When cancer makes us let go

When a child is diagnosed with cancer, there are things that cancer parents and caregivers have to let go of, just to make it through. Maybe it was the expectation of a clean house, or having a plan for how the day was going to go. There are things that, when faced with something as daunting as cancer, just don't seem to matter much anymore.  

In partnership with Momcology, we asked a group of pediatric cancer families to tell us what they had to let go of when their child was diagnosed with cancer and if there was anything they wish they held on to. Their insightful answers are below.  

What did you let go of when your child was diagnosed with cancer?

“The hardest thing we had to let go of was control of anything. It almost feels like having a newborn again. Your day starts and you’re not quite sure where it is going to end. You can start a project and have no clue if you’re going to finish it. You feel like you’re pushed around by cancer. The doctor’s say jump and you say how high and that’s what you end up having to do.” -  Lynnie 

“I really thought when Celia was going to be done with treatment, we would be celebrating clear scans. What is hard for us is that her tumor is dead, but it’s still there. We will never be able to say that she has clear scans. We will never be able to say that she’s technically cancer free even though the tumor is not active. The other part that has been really hard recently is that we have almost been off treatment for three years and I’ve recently been mourning the loss of who she could have been. I look back on pictures of this completely different person than she was. She is still lovely, and she is so sweet and so kind, but she is just so different in other ways and not in any bad ways. But I just had to let go of who she could’ve been.” – Sarah 

“When Ethan said he wasn’t feeling well and Brian took him to the emergency room, we did not think cancer would be the outcome. When he was told that he had cancer, he said he is going to do everything he can to fight this, and he did. Day one we were told that there was a 75% cure rate and then obviously that changed when he relapsed. So, at that point he was hospitalized for all of 2021 and it was really hard living at the hospital. We were told that there was nothing they could do to cure him and all he wanted to do was come home. When he came home, five days later he passed away. We lost our future with him and we weren’t ready to be done.” – Angie 

What are some things that didn't matter as much in the face of cancer?

“Both of my kids, my cancer kiddo and her older brother, they are in high school, and they are both going to finish with a C in their math courses. It is the first non-A grade that either of them are going to get, ever. I kind of feel like I should care, and I kind of don’t.”- Leila 

“Pretty much 99% of stuff I don’t care about anymore. I don’t care what her room looks like. I don’t care that she didn’t finish her homework. I don’t care that she didn’t do the dishes. I started celebrating anything that was normal for teenage hood.” - Lisa 

“The list of things that I care about is so small now and it used to be really big. I used to always sweat the small stuff and now I just don’t sweat anything. Because of what I have been through with his passing, I feel almost superhuman emotionally where no matter what anyone says to me, it bounces right off of me.” – Brian 

Was there anything you let go of that you wished you held on to?

“Some of the friendships that I had. At the time it made sense because you are all of a sudden thrown into the cancer world and some people didn’t want to be around me because it was just too much. There are a few friendships that I do miss and I wish I would have tried a little harder when things got a little further out and weren’t so chaotic. I wish I would have made a little more of an effort. There have been some I have been able to reconnect with, but not all.” – Julie 

“I let go of working on myself and focusing on myself. I was focusing on my kids and the treatment and just getting through. Suddenly the end of treatment came, and I was like okay now what? And the joke was on me because it wasn’t done. I wish I would have kept working on myself throughout the whole time, at least a little bit here and there rather than just abandoning myself.” – Jen 

“In the beginning I did not take time for self-care. Now it’s not as much about self-care, rather it is identifying what my needs are because there is so much around self-care that it makes you think that it has to look like one thing. Self-care for me isn’t getting my nails done, I hate getting my nails done. My point with all of this is that in those first traumatic months/years, however long it takes you to get to that point, self-care looks like whatever it takes to survive. It’s staying in the hospital room with your kid if that’s what you need to do. It’s walking the halls of hospitals if that’s what you need to do. What I think is most important is realizing what is actually self-care for you, and for me it really did become physical fitness.” - Beth 

About Momcology 
Momcology, in partnership with Children's Cancer Research Fund, is working to create meaningful content that raises awareness about what families face while going through childhood cancer. By combining CCRF's authentic storytelling capabilities with many voices and experiences from within the Momcology network, we are eager to provide a new platform to amplify caregivers' voices to the public to both accelerate research and raise awareness. Visit Momcology to learn more and join their community.

Sharing Your Story is Powerful

Your story of childhood cancer is powerful - it can raise awareness for what is needed in the world of childhood cancer research and even encourage fundraising for vital research projects. See how your story can make an impact by filling out our Share Your Story form. 

Share Your Story