Navigating Chemo…with Kids

It’s hard being a parent on this journey. Really hard. I remember crying, a lot, especially at first, worrying about what I might miss, how this may forever change their lives. I remember crying telling them I was going to get better for them and they didn’t need to worry…I remember crying when they did something good… because I was so happy and that made me sad.

But that’s just about me. Beyond all of these totally normal “all about me” thoughts… was them. These three, perfect little sets of eyes, watching this all happen. What about them? People often ask me how the kiddos handled my diagnosis. After all, it has to be a whole set of different challenges for a kid: suddenly most of the adults in your life are crying sporadically (see above), everything around you seems to be changing… and you can’t really grasp what’s going on.

In our case, luckily, I think they were young enough they don’t recall a lot of my journey although they will randomly bring up shaving my head… or call out my surgery scars. That said, while they may not actively remember it, Reed and I felt it was important not to overlook their role in this journey, no matter how young (or old!) they were. Because, after all, while it’s “happening” to you, it’s “happening” to them, too! 

We noticed Hayden had increased anxiety during my treatments (um, what kid wouldn’t?) So we brought her to meet my doctors, to meet them and ask any questions on her mind, and it helped her quite a bit. We let the three of them pick band-aids to send with me to treatment to cover up my blood-draw boo-boos, helping them feel they were helping me get better. And we tried to keep their schedule as “normal” as possible: school, classes, etc. and arranged for play dates and other fun outings to get them out of the house and “being kids” whenever we could, too. 

But the thing that stands out most to me was the paper chain. Yep, just like many families make to countdown to holidays or summer vacation, we made a paper chain. It was homemade from a pile of construction paper and its bright rings spanned the length of our family room. We took turns cutting the links, a daily reminder to all of us to look forward to the “better days” that were to come. 

ChainLink2

We made the chain long enough to last one week past my last chemo… the day by which we expected I’d feel “better”… and we cut those last links as a family. I remember it being a truly emotional, incredibly cathartic moment for all of us, but mostly I remember it being such a happy moment. The smiles on our faces kinda say it all…

 

ChainLink
Pure happiness after cutting the last ring of our “countdown to better” chain. Also my first public post “sans hair.” Yep, this moment was so cathartic that all my crazy “but I don’t have hair” thoughts went right out the window… and I am glad they did (more on that in another post)

I look back at how they navigated my treatment, and their smiles in this last picture, in wonder.  Sometimes I cry when I do. Not because I’m sad but because I am grateful for them, for the many ways they inspired me to get better (and still do today) and because I’m thankful that thanks to things like this chain they don’t remember mommy being sick, but rather the fun moments, the good times, and the good things that came of it… like #bettereveryday, which remains a constant daily reminder in all our lives of all we have to be thankful for.

If you are on this journey and have little ones, or are the child of someone on this journey and found something especially helpful, I would love to hear what helped your family! Share below!

Wishing you – and your family – a life that gets #bettereveryday –

Jess

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