Some of us moms have fought one of the scariest battles of all. It’s a disease whose name causes hearts to race, faces to turn ashen, and rooms to fall dead silent.

To the moms who have conquered cancer, every moment is a miracle. Once we get the “cancer-free” announcement, we swim in gratefulness. We are grateful for every breath, each new morning, and for life itself.

Days stretch into years. Eventually we forget that once upon a time we had something called cancer.

Despite all the positive, however, many of us experience a strange phenomenon. Something is lurking. Someone is hiding in the shadows. 

It’s a robber crouching outside our house. He hides behind the bushes. He is watching us inside our safe, cozy home. He’s waiting for us to leave, waiting for a vulnerable moment. Then, when we least expect it, he will pounce, break in, and rip our treasures away.

He’s not out for our money. He doesn’t want Grandma’s diamond ring or our iPad. He wants something else. And inwardly, our sea is churning and turbulent. We fall prey to a premonition. We lock and re-lock our doors. We slam down the shutters. We draw the drapes, shutting out any fragment of light.

We pretend he’s not there until our restless imaginations take over. The thoughts begin as something seemingly benign. It might be that one day we notice how much of a sweet tooth our daughter or son has. We resolve to drive out that sweet tooth. We think, “Sugar is evil. I don’t want my child to get cancer.”

Or, on another day, we notice that we are sweating, deodorant pooling under our arms. Reasoning that we’re far too young for menopause, fear grips hold and we suddenly feel nauseated.

Perhaps we pick up on how tired we feel. We forget any logical reasons for our exhaustion and think, “Why am I so tired?” We remember back to the symptoms of our cancer and are fraught with worry. We remember the night sweats or the fatigue that confined us to our beds.

Some of us schedule doctor’s appointments to address the physical sensations, real or imagined. And we think, although we don’t tell the doctor, “Please, don’t say that my cancer is back.”

To the mom who has battled cancer and won, please know this:

You demolished the free radicals. You choked the malignancy with your own hands. You eradicated the tumors. Don’t let the thief rob you of your joy.

You won’t like this next part but take heed. You must go after the robber. I know it seems impossible but you have more strength than you know. Choose your weapon.

Rip your fear to shreds and leave it on the floor inside your house. Step outside your warm house. Take your best friends if you need to. Go outside to where the thief is hiding. Find him and pulverize him.

He has no right to be on your property. Drive him out. Call the cops if you need to or enlist your neighbors in the attack.

You have a right to live your life without fear. Don’t let the malignant thoughts take hold. 

It’s OK to still aim for exercise three times a week. It’s OK to go easy on the red meat, dairy and sugar. You can still make your funny smoothies with flaxseed and chia seed and organic kale. But, you don’t need to memorize the top 20 cancer-fighting foods. You don’t have to obsessively Google every ache and pain. Don’t call into being a disease that isn’t there, a disease that you wiped out long ago.

Once you kill the robber, trust that he won’t come back. He will never appear again unless you let him. And, once that robber is gone, leave your windows and doors open. Let the sunlight filter through. Believe that all that is outside your home is every positive thing. 

And, with the robber gone, give your husband a kiss. Tell your children you love them.

You deserve each day. You deserve every breath. You deserve to be floating on your back in a sea of joy, gazing up at a crystalline sky.

You may also like: 

How Having Cancer Changed My Life

Cancer Can’t Take That

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Catherine Writer

I am a mother of two, who has just recently picked up creative writing again after a 16 year lull.