Living in the Moment As a Mother With MBC
Photograph by The Bear & The Butterfly Photography
“Enjoy the little things in life, because one day you will look back and realize they were the big things.” – Kurt Vonnegut
I was the second person in the gym for C’s Grade 6 graduation ceremony. I sat smack dab in an (almost) empty gymnasium and looked at the sparkling grad decor set up on stage for the upcoming ceremony. Emotions flooded into me like a wave and I cried; silently, and with as much stillness as I could muster so as not to attract the attention of anyone entering the gym. It was a feeling of overwhelming pride for my daughter and overwhelming grief for me and what cancer was doing to the life I had planned.
I was a year into my MBC diagnosis and I had (have) no idea if I would make it to C’s high school graduation. When I say that I try not to think too far ahead, this is partly why. The unknowns of what lies ahead are painful to consider. So I live in the moment and make a big deal out of events that might seem less important to others. There is happiness in this way of living for these little moments, but it comes from a place of sadness too. A place of uncertainty.
When COVID entered our lives, I cried the hardest when it became apparent that T’s graduation celebrations were going to be affected. He had already expressed disappointment about all the extra-curricular activities that were cancelled during the school year, and now this. To a 12-year-old, it’s a big deal to be the senior in the schoolyard; the ones the littles look up to. These classmates didn’t have their moment. Year-end celebrations, outings, tournaments, were not to be. That morning when it all became apparent that life was changing in ways I didn’t want it to, I cried. However trivial they might seem to some, these milestones were important when the future is so uncertain.
This week, we are doing our best to make T know that we are proud of his achievements. He will have a virtual graduation ceremony and a celebratory dinner and professional grad photos done. It won’t be the same as C’s celebrations two years ago. I will miss sitting in that gym and watching my boy cross that stage with tears in my eyes and pride in my heart. That day will have to wait.
This is but one example of how COVID and CANCER have impacted my everyday. There are a million more stories that people can tell about how treatments have been impacted, how care has changed, how life has changed. For cancer patients, life has changed in big ways and little ways. Today, I wanted you to know about this little way, this seemingly insignificant life event that may feel small in the grand scheme of things, but feels heavy when the future is uncertain.
And the uncertainty brought into our lives because of COVID has me reflecting. We are all in a state of unknowns. How big should my social circles be? Which medical voice do I trust and follow? Should I wear this? Go there? Visit them? What’s taking so long for a treatment? Or vaccine? Maybe life will get better – or at least go back to normal – once we have a vaccine. Read these thoughts again with a cancer perspective and it’s not unlike the metastatic experience. Does it help you relate?
I’ve had a really hard time writing lately. Writer’s block on overdrive. I didn’t know what to say or what I could say or what I should say. But right from the very beginning of my writing, I’ve always felt like if people could just understand what living with mBC was like, maybe they would care just a little bit more. And if people care, maybe they will help to make things better. So I decided that maybe I just needed to go back to these basics. That maybe my place in this world of uncertainty is just a gentle reminder that we’re still here, navigating COVID and CANCER, finding little joys in our everyday with hope in our heart that people – who now live with uncertainty too – still care about us.
Vesna Zic-Côté is a member of Rethink’s Metastatic Breast Cancer Advisory Board. Initially diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012, Vesna is now in active treatment for Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC) since early 2017.