What I Wish I Knew as a New Parent Diagnosed With Breast Cancer
Last updated: January 2022
Having small kids during cancer adds another level of exhaustion to an already difficult experience. On March 6, 2015, my world changed when I was diagnosed with stage 3 triple negative breast cancer. Not only would I be expecting my sweet baby girl in a matter of weeks (I was 32 weeks pregnant), but I also had a 15-month-old son. And now I would also be facing the reality of cancer treatment on top of parenting both a newborn and a toddler.
Diagnoses and treatment phase
People often ask me of that time in my life and I shrug it off saying I am not sure what was baby exhaustion and what was cancer treatment exhaustion and side effects. But one thing I do know is that it was the lowest I had ever felt in my life. It is to be expected I suppose, but I hate to say that because the anticipation of my baby girl was beyond exciting and magical. I was sad, I was mad, I was exhausted, I was depressed and mostly I was resentful this happened to me. And when I think back those are the feelings that still overwhelm me. I don’t remember much about the first 4 months of Anna's life. It was a blur of sadness…..but I am not a sad person so here are a few things I wish I had done to have helped me live better days or remember the good of those days.
Tips to help live better days during advanced breast cancer treatment
- Keep a journal - If you are a parent to small children or a newborn like I was (I also had a 15-month-old when I was diagnosed) keep a journal where you can note memories you made that day with your family. Maybe you went out for a walk and your child said the darndest thing. Or your husband grabbed your hand and kissed it for no reason, or your baby fell asleep on your chest. These are nice reminders to go back to reread after the fog lifts. It is also a nice place to state things people did for you to help you get through the day. So many people helped me during those months and I wish I made notes of it all because big or small they were very meaningful to me.
- Try to get outside - I know it can be hard to leave the house when you have small kids, PLUS you may not be feeling well but the outdoors is your friend. Getting out for a walk gets the body moving, the blood pumping and I must say sometimes it is hard getting out there but once you do it is always the best decision. Plus kids love going for walks. I also loved just setting up the beach chair in my driveway where I can watch the kids play and feel some sun on my skin.
- Accept help - I don’t know about you but accepting help was REALLY hard for me when I was sick. I sometimes felt like it was admitting defeat. But that is the furthest from the truth as accepting help gives you the chance to take care of yourself. So if someone wants to help you with the piling laundry - SAY YES! Or if they want to provide dinner - SAY YES! Or they want to grab the kids so you can take a nap, go for that walk or maybe just read a book - SAY YES! Take that time and accept help so you can rest and heal. The better you feel the better you can parent and be available to your kids.
Advanced breast cancer is an isolating and lonely disease.