A Community of Strength

When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I had no idea where that fit into the rest of my life. I was still a wife, mother, daughter and friend but now I was also a cancer patient. One of these things is not like the others. One of these things just doesn’t belong.

After psycho nurse asked me how I “felt about having young children and cancer”, it got even worse. I didn’t know what that meant for me, or my husband and daughters. I didn’t know what that meant for my future or if there would be one.

I just didn’t know.

I looked for a support group locally for other “mothers with cancer”. I contacted the American Cancer Society and was told there were many breast cancer groups and there would be moms in there. Only problem, I don’t have breast cancer. There were also “look good feel good” groups for women going through chemo. There would be moms there.

But again, I wasn’t going through regular chemo. I was on a targeted therapy, a daily pill forever, and  I wouldn’t be losing my hair (until now).

The one thing that didn’t belong was me.

I searched online. I googled “moms with cancer” in every form I could think of. I found support groups for kids whose moms have cancer. I found more breast cancer support groups. I found parenting through chemo websites. Again, none that fit my situation. So I tried to figure it out on my own. I wasn’t all that successful.

I joked with friends that I wanted to start a cancermom.com website but I never did. I was diagnosed in 2006. In 2008, Mothers with Cancer was started but I didn’t notice.

I didn’t notice until Marinka suggested I join twitter. I put the word cancer in my little bio thing and I started getting followers. Fellow women with cancer who didn’t care what kind I had. Most of them have some form of breast cancer – the cancer I secretly wanted if I had to have one, simply because of the sense of community they seemed to have. I know that’s a ridiculous thing to say, but when cancer enters your life, rational thoughts take a flying leap.

I started looking at the blogs attached to the twitter names and realized I’d missed out on a whole world of support. Cancer women. Amazing women who, despite having a different diagnosis, knew exactly what was in my mind. There was Susan @whymommy from Toddler Planet, Jenny @jaydub26 from Get out Gertrude,  Rachel @ccchronicles from The Cancer Culture Chronicles.

This week Susan and Rachel passed away on the same day and it broke my heart. Yes for me, but mostly for the women who share their diagnosis because for them, it hits too close to home. This week there were also two members of the GIST community who died but those didn’t touch me in the same way. I suspect it was because they were men. I know that sounds really callous but if I’m being honest, it’s true.

With these women and moms it was different. I didn’t often comment on their blogs and don’t suppose, other than Jenny, that they really even knew how much I followed them. Rachel was always there to comment on a cancer related tweet, to offer support in 140 characters or less. Jenny and I entertain/distract ourselves with Words with Friends on a constant basis now. She is an inspriation and I consider her a genuine friend, not just someone on my “friend list”. And Susan, she was my go to blog when I needed to find out how to do this mothering with cancer thing with  grace.

These are just a few of the strong women who face their mortality everyday and do it with such strength that I am in awe.

I am sorry I didn’t open myself up sooner. These women and others on Mothers with Cancer  know how to do what I’m supposed to be doing.

I believed I needed to find other people on the same medication, or with the same diagnosis to have something in common. I was wrong. These women already knew what I didn’t – that drawing from collective strength is so much better than going it alone!

It doesn’t matter what kind of cancer you have or what kind of treatment you go through. What matters is the shared frame of mind. Finding those who understand what goes through your mind in the middle of the night. Your fear of leaving your loved ones. Your fear of what lies ahead.

To these fabulous women and so many others, I want to say thank you.

Thank you for sharing your struggles as well as your strength.

Thank you for allowing me to share your experiences.

Thank you for writing my own thoughts much more eloquently than I do.

Thank you for showing me how to die with grace and dignity.

Thank you for reminding me to LIVE!

For all that and so much more, I will always be grateful!

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5 thoughts on “A Community of Strength

  1. I too am grateful for a friendship that transcends the fact we have never met (and are probably not likely to, given that I live in New Zealand LOL).
    you knew how hard it would hit home with me when Susan and Rachel died, together you and I celebrate or commiserate over our scan results because we know what they mean,
    We have our personal chats inside ‘Words with friends’ which is like meeting you for a quick coffee.
    Here’s to many more ‘Words with friends’ games and chats my very real friend

  2. when i was in the middle of infertility treatments, i found my clan on-line on message boards. it helped enormously – on many levels: practical, emotional, and even financial (donated drugs FTW).

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