Written By: Kathy Glow @ Kissing the Frog
I heard the news just one day after we marked the two year “crapiversary” of our son’s death from cancer. Another child from his class at school had been diagnosed.
Shock turned into anger which turned into fear which turned into sadness.
I was scared and sad for my son’s classmates and their parents. I imagined the dozens of questions that they would have: Would Matthew (not his real name) lose his hair like Joey did? Would Matthew become all puffy and bloated from the medicine like Joey did? Would Matthew need a wheelchair like Joey did? Would Matthew go to Heaven like Joey did?
Our son was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor four months before he entered kindergarten. After a summer of radiation, chemotherapy, and steroids, he started school unrecognizable to those who knew him.
He lasted at school until April of that year. He then became too sick to continue school, and died on June 10, 2010. He was six years old.
I often ached for the parents of his classmates. Before Joey became ill, I wasn’t brave enough to tackle the tough topics of serious illness and death with my young sons. But all the other parents had to – it was staring their children in the face every day at school, and they were all aware of the inevitable outcome.
Thankfully for Matthew and his family, his prognosis is good. He has a very treatable cancer. Three years ago I would have burned with envy over this news. I would sit, seething at the cancer support group meetings for parents when others would talk of their child only having six months left of treatment or of being three years cancer free.
I knew that would never be my child.
Now, two years after his death, hearing of another child diagnosed with the ugly “C” word, even if it is treatable, makes me sad. It makes me feel especially for Matthew’s mom.
She puts on a brave face, just like I did, but you can hear the sadness in her voice as talks about Matthew being called “the new kid” at school. His classmates don’t recognize him because his hair is thinner and his face is bloated from the steroids.
She has had to find that strength at which others marvel and say, “I could never do what you are doing.” But she knows they could. She knows, as the saying goes, you never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.
She has become one of the “chosen mothers” of whom Erma Bombeck famously spoke. One of the mothers of whom it will always be known that her child had cancer. She will be whispered about and discussed in hushed sympathetic tones. She will be held up as a martyr, as a rock of strength, a model of grace.
Even though she never set out to join, she is now a member by default in this “moms-of-kids-with-cancer” club. From now on, whenever a new mom joins its ranks, she will again be pitied for “having to go through this again.” But regardless, she will be called for advice by the new cancer mom’s well-meaning friends. And she will not feel jealousy or resentment no matter what this new mom’s situation is; rather, she will offer her advice, her words of wisdom, her experience.
She will do anything she can to help this mother, who has been forced to join “the club” as one of the chosen mothers.
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Read here for ways you can help a family dealing with this terrible diagnosis.