the sad parts. the happy parts

Tonight Wills was working on a social studies project about his ancestors.  We called grandparents and asked questions about when our family immigrated to the United States and why.  It was fascinating (more so for me, then Wills, but he’s 10).   In preparation for thinking about his ancestors he had to create a timeline of things that happened in his own first 5 years of life you can find out more.    We talked about where he was born, his first word (ball! Always said with an exclamation point), his trip to Mexico at 6 months old, etc…  Nonchalantly I said “you could add that when you were two I got cancer.”   When there wasn’t an answer I looked over at him and saw him starring intently at his paper as patches of red moved from his ears to his cheeks.  “I’m not putting that mom.” He said.   I sat down next to him and explained it was an important part of his life, a sad part, but nothing to be ashamed of.  As I leaned down to talk more I noticed tears streaming down his face.    For all the times I talk about cancer, all the programs he’s been to and listened to me share my story – I’ve never once seen him cry like this.   He wouldn’t look at me- he just stared at his paper as the tears streamed down his face.  Our sensitive ten year old – who doesn’t remember me without cancer, for whom life with cancer is just reality, couldn’t write it down.  Couldn’t face the fact that has been all around him his whole life.  My heart sank. I reached over and wiped his tears and said “I know it’s hard to share the sad parts of life.  If you’d rather not include this in your list that’s ok.”

I had no idea he was harboring such sadness.  We regularly talk about cancer and share how I am doing in age appropriate doses – it caught me off guard that he wasn’t comfortable talking about it himself.  The tears led to a nice conversation about how it’s not something to be ashamed of or to hide from.  It also reminds me that even when cancer is a part of every day like it has been for us since 2007, it isn’t easy for kids to understand or accept.  He is scared.  I am scared.

It breaks my heart to watch him cry.  As a mom you set out to protect your children – at all costs.  Bike helmets, car seats, parental controls on the ipad… Yet, here I am with metastatic breast cancer and I have the potential to cause him the most pain of his entire life.  Watching his mom become sick and eventually die.  The guilt and anger that comes from this thought is suffocating.  How can I prepare him for this reality?  How can I encourage him to talk about his feelings, to feel safe enough to share the sad parts of life with others?  To accept?

It’s unfair that moms like me have to think this way… that’s why I am so passionate about research.  I hold out hope that I will be here long enough to see advances in science.

And I too will focus on the happy parts.

12 replies
  1. Joanne Schenten Skupin
    Joanne Schenten Skupin says:

    You touched my heart with this entry. The truth hurts. Stay strong Lara! You are strong in so many ways. Your kids see this. Love you!

  2. Pam Phillips
    Pam Phillips says:

    This post brought tears so I had to comment. You touched my heart also. My mom died when I was six years old from breast cancer that eventually travelled to her brain. I missed out on so much and so did my mom. It touched me so much that you had this experience with your son even though it may have been sad. It actually made me happy and sad. It’s good that you both had this time to talk. I wish my mom and I had that chance.
    Thank you for your inspiration. You and your family are in my prayers ❤️

  3. XO AP
    XO AP says:

    Sending hugs to Wills and you this morning. Your posts about real life experiences with MBC remind us that you live with the sad and happy every moment.
    Research now!

  4. Debbie
    Debbie says:

    but what you are doing is powerful to him when later in his life he will confront situations like this again…A dear friend of mine lived (and lost her battle) the same with two boys the youngest being only 4 when she was first diagnosed and 10 when she lost the battle. He too didn’t really remember Sandy when she wasn’t going through surgery or treatments and the talking and sharing of feelings and even tears was so important to the man he is now becoming at 19. But it is important that when we pray for you we include your family and support team

  5. Missy Wislocki
    Missy Wislocki says:

    Wow, Lara. That brought back a lot of memories for me. I’ve experienced many of those moments with my boys. My prayer is that we can be around for a lot longer to help them through these trying, emotional times. Think about you a lot….

  6. Barb Lundquist
    Barb Lundquist says:

    Breaks my heart, but Lara, thank heavens you’re his mom and realize how important it is to get those feelings out. This one time just might be the start of wanting to share more feelings, even though it probably won’t happen often. You’ve been a brick, a wonderful teacher, not only to your family, but to the world, sharing all that is happening to you, be it happy or sad. We’ve all learned from you. You know…. Anyone of my third grade students that has become a successful person in life, I take full credit for you and how your life has been a success!!! Ha Ha.

  7. Sarah Whitney
    Sarah Whitney says:

    I love how open and honest you are with your kids so are we with my breast cancer, treatment, surgery. I think honesty is best. Kids understand more than people give them credit for. And hiding it will just scare them as they will know something is wrong.

  8. Barb
    Barb says:

    Lara, this is heart wrenching, but you and the boys don’t have to go through this alone. There are support groups for kids with cancer and kids dealing with family members with cancer. Check with the American Cancer Society in your area.


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