We all process shock, grief and despair in different ways. I am no exception. Coping when a child has cancer is unlike anything anyone can imagine. Like many children in the world today, my son had cancer treatment at a very young age. It feels like a miracle he is alive today.
Diagnosed with a tumor at 3 months old, the situation looked grim for the first 12 months. Living in a hospital for months with no idea if and when we could go home was just one part of the stressful ordeal. Having a child with cancer makes it difficult to cope each and every day. Looking at my child every day and thinking that he could just be taken from me was the most horrifying part.
Children are innocent. They can’t possibly understand or justify what is happening to them when suffering from an illness like cancer, that requires chemotherapy. 13 years later, I still reflect on the ordeal and hope my thoughts can help others cope if they also have a child working to overcome cancer.
Learn more about The Warrior Mama Series here.
This is a guest post from Kate Shelby. Keep reading to hear her powerful story, and learn more about her below!
People Ask Me How I Cope When My Child Had Cancer
The truth is I didn’t. Okay, I barely shed a tear, I kept a brave face. I “soldiered on” when I talked to friends, family and others in the hospital. When I spent time alone with my feelings, it all poured out. My child had cancer, and I was barely able to cope.
The nights were torture, not being able to sleep, kept awake by my fears of losing him. Curling up on the floor of a hospital shower, shedding tears so nobody could hear. Screaming silently into my pillow to try and get out the anger and frustration inside. For the most part, I bottled it up. This was how I tried to cope when my child was fighting cancer.
Then When It Was Time To Move On, I Stayed Still
My son was ready to go home, it was time to live a life. Free of the hospital ward stays and daily medication. My son still had residual health issues from his cancer, but he was alive. Me? When my child was battling cancer, my way of coping was standing strong. Now, suddenly I was able to grieve. I had put a lid on everything for so long when it was time to pick up the pieces, I fell apart.
It’s almost like now my son was out of the woods, I had permission to let it all out. I felt crippled some days by anxiety and fear.
This Was a Healing Process – Not Without Criticism
I was at the end of a lot of criticism from people who felt that I should just be grateful my son made it through such an ordeal. I let comments get me down and I believed there was something wrong with me. They made me feel like I wasn’t coping well especially since my child overcame the worst part of cancer. Why can’t I just be happy? Why aren’t I grabbing life like a bull by its horns? I was pressured back to work very quickly and even moved on with relationships too quickly as a result.
There Is NO Right Or Wrong Way Of Coping When Your Child Overcomes Cancer
Nobody can tell you how long the post effects of a traumatic experience can last, especially cancer. For some people it’s a lifetime, we are all different. It is important to allow yourself to have that time, to debrief and heal your way. You have the right to cope as you see fit when your child battles cancer.
Do not let anyone tell you that you should be skipping down a yellow brick road whistling a happy song, because it has been a certain amount of time.
It Took Me 5 Years To Feel Right
I almost lost my child to cancer, while watching other people in the same cancer ward lose theirs. I would meet a parent or grandparent one day and their child would be gone the next. Late nights in hospital corridors with coffee in hand was a social event for some of us. All of us parents were coping different ways during our child’s fight with cancer.
It took me almost 5 years to get to a point where I don’t think about it every day. I still worry my son’s illness could return, I still contemplate different versions of the future.
Its only HUMAN.
About the Author: Kate Shelby
Hi! I love a bit of Facebook social commentary, writing about life’s experiences and binging on Netflix. If you want to follow me for more stories, memes and terrible puns, check out my Facebook.