So God Made a Teacher Collection (Sale!) ➔

Those were the very first words I heard immediately following my diagnosis. For the next 3 weeks, I clung to this phrase and kept repeating it in my head, almost as my “theme song”  as I submerged myself into the next phase of my journey that I can only describe as awkward. 

It’s the time from the moment you find out you have cancer until the day you go into the operating room and for me, these past few weeks have been just that  – awkward.

For one thing so many decisions had to be made in a VERY short time frame; full or whole removal of my thyroid?,  which surgeon? which hospital? insurance coverages? – the list goes on and on. Through all of it, I had to go with what has been my lighthouse in the fog thus far – my gut instinct. 

At what became my final consultation,  I knew the minute the doctor came into the room that he was the one I wanted to treat me. The way he explained the type of cancer I had and the risk factors sounded as if he knew all of my anxieties that were swirling in my head. I was about to say “Ok, when do we do this?” and just then he proceeded to pull back his shirt collar and necktie to show me his own scar he had from HIS thyroid cancer he had 20 years prior. I knew I had found my surgeon. Everything felt right, maybe I DID have the best kind of cancer to have?

Then came the question of “how do I tell the people closest to me”? – Do I tell my friends? Do I tell my family? After all, I’ve been diagnosed with “the best kind of cancer to have” so no need to worry anyone, right? These words were so comforting for my parents to hear when I shared my news with my them. No parent wants to hear that their child is sick, even if their child is 45-years-old. So, explaining this to them by using my “theme song phrase”  helped to put them at ease and for that I’m very grateful.

But where this got difficult for me is when I had to decide if and how to explain this to my two daughters. I had a hard time imagining me saying to them “mommy has cancer but its the best kind to have.” I went back and forth with this for many sleepless nights. I knew within my heart of hearts that they wouldn’t understand that I’m going to be OK. I knew that hearing the word cancer would scare them to death and I just couldn’t imagine putting them through that. Children often refer back to their most recent experience to relate to a current one and I knew they would immediately think of their aunt who died from breast cancer and their cousins who are growing up without their mom. Although they would hear me try and explain that my cancer was different, an “easy one” and I was going to be fine, they wouldn’t be able to understand it and I just couldn’t imagine taking their innocence away from them in that way. 

This week is the first week of school for my girls, and that’s exactly what I want it to be. That magical time of seeing who their new teachers are, new clothes, new school supplies, the excitement of a new year and that’s just where I want them to stay. In that wide-eyed world of excitement and things to come for a 3rd grader and 7th grader and not the year that their mom was sick. 

I’ve realized that the bottom line is no matter what type of cancer it is or what stage it’s at, the flood of emotions that you experience when you hear the words “you have cancer” is something that you remember forever. No matter how many times the doctor tells you that this is an “easy cancer” or “if they had to pick a cancer to get, this would be the one” it will do do nothing for the fear that lingers inside.

As my surgery day approaches, I’ve decided to let go of my “theme song” a little. Maybe I do have the “best kind of cancer to have” but I realized I was letting it define how I am supposed to be feeling about having cancer. It was a nice cushion for the blow initially but I feel I need to give myself permission to be sad, to be scared, to worry that maybe I wouldn’t be there for my girls and my husband. I need to let myself feel all that comes with a diagnosis of cancer because it’s those emotions of sadness and anger that fuel my fire to fight this and beat it and be better for it – and that’s a story I can’t wait to share with my daughters. 

Tracie Cornell

Tracie is a writer, blogger, and corporate sales and leadership trainer. A native of Buffalo NY, she lives there with her husband and 15 and 11 year old daughters.   She has been a facilitator for 19 years while also pursuing her passion for writing, coaching and sharing her story of divorce, loss, and a cancer diagnosis all with the goal of connecting with other women to help them through all of life transitions. When she is not writing, traveling for work, and carpooling, she can be found at yoga, on a bike trail, or sitting in a local cafe sipping a latte while on her laptop.  She loves dinners out with her husband and friends and is constantly thinking of where their next vacation will be. Along with being a regular feature writer on HER VIEW FROM HOME - a lifestyle magazine that connects your view to the rest of the world, she is also a contributor on the Huffington Post Lifestyle and Divorce sections. Tracie has an essay, "Getting Back to Me" in the anthology "EAT PRAY LOVE MADE ME DO IT", the follow-up book to Elizabeth Gilberts's bestselling novel where she describes how she found the strength to start taking care of herself as her marriage was falling apart. The book is available now on Amazon and wherever books are sold. Find her at where you can also find how to connect with her on social media.

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

Get our FREE phone wallpaper to encourage you as the new school year begins

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