Lying in bed, in the last few moments before submitting to the fatigue of the day, I find myself scrolling through the endless feeds of Instagram and Facebook, looking for…well who knows what I’m looking for.
In my darkest hours, I would search these pages for someone who understands – someone else with a reality like mine. A motherhood journey that wasn’t all Precious Moments-worthy.
I know cancer. I’ve seen it in my family and, this time last year, I saw it everywhere I went. But I couldn’t relate. These were not my peers.
I was 31-32 years old and diagnosed at 6 months pregnant. My struggles were just different than the majority of patients in the waiting room with me.
I needed to find optimistic peers that understood. I needed realistic, palpable hope.
Finding voices I could understand
When I was newly diagnosed, scared for the unborn life inside of me, or suffering after chemo and watching my mother-in-law take care of my newborn because I was too weak to do it myself, I suddenly found myself inspired by stories that I never thought I would relate to.
- A premature baby is born, with months spent in the NICU, leaving an empty nursery waiting for baby to come home to fill it with joy.
- A woman holding their breath each month, waiting to be honored with a life inside of her, only to be knocked down once again, a hallmark of femininity seemingly out of reach forever.
- Mothers with autistic children celebrating getting on a public bus, staying on, and arriving at their destination without a meltdown. Or better yet, the ones that don’t. The post-meltdown moms, bearing it all on social media. Telling the rest of us, “Yeah, I’m a hot mess, my kid is having a tough time, and dammit so am I! Deal with it!”
These are my people! My tribe! The ones that understand!
Those that let go of their own mommy-ideals and embrace THIS LIFE. The one they’ve been dealt. They too have heard the words, “How do you do it?” and they think…what’s my other option?
They are doing it, and they are talking about it, and still standing.
Out of the Ashes, She Rises
Since launching Mom Survives and subsequently sharing my story across my personal social media channels, the response I’ve received has been more than I hoped for.
I chose to keep my diagnosis private until after the birth of my son. I didn’t want Cancer to overshadow my pregnancy even more than it already was.
For that reason, many people didn’t really know what I was going through, and when I kept most of my hair, there was even less reason to suspect.
Undoubtedly, each time I saw a story or a post from a strong female telling her truth and sharing her reality, a seed was planted in me. And a year later, I decided to share, and in some cases, relive my journey more publicly, too.
Although I had begun writing for myself in patches here and there, Mom Survives wasn’t born until after I received the NED (no evidence of disease) on 6/4 of this year. For some reason, I held back from sharing my personal journey until I could put down some of my armor and breathe a (albeit short) sigh of relief.
For the women out there that have shared their bravery in real time, I applaud you. I salute you. I thank you, from the bottom of my heart and on behalf of those that you don’t even know you have reached.
We need to see your struggles, your tears, and your victories, both big and small.
It Comes Full Circle
Last night, I found myself yet again logging on and scrolling, seeking, searching, when I found a story. Her story – a former classmate sharing her own motherhood struggles and bringing awareness that yes, she too has had it tough! But it’s okay, we are all going to be okay.
A familiar story but also new. With gratitude and admiration, I commented with my warm wishes and thanks.
Today I heard back. She had read my story and seen my posts, and it gave her the courage to share her own struggles.
We do this together. We get through this together. We support each other and find strength in numbers. We are doing it. And we are talking about it.
I know that this didn’t happen overnight -my confidence and fearlessness to share. Some of the things I have written in this blog were remembered not by me, but by my fingers as they type.
In some ways, I do it for me. Writing can be intensely therapeutic. But I’m so fucking happy that someone read my words and it gave them courage. Just one person is enough.
But there is another lesson here, one much less Reading Rainbow. Messages matter, online or not. The words and the vibes that we send out to others are being heard.
For those of us that are public survivors, like my husband and myself, we have a responsibility to spread hope.
Anyone interested in non-hope, I invite you to google your diagnosis, or perhaps go read the many side effects of your chemo drug, or any of the myriad things I may or may not have been doing on the internet this time last year.
I’m not saying it’s webmd’s responsibility to make me feel hopeful. On the contrary: cancer sucks the hope out of a room faster than a poorly maintained aquarium in a dentist’s office. It stinks like dead fish and it’s going stink for a while.
That’s why we NEED to be here. Optimists, Survivors, and Thrivers, all adding dollops of hope on top of the internet.
We will get through this. Together.