What do you say to a child who has had cancer or is living with it?
In my experience … as an oncology mum quite a lot it would seem. My daughter and I have shared so many conversations its un-true. And we both agree this is one of the positive things her cancer diagnosis has given us.
We have bonded irrevocably. Admittedly, for around 9 months we lived in each other’s pockets – or rather we shared an NHS room. I only had 1 night away from her in that period – and we only had very brief visits home in-between treatment and the resulting admissions because of the side effects she suffered from the chemotherapy.
So, in those times you can imagine – we talked a lot. No, like ALOT! No subject was off limits – honest and frank discussions ensued … after all we had the time. Sometimes we argued, sometimes we sobbed, we discussed and critiqued the countless baking and cookery shows we binge watched, we planned for our future ‘non-hospital times’ and tried motivating each other when the going got really tough. We discussed funeral wishes, life aspirations and just how much we loved each other. I cherish the closeness that this time gave us and feel somewhat guilty that I haven’t established this frequency of communication with my other children. Don’t get me wrong I do talk to them it’s just M and I had 9 months of 1-2-1, but I’m aware of this gap and attempting to bridge it.
The idea for this blog came about from a conversation with a friend whose son (let me call him ‘Ironman’) is still under treatment, for a differing paediatric cancer.
Interestingly, my daughter met another friend who has the same type of cancer and they discussed their protocols and chemotherapy treatments. M’s treatment protocol was 7 months and very high dose and all in-patient, whereas our friends from Evesham son’s treatment was at a reduced strength and ‘mainly’ planned out-patient but for but a whopping 36 months! Over time they discussed the pros and cons of each other’s path of chemotherapy: “Mine’s harder to cope with but only for a shorter period, whereas yours isn’t as hard hitting but you have to do it for 3 years! They never did resolve who had the worse deal (in my opinion I don’t think they are at all comparable – but kids will always compare stuff).
Anyway, Ironman’s mum was telling me that he had been having a tough week (as I think she had too but she does like to deflect from herself and help others when she’s going through crap herself – she’s like that – I do like her a lot!) and it got me to thinking, should I contact him and give him some motivational message, would he think it strange that some woman he’s never met giving him platitudes of coping etc and then I came across a YouTube video of an Oscars acceptance speech by Matthew McConaughey for his role in the ‘Dallas Buyers Club’. In it he talks about what he needs on a daily basis, and paraphrasing he states he needs someone to look up to (he chooses God – each to their own), and someone to look forward too and this is where he states his family and finally someone to chase. He chases his hero, – his hero is himself 10 years in the future – and as he says he will never catch his hero but will constantly strive to be him.
It made me think … our oncology children are their own hero’s … they often don’t get to see it but as their parents we do. They achieve and push themselves beyond what they ever thought capable pre-diagnosis, they find kindness and care for others when they are in pain (M once thanked a trainee nurse for removing her wound sutures and told her she’s done a good job and didn’t hurt her too much and that she’d make a great nurse once qualified – M’s were the only dry eyes in the room at the time!)
So, I’m not going to message Ironman – I’m certain he’s got it covered by his amazing Mum and Dad.
I would be interested to know though, if both M and Ironman were to write advice to their ‘present’ selves from their ‘future’ selves what they would say …