in being a person who was highly organized, a planner, someone who truly enjoys predictability. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, everything that encompassed my normal way of living was disrupted. And there was no way to fix it. This was not a good feeling—frankly, it sucked. I’m a stay-at-home mom of three young children. My first thoughts after my breast cancer diagnosis were how this was going to affect them. Would they even still have a mother in a year? These are terribly hard things to think about when you...

Keep Reading

But Dad, We Were Supposed To Have More Time

In: Cancer, Grief
Man smiling at camera

September 5, 2015 was one of the worst days of my life. It was the day I found out my dad had “it.” The word I expected but didn’t want to face.  Cancer.  Stage 4 in his lungs, bones, and spine. A week later we were told he had about six months left with us.  Six months.  A half of a year.  He was only 55. People nowadays can live to be over 100. How was it possible that he was only going to live half of a life?  They were going to be releasing him from the hospital so he...

Keep Reading

I’ll Never Go To a Seafood Restaurant With Her Again

In: Cancer, Grief
Woman alone at table

I am 19 years old and it is the smack dab middle of summer and I am sitting outside—al fresco—at my parents’ favorite restaurant at a small, round, wrought iron table on an uneven slab of cobblestone bricks. Ropes of twinkle lights hang above our heads and spool in circles around lush green plants in terra cotta pots in the corners of the courtyard. The stemware here is so thin I imagine one gust of air from a sneeze might shatter my glass into a million tiny pieces. RELATED: Don’t Take Your Mom For Granted—I’d Give Anything to Have Mine...

Keep Reading

An Open Letter To the New Cancer Mom

In: Cancer, Child, Loss, Motherhood
Oncology room childhood cancer

This is an open letter to the early days me—when my son’s cancer diagnosis was first spoken over him—and to any other cancer moms out there drifting, surviving, and rising through the trauma. The early days, those raw, pouring, dripping emotions fresh from Elijah’s diagnosis day, 2-year-old Elijah, my son. “It’s leukemia,” said the kind-eyed ER physician. His eyes were so big and brown, mirroring Elijah’s signature feature. Another signature feature of Elijah’s—his long curly beautifully golden hair—soon to be falling on pillows, on rugs, in bathtub drains, until the day he bravely said I am ready to shave it...

Keep Reading

Cancer is Something I Carry With Me Now

In: Cancer, Living
Woman showing scar on chest, black-and-white photo

Two years ago in the winter of 2019, I found out I had breast cancer. I was a young new mother and completely terrified. Fast forward to today and I am healthy, have an amazing thriving two-year-old, and am planning my wedding with my perfectly imperfect soulmate. My hair has grown back thicker and wavier even than before, my body is my own again. I have found the confidence to build my blossoming writing career from scratch and am happier than I have ever been. You hear about this happening, people turning their lives around after cancer. I’m not the...

Keep Reading

My Mother’s Love Will Never Die

In: Cancer, Grief, Loss
Mother daughter

The night my mother passed away, my sister and I, along with our families sat by her side. We held her hand as she took her last breath. We talked to her and lingered near her side until they came to take her away. It was so very sacred. I couldn’t believe she was really gone. She had battled uterine cancer and was staying at my sister’s home to be cared for full time for the last four months. I had arrived from out of state only two weeks prior, and we spent every minute together, day and night until...

Keep Reading

It's bittersweet for a mother to watch her child grow—but you both are ready to soar.