A woman looking at a past calendar of events in her memory, including a nice vacation and a clock filled with pills, doctors appointments, and family members

What Advanced Breast Cancer Steals From Me

"Kate gets free stuff all the time . . . we are NOT helping her at all." That was the statement someone said about me right after we found out we were gifted a respite vacation to our dream location to Hawaii.

In fact, as a person living with incurable advanced breast cancer, there are many organizations willing and wanting to help send families on these types of trips or help with Christmas presents or even just financially. I have been fortunate enough to have gone on many trips and have been helped at Christmas just about every year since I was diagnosed.

While normally I pay no heed to rude comments, this one stung deep. This "free stuff" isn’t actually free. My kids, my husband, and I have paid for this time and time again, but not all monetarily, paid for with something even more valuable than money: time.

Difficult conversations about advanced breast cancer

Many people have never had to sit down and tell their 4-year-olds that they have cancer. They have never had to hear their 3-year-old cry in agony for them as they lay sick in bed from chemotherapy, unable to move. They have not had to miss their daughter turning 8 because they were in the hospital. Moms do not normally miss Mother’s Day from an infection they are battling. Wives typically are not told on the day of their husband’s birthday that they have cancer and could die.

No, these things are not normal, but my family has experienced this more times than I can count. I hate to even admit this... but I spend more time in a hospital setting or sick in bed than most of my mom counterparts.

Cancer has stolen time

Cancer has very literally stolen time from my family and me. Time that I cannot get back. The long-term effects of growing up with a parent with a terminal illness are apparent with my children. No matter how I have tried to prepare them, they each suffer from anxiety, depression, and sadness.

The American Cancer Society lays out way-by-age ways you can help your kids navigate through this disease. One way we cope is enjoying making brilliant memories with the help of nonprofits. We can see and experience things we never otherwise would have been able to. Memories that will outlive cancer.

I'm making memories with my family

So the next time you see me on social media, maybe on a beach or at a zoo, thanking a nonprofit or friends and family for getting me there out of the goodness of their hearts- and you want to say, "I would never help Kate, she gets free stuff all the time"- remember that I have paid for that a thousand lifetimes over.

I allow the public, much like anyone else, to see the good times. It is not often that I share the things I miss out on because of cancer. I do not share out of pride but rather out of shame.

If you really knew how much of an absent mother I felt, would you think of me differently? I don’t want that. I share the beautifully curated times more because I want my children, my friends, and my family to look back and say, "Even though Kate was sick, she made some really great memories."

Below you'll find a list of my top respite nonprofits that help families in any location:

  • One Day to Remember
  • Leslie’s Week
  • Little Pink Houses of Hope
  • Inheritance of Hope
  • Ally’s Wish
  • Do It For the Love
  • For Pete’s Sake
  • A Week Away
  • The Dream Foundation
  • Epic Experience
  • Stella’s Wish
  • First Descendants
  • Harmony Hill

Would you add any other organizations to the list?

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The AdvancedBreastCancer.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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