Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day - My Parent Has Cancer and it Really Sucks.

I was given a book to review, called "My Parent Has Cancer And It Really Sucks."  I skipped through the book and found it quite good, clearly written for young teens in their voice, and one I recommend you give to your older child if you are diagnosed.  They will learn that their feelings about having a parent with cancer (both fear and annoyance) is all quite normal.  While I skimmed it all the way through, I did not read it in depth.


I asked my son if he would do a co-review with me.  I thought that would be really fun for my readers to understand his perspective, and perhaps, since his mother was terminal and the author's was not, he could expand on  it some.  He said yes.  "Yay!" I thought.   "A Mother/Son Project!"

Little did I know that it would not be so much fun for him.   My son, as I have bragged endlessly, is an IB student with a 4.6 GPA.  He is clearly college-bound, a math/science nerd, a junior and very active in school, both academically and socially.

Here's the difference between mother and son.  I thought of this as a great project for us to do together and he thought of it as ..... a book report.  More homework.

I'm sure he also thought of it as time spent thinking about his mother's cancer, and unlike most in the book,  he knows that his mother will not survive.  Why spent time thinking about that?   I wouldn't at 15 either.    The experiences of kids whose moms don't do chemo for 3 years, who don't have numerous surgeries and numerous times when they are sick might be feel different to him, might make him feel unlucky.

Maybe.  Maybe not.   Mostly, I think, it just was another thing he didn't have time to do.

To be truthful, he has handled this situation beautifully and he didn't really need any advice.

So, it never got done.  He finally admitted he didn't want or have time to read it, so I let it go.  But, I had gotten a free book, had promised to review it, and from what I'd read, it seemed  a good book, a useful book for teens, especially ones on the younger side.  So, when I was asked to post the below letter by the teenage author of the book, I was happy to do so instead of a writing a detailed review, which should probably be done by a teen anyway.

Before we get to Maya's note, I just want to wish all my readers who are Moms dealing with cancer while trying to raise your kids a Happy Mother's Day.  Trust me, I know it is not a simple task.  Maybe it's the hardest thing you've ever done.  The fact that you are being celebrated - you deserve it most of all.

Mother's Day by Maya Silver.

Mother's Day is meant to be All About Mom. We are all (for the most part!) grateful for our mothers. They gave birth to us. They raised us. They were there for us when we needed them the most.

For me, there is one extra layer to Mother's Day -- to any day really. It's the knowledge that I can never, should never, will never take my mom for granted. When your mom has battled cancer, the distant possibility that she might not always be there suddenly becomes tangible.

When I was 15, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. I never wanted to talk about it. Like many teens facing a parent's cancer, I was fearful. I was ashamed. I felt guilty. Last year, my father and I collaborated on a guide for teens whose parents have cancer called, "My Parent Has Cancer And It Really Sucks." (Sourcebooks, March 2013).

During the writing process, I reflected deeply on the cancer experience in my family. For the first time since my mom was diagnosed, I processed and analyzed all of my teenaged emotions, reactions and behaviors during this difficult time.

And so, here's a letter to mom. An apology. A clarification. A thank you:

Dear Mom,

I wasn't always there for you. I didn't always ask you how you were doing. I avoided you. I was embarrassed that you were sick, bald, exhausted. I chose sleepovers with friends over family nights. Did I buy you flowers? Did I give you a hug every night before you went to bed? Was I ever mean? Did I yell?

I can't remember the details. The year of cancer in our family was a blur. And I wish I were a better daughter at the time. 

After talking to so many other teens going through this experience and spending a year reflecting upon, thinking about, processing cancer, I can now give you a window into my teenaged mind. I wanted to be independent. I didn't want to pitied. I believed so strongly that you would survive that I avoided fear and rejected grief about the experience. I felt guilty when I wasn't there for you.

I want to apologize for the way I may have acted, for the things I didn't do and the words I never spoke. I want to let you know that I was scared, I did care and I did want to be there for you.

And I want to thank you for being an incredible model for me and for anyone battling cancer. You dealt with it realistically and gracefully -- all while still being an awesome mom. Thank you for not holding me to higher expectations (even if you should have!). Thank you for understanding that I still needed to be a teen. Thank you for forgiving me if I wasn't always the best daughter. And thank you for the one silver lining of our cancer experience - the opportunity for Dad and I to give back and fill a gap in resources. Now, teens will have a guide to turn to and hopefully be better sons and daughters to a parent with cancer than I was!

Happy Mothers Day.


  1. Ann,
    This has been an amazing blog for many people and me personally as I tried to understand how I would get through my own cancer. I check in daily for new posts, and while I believe that you help many people and I'm sure yourself as well, I wonder, do you ever think, since your time, is very precious, (all our time is) do I want to be writing, thinking, sharing, your time with strangers? Thank you for your time.

    1. This blog started out as a way to keep my friends and family informed of my disease - I never thought it would become what it is today, nor that I would become metastatic. But, my son and husband are at work all day and this gives me a place to write about what I'm thinking, what happens as I "walk this path" and so no, I don't think about whether I want to continue to do it. If it's too private to share, it doesn't end up here. If it is too time-consuming to do, than I usually don't finish it. It does seem that this is a good hobby for me and helps me process what I'm dealing with too.

  2. I was lucky enough to win this book from Nancy of Nancy's Point. It has already given me material to reopen the conversation about my advanced cancer with my 10 year old who doesn't think there is anything more to discuss. As she gets older and my disease progresses, we have the words of teens who have been there to guide our way. When the worst happens, it will guide my husband, who may not know what to say. I am very grateful to own this book.

    1. Congratulations! I think your child is the perfect age for the book. Maybe it's just my child, who has been reading college texts for years, but I though saying it was for teens was leaving the real age that could benefit from it out. I do think it's written more for pre-teens but again, my own teen isn't exactly a normal example of what they read. :)

  3. Cancer is deadly disease and need more awareness in people regarding it, do your health checkup regularly .

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  5. Good post about cancer. Thanks for sharing information.

  6. Dealing with a sensitive topic such as cancer is a reality far too many of us must confront. Add in the complexity of teenagers, their inexperience in life matters, and peer pressures, and the problem is even more perplexing. Perhaps reality though is the best answer when accepting it calmly.

  7. Cancer of a parent is pretty hard on young adults, too. My kids range from 32 to 22. The 22 year old is making decisions about after college jobs and things like with a mom with stage IV Breast Cancer, how far do you dare move away for that wonderful dream job? Most of us expect to face losing a parent in our 40s or 50s, not in our 20s when we still have graduations, weddings, and babies ahead of us.


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