The Moment I Turned Into A Superhero
I was ecstatic to be a mother for the first time. So much so that my first job when I was seventeen, we had to go around the room and say what we wanted to do in the future. I said: be a mom. Fifteen years later, my husband and I decide to try for a baby. It took longer than anticipated and was therefore all the more thrilling when it was officially happening. Our daughter, Gabby, being born was the best experience of my life. It was only four months later, after being well tuned into everything boob-related via attempting to breast feed, that I found the lump.
I chalked the grape sized lump up to breast feeding challenges and assumed it would go away. When it still hadn’t gone away a few weeks later, I made a doctor’s appointment. My doctor referred me to the breast health clinic and soon after, I had my first ever mammogram. Being only 33, I didn’t expect to have one done for at least a few more years. After a mammogram and a biopsy, I met with a surgeon who told me the results were not looking good.
Waiting for the biopsy results to come in was stress inducing. It was surreal being told that my biopsy results showed cancer, and that I would need chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation. All I could think of was my five month old baby and how she was going to have a sick mother. What if I didn’t get to witness moments happening in her first year of life? How would my cancer diagnosis affect her? Worst of all – what if I died?
Meeting my oncologist for the first time was overwhelming. She confirmed what the surgeon had already told me. Through tears, I asked what my chances were of dying. Her answer was: “That shouldn’t be your question. Your question should be: what are the chances of this coming back?” I was not sure if that was reassuring or not, and am still not. Living with the fear that cancer may return at any given point is terrifying, especially with a newborn at home. Through more tears, I asked if I’d be able to have more babies. This kicked off a series of fertility clinic appointments that did not go as intended and left a dreary outlook on any future siblings for five month old Gabby. For someone whose life goal was to be a mom, this was crushing. I was, and still am, immensely grateful to have my daughter, of course. However, being abnormally close with my siblings myself, I am sad that Gabby might never experience that.
An insane amount of appointments happened even before chemotherapy started. I was disappointed at each one: being away from my baby during all of these appointments was not the intended use of my maternity leave! Plus, finding care for her during each appointment was an added task. After my first chemotherapy appointment, I was exhausted and we knew I couldn’t continue to be Gabby’s primary caregiver. No first time mom wants to realize she can’t care for their child, but the reality was that I could not. My husband ended up taking a leave from work. I could not have been more appreciative of having him home and fully dedicated to Gabby and I during this time.
Along this journey, I had an immense amount of support from family and friends. Meals and babysitting were extremely helpful. Another thing that was appreciated were offers to walk our dog. He is a beloved member of our family so I was grateful people thought about him as well! I was also extremely touched by the amount of people in my life who also reached out to my closest friends and family to ask how they were. Cancer affects more than just the individual who is clinically diagnosed, so I was glad that my support network also had some support. I would recommend that if you know anyone either going through cancer or anyone who has someone in their life going through cancer, check in on them; offer items or actions of support.
If you have a newborn and are going through cancer, please recognize that you are a superhero. Your joyous time with your baby is now completely different than what you expected. Please still enjoy the moments with your baby. Take the pictures. Go to that restaurant. Who cares if you don’t have hair? It will grow back. Give yourself lots of grace, love, and time. Snuggle your baby and appreciate the little moments. Let your baby be your inspiration.
Through this experience, I have learned that life can throw you anything at any time, therefore enjoy every minute of everything you do. Be positive. Do all the things you want to do. Write a bucket list and start on it! Life has given you something hard and unexpected, but it is up to you on how you accept that information and what you do with it. You can choose to be negative or you can move forward and practice gratitude for the things that you do have. – Shannon Obando
Click here to read about Dory’s experience as a cancer survivor with a newborn.