In the Spring of 2017, while I was in the process of getting diagnosed and beginning treatment for Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer, both of my boys had a birthday. My eldest turned four (4) and my youngest turned two (2). Some of my most vivid memories of that time period (so much of it is a fuzzy haze) was planning and attending their birthday parties. I think I shed the most tears that Spring in the context of their birthdays because so much of that year was focused on treatment and I just had to keep putting one foot in front of the other. It was in the time away from treatment, the time that we were trying to keep “normal,” that was the hardest.
To this day, celebrations of holidays and birthdays and anniversaries and other special days are still a minefield for me. Whether its planning an over the top event, finding and giving the perfect gift(s), or finding once in a lifetime experiences, I’ve felt a different kind of pressure to make celebrations extremely memorable because I’m literally always thinking in the back of my mind whether that celebration will be the last one for me. I’ve also spent a lot of time and money on professional pictures so that there is a clear record of each Christmas and Mother’s Days and other times of togetherness since my diagnosis because I have this nearly overwhelming urge to document my time in their lives.
One of my greatest fears since my diagnosis is that my children will forget me. They were so little at the beginning, that that was a real possibility. Now that they are both getting older, I do have more peace that they will remember some things, but there is also so much about their lives as adults that I will miss.
A recent Christmas photoshoot resulted in these gems …
We have so much fun at these photoshoots, which last all of 20 minutes, and are typically laughing the entire time. The photographer is one we’ve been going to since we moved from Orlanod to Miami in 2017, so she has literally seen the boys transform over the last four (4) years and my hair grow from a very short fuzz to its current length, albeit much thinner.
And therein lies some of the push and pull with even taking photographs. We’re all the hardest on the images of ourselves, I think. After having children, I noticed a trend that I often see discussed amongst moms, that we take all the pictures and no one is grabbing the camera to take a picture of us with our children. Since I read that and since my diagnosis, I’ve taken every opportunity to be in pictures, no matter how much I hate how I look now.
And that’s not a plea for compliments, it’s just the reality of how breast cancer and the forever treatment changes us, every part of us.
So, I’ll go back to planning out our Christmas cards and completing my lists of people with whom we will celebrate this Christmas, I’m various ways, always thinking about whether they will remember me or whether this will be the last time I will celebrate their place in my life. It is a hard thing for us in the MBC Community, no matter how “well” we look or how much we are smiling.
We’re also dying a little more inside.