In the midst of my breast cancer battle and throughout my journey, I’ve struggled with guilt about the things that I was “missing” and “couldn’t” do with my children. My son was four years old and my daughter was one year old when I was diagnosed. I had an undercurrent of struggle trying to balance the demands of treatment with the demands of motherhood.
All mothers seem to struggle with balancing and multitasking. Add to that the weighty struggle of trying to manage chemo related nausea and fatigue as well as the debilitating effects of surgery and a cocktail of pain medications as you try to muster the strength show up for your child’s school play, soccer game or stay awake for Friday night movie night. Trying to gather the strength to play with your child as you are healing from surgery can be an almost impossibility. And we tend to bear a lot of guilt for our mostly temporary inability to do so. And we feel guilty when we can’t seem to do it all.
But, I’m learning that the guilt is unnecessary as our kids thrive and are nourished by our love that comes in many forms: by our physical presence, our hugs, our smiles, our prayers for and with them.
This past Friday, I returned home from a three day school trip with my nine year old son. I was greeted by my seven year old daughter with a string of kisses and multiple hugs. She was delighted just to see me, just to be with me. So I’ll have to remember that I may have missed some things while working to survive, but if I hadn’t missed some things during my treatment, I might surely miss other, bigger moments. I may have missed some days, but those days that I missed have provided me with many more years with my kids and a chance to celebrate more of their birthdays, other bonding moments, more hugs, kisses and smiles.
If I must struggle to balance something, I should be balancing my diet to keep my risk of recurrence low and my health and energy good. Yesterday morning, as I walked outside with my daughter to a beautiful spring morning, she said “hello birds, hello bees” in her youthful wonder that was the start of a beautiful family day. I can’t feel guilty about what I missed because surviving has allowed me to share these precious moments. I’m working on taking the guilt out of my life and replacing it with constant recognition of the blessings of being able to share another moment with my children, another chance to greet a morning with them, share bonding time with them.
On this Mother’s Day, give yourself a present and let those moments, those smiles, those days with your children uplift your guilt and carry you happily forward in your survival journey. Celebrate your survival and the additional time with your family!
Happy Mother’s Day – May 11, 2014
Melanie A. Nix – Triple negative breast cancer survivor. Always striving to color outside of the lines when defining my new normal.