Snapshots of a Mother’s Cancer Experience — Pt 1: Two Sides to Every Story

Note: This is the first in a series of Real Life posts about one mom’s cancer experience. We hope this series is encouraging and inspirational to you. We also hope that it will help you draw closer to God and your family.

cancer experience

Cancer blew up more than a few idols in my life, including the idol of “The Ideal Marriage.” Rubble strewn about me, I received a liberating gift: the capacity to imagine what this cancer experience might be like from my husband’s perspective:

Although I’ve always been a hands-on father, suddenly I have non-stop and exclusive responsibility for my two little boys (both in diapers, neither able to feed himself unassisted).

It is one experience to ease into this routine; it is an entirely different experience to be thrust into it.

Add to that the pressure of wondering whether the time I must take off from work to care for my family might cause me to lose the best job I’ve ever had.

And always, in the back of my mind, lurks a black hole—the crushing weight-of-possibility that I may lose my wife to death and be left to raise my motherless boys alone.

Of course, I suffer chronic insomnia … and on those rare occasions when I am able to sleep, I am often awakened in the middle of the night by one of two little boys.

But regardless of my deep, deep exhaustion, the sun rises every day and brings with it a torrent of demands, including many from my wife. Some I can fulfill—such as cleaning and re-bandaging her wound. Others I cannot, as I have nothing left to give.

Most people feel compassion toward the mother of young children who faces the quandary of how to meet her husband’s needs after she has spent herself meeting the needs of his brood. Why would I hesitate to extend grace and compassion to someone in my husband’s position?

For him, even help came at a great cost.

Although he is grateful (and stunned) by people’s generous giving, receiving help grinds against the grain of his upbringing. During times of crisis, it is more natural for him to isolate and prepare for survival.

And, under the best of circumstances, he has limited relational energy.

Insomnia, stress, exhaustion. His reserves depleted. Still, he poured himself out for his boys (to his deep credit, he took them on an adventure nearly every day).

Despite his discomfort, he related to friends and family, struggled to surrender fear of an uncertain future to his Lord, and then responded to his wife, who continually spoke of her painful condition which he had no power to change.

It’s a wonder that he held his tongue from speaking words he might later regret.

* * *

When I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer in 2000, I came face-to-face with my own mortality—and learned some profound lessons that transformed my view of reality. I would never sign-up for my cancer trial, but neither would I trade away the treasures mined from it. Above all, I learned to live with the awareness that we all really do have an impending, inescapable appointment awaiting us.

We all have an appointment with God.

No matter how busy or distracted we are, or how distant that appointment may seem, one telephone call can change everything. My call came when I was a 40-year-old mother of two preschool children and a happily married wife.

In the coming weeks, (Lord willing), I invite you to join me as I revisit a series of “Snapshots of a Mother’s Cancer Experience” that chronicle my journey through diagnosis, surgery, and beyond.

Cancer Experience 2

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  1. This resonates with me on a few levels. One, as a mother myself at the moment, thinking what it would be like to get that call. Two, from your husband’s point of view: my father was diagnosed with cancer a couple of times during my childhood. My parents kept most of it from me but it was harder the older I got. I have no idea how she did it, raising me, taking care of dad/driving 40 minutes each way to visit him in the hospital for months every day plus working full time.

    My father’s experience with cancer was used for good; it brought us into he kingdom. We have all said that hard hard as it was, we would walk through that trail again because of the good that came from it (but we’d really prefer not too!)

    Thank you for sharing this. I pray that it will bless and encourage many!

    1. Thank you, Poekitten. It is lovely and encouraging to hear of another who allowed a cancer trial to bring him closer to God. So grateful for the promise: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).

  2. Thanks so much for opening your heart to share your experience. My phone call came when I was 30 years old with three children under five years old. I too would never have chosen cancer, but would never trade what the Lord taught me through it. Looking forward to your story, Stacey. God uses everything for His glory.

    1. Oh, Jeannie! My heart goes out to you! So glad those days are in the rear-view mirror for you. Even gladder, still, that you mined the treasure within them.

      Thanks for your encouragement. 🙂

  3. We went through a journey with cancer this past year. I have 3 school-aged children, and because of my husband’s condition, it was necessary to surrender home schooling and enroll the children in our church’s school. My husband’s battle ended a few days before Christmas.

    As difficult as this past year was, God’s Presence and Grace and Mercy were evident through all of it.

    1. My heart goes out to you, Elizabeth. I am grateful you could / can see His tender love for you, even in the midst of hard choices and painful reality.

  4. Hi! As others have said this is very close to home! On the 9th of December 2013 my Oncologist told me that after the 8 chemo treatments, mastectomy surgery, 33 radiation treatments & an overectomy surgery I am clear of inflammatory breast cancer! My boys were 8 & 7 at the time of diagnosis. It was a very hard year, but we are closer to our Lord & Savior & to each other. Like others stated- I wouldn’t have chosen it, but I’m greatful to see how God worked through it all. I am looking forward to reading your experience. God bless you & the others that will be reading this!

    1. Kristine, it sounds like you have been in a fierce battle and have an amazing story to tell!
      I weep to think of what you have endured…but I celebrate how you have allowed this hard trial to bring you closer to Him.
      Thank you for your kind encouragement. <3

    2. Hi,

      I too diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer when my kids were 11 and 3…which was 7 years ago! All the big milestones that I have been here for and the little every day things are gifts. God is good…

      1. Praising God, Peggy, that you have received the gift of seven years (and counting) with your children–and that you have eyes to see the greatness of that gift!

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