This will be my mother’s sixth year as a breast cancer survivor.
My family couldn’t be more thankful for her triumphant win over this terrible disease. I’ve been so lucky to have the love and support of my family and friends, both before and after my mother was declared cancer-free.
In those six years, I collected my thoughts, learned new truths and found a new understanding of my life’s expectations. Here are the six things I've learned from being a survivor’s daughter.
1. Even if your loved one survived, there still may be heartache.
Have you heard, “Cancer can either bring a family closer together or tear a family apart”? Well, it’s completely true. My family worked together to beat this illness, but in the end, my dad ended up in California while my mom, my sister and I remained on the East Coast.
2. You may be just a kid, but it isn’t just about you anymore — and that’s okay.
Everyone handles cancer differently. Parents handle cancer differently than children do. Young adults handle cancer differently than elder adults.
When there’s a terrifying chance one of your parents could die, and he or she works so incredibly hard to get better and fight through it, he or she might still feel the need to personally refocus.
You may find it difficult to understand when your parent changes after being cancer-free.
3. You will be scared each and every time your parent goes to the doctor.
Your parent will have frequent checkups after the cancer is gone, and the fear of relapse will cross your mind every time you hear about a new appointment.
Every time my mom goes to the oncologist or for a breast exam, I can’t help but stress about the possibility of re-diagnosis or a new diagnosis. Talk to your parent about this. It’s okay to be scared, but keeping it to yourself will make everything worse.
4. Spreading cancer awareness is the best way to honor your parent or loved one.
You may be dealing with stress and other hardships even after your loved one has been officially cleared by doctors, but don’t let negativity rule your heart.
Things will always get better and the best way to surround yourself with a positive atmosphere is to be a leader and help others understand the facts of cancer. This can help bring you closer to your loved one and save many lives.
5. Favorites can start to develop.
A family can separate or grow closer when cancer comes into the picture. Separated families often develop unfortunate consequences.
A parent could find a deeper appreciation for one child or show more respect to another child. This could ultimately cause emotional distress, for every family member that feels slighted.
6. A little distance could go a long way, even if you’re afraid your parent will get another diagnosis.
As the child, you aren’t making the hard decisions. Your best therapy is to recognize that you deserve happiness and that you should celebrate life every day.
Your emotions have been tested and you’ve endured the terrifying thought that your parent(s) could pass away. Trying to understand yourself and your feelings could make future disputes or disagreements much easier.
Learning how to pick your battles — especially under these circumstances — can relieve major heartaches. Resuming old hobbies, developing new ones, staying healthy and talking to trusted family members and friends will help you make good decisions for yourself.
Even if those decisions include putting a few hundred miles between you and your immediate family, it will help in the bigger picture.
I moved out after college. My mom is thinking of moving to another state to be closer to the one she loves and to find happiness.
Living far away from a parent is hard, but between you and me, the pros of moving and starting over are way vaster than the cons.
My father moved to find his own, personal happiness, so why shouldn’t my mom do the same? Why shouldn’t I and why shouldn’t my sister? If we are a family, then surely, nothing can come between us, not even distance. Happiness is very difficult to achieve in life.
Many times, you will have to make sacrifices. Truthfully, I’m excited to have the opportunity to visit her and explore a new state, especially knowing that she’ll be beaming with positive energy.
My mom does a great job of keeping me part of her life, even though I don’t live with her now. Communication, honesty and forgiveness will keep any family close, no matter what.
It is okay to feel like cancer changed you. Cancer does change you, whether directly or by association. Be better, be strong and be aware.
Photo via We Heart It