by Jess BeCraft
When I imagined my life as a mom, it certainly never, ever looked like this. I thought I’d struggle most with balancing my career and wanting to be the best mom possible - the mom who’d see to it that my little girl grew up to be a smart, independent, strong woman. Though my desire to be the best mom possible still exists, now my days are full of wishing I could play more, wishing I felt better so that I could be like other moms, trying to still bond, have fun, and discipline, while also sometimes wondering how long I’ll be here. Though I fully intend to beat the odds, I still want to make sure that Harper has the impact of a mom on her life, even if I do leave this earth before she truly remembers me.
From my very first Mother’s Day to my very last, it’ll be a tough day. It always includes wondering how many more of these I’ll get and how hard this day will be for Harper when I’m gone. Mother’s Day should be a day of complete celebration - a day of spending time with my people, getting flowers, and doing no chores. Instead, behind my smile are tears, just waiting to come out. Instead, it’s hard to even want to be celebrated because it somehow makes me feel like a ticking time bomb.
So, I instead try to shift focus to my mom - the one who’s been with me every step of the way, the one who moved in with my family to help with daily life, the one who’s always there and always will be. Though, this day is hard for her too. Until I became a mom, I didn’t fully understand how my mom felt about me… and for her, it’s a day of pain too - she wants me to be ok, she wants my pain go to away, she wants to make it the best day ever for me, all the while wishing it was different, wishing we both didn’t have this burden.
Mother’s Day is a reminder that I’ll only ever have one child, that cancer took away the possibility of a sibling for Harper. Though we did IVF in hopes of using a surrogate someday, as we reach my third Mother’s Day in active cancer treatment, we don’t really hold out hope of that becoming appropriate anytime soon.
Behind the heavy though, Mother’s Day is a reminder that I’m still here, that I’m celebrating my third round of holidays with cancer in my body, and that’s a little victory… with cancer, holding on to the little victories is so important. So, I’ll celebrate as best I can, hug my two year old and my mom tight, and hold on to hope that I’ll celebrate many more Mother’s Days to come.
by Bailey Wolfe
I think everyone imagines having somebody on this earth that they love beyond all understanding, someone who gives them a purpose, someone to live for. When I got married, and again when I became a mom, my reason for living was revealed. Being a mother has affected my journey with cancer from the very beginning. The moment I awoke from surgery and heard the words, “you have ovarian cancer,” I immediately thought about my boys, my beloved boys. Would I live to see them graduate? Get married? Become fathers? Would I even be alive long enough to see them through elementary school? Give their hearts to Jesus and be baptized? The statistics are grim and initially my thoughts went to dark places. If I weren’t here, who would give them pep talks on the way to their games? Cheer the loudest when they make a big catch? Show tough love when they display bad sportsmanship? Who will ask if they’ve brushed their teeth? Make certain they’re going to bed at a decent time? Eating healthy(ish)? Reading during the summer? Who will teach them how to treat a lady? Help them through their first heartbreak? Love them even when they act unloveable? Who is going to have the difficult conversations? You know, the ones we all avoid. Who will be their safe place?
Being a mom with cancer means worry, constant and debilitating worry. Yet, it also means putting on a happy face when in reality you’re absolutely terrified. It means following along on the golf course when it’s 105 degrees and you had 8 hours of chemotherapy the day before. It means fixing everyone supper then slipping off to the bathroom to vomit because the smells and nausea are too much. It means sitting on bleachers at a baseball practice when moments before you were barely able to raise your head off the pillow. When you’re a mom with cancer it means stretching the truth, or sometimes flatout lying. No, it’s not cancer. Well it is cancer, but it’s totally treatable. It’s all gone! It’ll never, ever come back. Of course I’m not worried. It means discovering a search history with “ovarian cancer cures” smack in between “minecraft hacks” and “how to whistle with 2 fingers." It means doing and saying anything to guard their minds and protect their joy. Isn’t it ironic that my female parts, the ones that gave me my life’s greatest blessings, my reason for living, also happen to be the body parts that have tried to kill me? It is all rather inconceivable. The fact that I have had cancer still blows my mind! Yet again, in the same breath it never leaves my mind, constantly nagging with worry. Worry for my boys, my family, their joy and their futures. Worry because I am a mom who’s had cancer.
by Alex Feldt
It took nearly 30 years for me to realize that I wanted to become a mother to human (not just to canine) children. This left my husband, Devin, and me with only a handful of months to dream of growing our family together before my stage four ovarian cancer diagnosis.
Devin and I met in middle school, got to know each other via correspondence while I lived abroad, and started dating when I returned to the States for sophomore year of high school. We’ve been together ever since. As one can imagine, this longevity and level of closeness results in or from (perhaps both) shared interests, opinions, and hopes. For years, one glaring exception to this was the fact that Devin wanted kids, and I didn’t.
While we married and built our life, the topic of children became one we (and those we loved) skirted around lest I fell into a prolonged funk—though no one’s intention, I felt judged or somehow less than a woman (even though I would never think this of someone else). And, I always felt guilty, especially that Devin was losing the opportunity to be a parent. He would make a really, really great dad.
One day, I was surprised to have my mind drift to ways we could convert our second bedroom into a nursery and how we could help our grumpy gus beagle, Fred, adjust to having a bigger baby around. After all my years of protestations and bad moods, I was almost embarrassed to let anyone know that I had changed my mind. But in the end, none of that mattered because Devin and I were just excited for the possibility. Then I was diagnosed and that possibility was gone. It was a hard hit and the timing seemed particularly cruel: wanting something just as it could never be. My one consolation was that now it was a shared loss as opposed to one Devin felt on his own. I was glad that we could grieve together.
My oncologist advised against delaying treatment for even a week to consider or arrange any future fertility options. So, it was straight into chemo and then debulking surgery, hysterectomy, and bowel resection, followed by more chemo. And it was straight into near constant, painful reminders of what we lost. Between my bloating and the placement of my colostomy appliance, people inquire as to when I’m “due”. Events like weddings are tough because everyone wants to share in happy tidings of babies to be. Get togethers at bars are a no go because I’m a rotund teetotaler—I can’t stand the inquisitorial gazes at my abdomen as I drink my water. Medical professionals still ask if there is any possibility that I’m pregnant—read the chart, people! And it often feels like everyone—friends, family, characters on TV shows—are pregnant or have become new parents. And did you know that terminal cancer patients don’t make the most desirable adoption candidates? Well, right or not, we don’t.
Your thirties are an emotionally fraught time for your reproductive system to dash your dreams and try to kill you. Not that any age isn’t. But, come on.
Lately, though, I’ve found the sting of it all is less. My oldest friend (she’s been with me literally since I was born) gave birth to her first baby in January. As she became pregnant, prepared her home and heart to be a mom, and finally welcomed beautiful Ella into the world, I kept waiting for some twinge of jealousy or resentment. It never came. I was only ever just damned excited about that baby and that Ali gets to be her mother.
I also find myself with a greater appreciation of the role I play in the lives of all the moms I’m privileged to know. I’m an aunt, daughter, granddaughter, sister, and friend. I may not get to be a mother-of humans but I am lucky to love and be loved by so may of the best!
And every now and then, in my most optimistic moments, I allow myself to really believe in the promise of new research and treatments that may come in time to allow all these moms and me to hold on to each other for more than the short-term. I could never have enough time to fully express how much they all mean to me.