Saturday, December 13, 2014

Your Cancer Diagnosis vs. A Loved One’s Cancer Diagnosis

Cancer hit my family in 2009, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. While you may find what I’m about to say unbelievable, I never thought of it as anything other than a minor disruption in my life, because I knew I wouldn’t die and I knew I had the strength to handle everything entailed with a cancer diagnosis. I was glad it happened to me and not to somebody I loved. 

Chemo? Radiation? Baldness? Surgery? So what if one of my breasts got mangled? Bring it on! 

I was 58, though, when I was given the diagnosis, so I wasn’t really that brave, was I? It wasn’t like I was given a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer when I was only 21. My breasts had nursed 4 children, so they had served their purpose. I’m sure I would have reacted differently had I been younger and not had my children yet.

Cancer hit my family again this past week when my grandson, pictured above with me (photo was taken two years ago), received a bone cancer diagnosis. Remembering how my whole family fell apart at my diagnosis, my first thoughts went to Jeremy’s mom, my oldest daughter, Keeley. I was a rock when it came to handling my own cancer, but I was sure I’d have been a soggy mess if one of my kids had been told that he or she had cancer. And now my daughter was experiencing the trauma of knowing that her son had cancer – bone cancer. How frightened she must be.

Because my daughter and grandson live so far away from me and because I can’t visit them (I’m highly allergic to cats), I couldn’t just run over there, wrap my arms around both of them, and tell them that everything would be fine. But what I could do was help them financially (not by myself – I don’t even have a bank account) by opening a fund for them. After hearing the news, I had to DO something. 

When you are given shocking news, you can respond in so many ways. You can retreat into yourself, you can rage, you can sob, you can scream, and you can resolve to do SOMETHING to help in whatever way you can. So I went to the bank, opened an account for my daughter and grandson and went online to open a funding source that my daughter could access to help her with gas, overnight stays at the hospital, which currently is located two hours away from her apartment, and any other expenses she would incur for the next however many months my grandson will be in recovery after however many months of whatever form of treatment the oncologist determines would be the best plan for him. We know so little at this point. His next appointment is Monday.

I would have gone into DO mode for any of my 17 grandkids, but I hope I never have to deal with cancer or any other illness again, especially in relation to any of my kids or grandkids. Like all my grandkids, my grandson, Jeremy, is adorable. He is also bright, creative, quirky, and funny. At 13 he already has the strength he’ll need to get him through this difficult period in his life and he is already aware of how his cancer diagnosis is affecting everyone around him. Already he instinctively knows to act strong – for his mom.

Being given a cancer diagnosis can be devastating; a cancer diagnosis is life-changing. Knowing that your child or grandchild has cancer is a stop-dead-in-your-tracks, life-altering experience that demands your full attention. You can think of almost nothing else. But it can also be the catalyst to promote action on your part as you rise to the challenge to help in whatever way possible to gather together anyone and everyone who can support you.

If you or a loved one is given a cancer diagnosis, REACH OUT to everyone you know. Do NOT think you have to go through this bleak period alone. You would be surprised by how many people want to help. In this past week, I’ve learned so much from so many people who took time to offer advice on everything from contacting The Ronald McDonald House for help with lodging expenses to contacting the St. Jude foundation and the Social Security office, because my grandson’s type of cancer allows him to be put on Social Security Disability, to setting up a fund to help my daughter with all kinds of expenses.

If you can’t give financially, give your prayers and/or your positive energy. When I was given my diagnosis, I asked for prayers from everyone I knew, and even my oncologist was surprised that after only one chemo treatment, my tumor shrunk from 4 cm. wide to nearly imperceptible. Prayer is powerful. Positive energy thoughts directed toward their intended recipient(s) are powerful. If all you can do is pray or send positive energy, you have done enough, and you have already helped. If you would like to help my daughter financially too, though, please click this GoFundMe link. And thank you for whatever you do!


  1. Oh. ((in real life I wouldn't hug a child that age who hadn't hugged me first, but e-hugs to him anyway)). Prayers said.

    1. Thank you, Priscilla. I've been relating all the well-wishes to him.

  2. I will definitely try and be there for Keeley and Jeremy just financially I can't at this time but I can pray as I have been that she and Jeremy gettthrough this. Shes my sister he my nephew I love you both and will do my best to help. Love you

  3. Theresa, you are really taking the initiative and being a hero for your family when they need you! My heart goes out to you, but also my hat is off to you!

    1. Thank you, Ali, but you know you would do the same thing if you were in my situation.