The Realities of Being A Mom With Metastatic Breast Cancer

In honour of Mother’s Day and the release of our new resource: Talking to Kids About Metastatic Breast Cancer, we’re sharing the revealing yet vulnerable stories from mothers in our community to help pull back the curtain that an MBC diagnosis hangs over motherhood.  

As a parent it’s our job to protect our kids- to shield them from pain and sorrow. But what happens when you, the parent, can be their source of pain and sorrow? That’s a hard pill to swallow and the reality that I live with daily.

When I was originally diagnosed with early stage breast cancer, my daughter was 3.5 years old and my son was 1.5 years old. When I was diagnosed with Metastatic breast cancer my daughter was 6-years-old and my son was 4-years-old. Babies. Sadly, they won’t know or remember me without cancer.

Living with a terminal illness is challenging as my health and condition can change at any moment. And then parenting while dealing with my reality poses a lot of its own challenges. I try to focus on the moment I’m in or what I need to do in a given day, but sometimes the reality of my situation hits me when I least expect it.

Recently, as I was kissing my son goodnight, he looked up at me and said, “Will you always be my mommy?”

Punch in the gut.

My eyes welled up with tears and as I fought back breaking down in front of him. I said, “Always, buddy. I’ll always be your mom”.

Sleeping son

And I then I left his room and cried.

I cried for me but ultimately, I cried for him and my daughter. It’s so heartbreaking to think of what the future holds for them. Potentially, a life without me, their mom.

Then there are other times when my kids don’t need to say anything directly to me, but a specific experience makes my reality so painful that I wish I could run away from it.

This is the first year that my daughter is competing in dance. I played competitive basketball growing up, so this dance world is all new to me. At the first competition, I quickly learned that a lot of responsibility falls onto the moms to help their kids get ready, do their hair, makeup, outfit changes etc. The moms beam in the audience as their kids are on stage performing and then the minute the lights go out, a herd of moms run out of the auditorium and rush to the changerooms to help with hair and costume changes. One such auditorium, my daughter’s changeroom was down two flights of stairs. And then that’s when my reality hit me again, and at the time where I should be so happy, I was flooded with sadness.

What if I physically can’t go up and down stairs to help with costume changes? Who will help her? What if I’m not around to do her hair? Why should she be the only kid who doesn’t have a mom there to help her? What will happen then?

Then my heart breaks over and over again thinking about the what-ifs and the realities that come with living with metastatic breast cancer. My cancer doesn’t just affect me. It affects my entire family in ways that I never expected. And not just in the bigger picture kind of things, in the smaller mundane moments that come with being a parent–kissing a boo-boo, helping your kid study for a test, doing a family activity, playing a game, etc.

So I hug them tight while I can. I shower them in kisses. I tell them how proud they make me. I make special memories with them now while I can. And that if/when the time comes that I’m no longer here physically, I’m always with them in their heart. Renee Kaiman

Navigating metastatic or stage 4 breast cancer presents its own set of unique needs and challenges, especially when it comes to communicating this disease to family members. Rethink Breast Cancer’s new resource: Talking to Kids About Metastatic Breast Cancer, written by Child Life Specialist Morgan Livingstone, offers tools and tips for creating a healthy environment by talking to children openly and honestly about all stages of MBC, from diagnosis, through treatment and end of life. For more information on Rethink’s resources for young families, visit this page.

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