There are moments, once you have been through what we have, that make you recognize another cancer parent. You may feel gravitation towards a complete stranger - something draws you to them without a logical explanation. Maybe it’s a look in their eyes that you recognize.
The mom standing in the elevator just emits this painful feeling that I’ve felt before. She tells me she has a little boy around the same age as my son. And her voice cracks when she says she has an older daughter of about 7. I can feel the weight around this mother. I tell her that my Joey is very special. He is going for a checkup because he is a stage 4 cancer survivor.
Tears well and spill over and its time for her to get off the elevator. I step out too. She tells me her daughter is in surgery getting her port placed. They don’t know what type of leukemia it is yet. The sob escapes from deep in her chest and I wrap my arms around her tightly. I just want her to feel safe and loved. My whole heart aches for this complete stranger, I feel an instant bond.
After a few moments, she steps back and tells me no one has hugged her since they told her that her daughter has cancer. She looks at my son and says, “He survived stage 4 cancer?” I tell her yes. I know in my heart that children die, and I’ve seen horrid ugly things that haunt my nightmares. But this mom needed to know that children live. That there’s a chance. That there can still be life and happiness after cancer. After we talked a bit, her husband came to tell her the surgery was over, and we parted.
This cancer journey doesn’t end even when chemo stops. Your heart is forever altered, in good ways and bad. But if there is one thing to be thankful for, it is the raw openness with others and a deep primal empathy that comes with a disease that threatens your child’s life. You can’t change what you have been through, but you can give hope and love to others when they need it most.