Being brave and strong isn’t the absence of fear, it is persistence in spite of it.
You never thought this letter would be for you. And I’m so sorry. I wish it wasn’t. I wish you didn’t ever have to read this.
When you dreamed of becoming a mother, this wasn’t in your plans, I know. Your nightmares, maybe. The idea of this actually becoming your reality was too scary to think about, and yet here you are.
I am writing to you today as a pediatric oncology nurse. I have met moms in the ER who are praying for the best, but fearing the worst. I have had to translate the words, “Your child has cancer” into Spanish. I have hung first bags of chemotherapy, administered countless doses of nausea medication and looked into the mirror with children looking at their balding reflections.
And through it all, I have held mothers’ hands. Sobbed with them, rejoiced with them.
I have heard what people say to them. To you. Loving people with good intentions, who want only to comfort you, but don’t know how. People who are speaking from their hearts, but make comments that keep you up at night.
Here are some things I want you to know—
People will say, “Everything happens for a reason”
But I want you to know that it’s okay if this doesn’t make you feel better. Maybe there is no 'bigger plan.' Maybe it was just a random genetic chance that your child got this awful disease. Here's what I do know for sure; Your child is LUCKY to have you on their side fighting through this. Your child, who is going through challenges many people can’t even imagine, has you to get him or her through it. Your love, your arms, your words... you are exactly what your child needs. Be you, mama. You’re perfect for your baby, just as you are.
People will say, “Be brave, be strong”
But I want you to know that you are brave and you are strong. Being brave and strong isn’t the absence of fear, it is persistence in spite of it. So go ahead and cry if you need to. It is okay if you feel helpless. It’s okay if you don’t know what to say or do in every moment. You are the bravest, strongest woman in the world right now. Tears don’t take that away from you.
People will say, “I’m sorry”
But I want you to know that when you look at your child, I see that you are not sorry. Of course you don’t want this for them. But your child is not defined by his illness, and when you look at him, you see so much more than what’s wrong. You see everything that’s right.
You see the moment you found out you were pregnant with him. You see the moment he came into this world, forever changing yours. You see those eyes that captivated you from the first moment you locked onto them. You see his silliness, his laughter, his quirks, his superpowers. His illness is a part of his story, but it for sure is not his whole story.
People will say, “How can I help?”
I want you to know that they truly want to help. They often just don’t know how. So the next time someone says, “What can I do?” say, “Actually you know what? Could you go grocery shopping for me?” or, “Could you pick up my older kid from school and have a playdate with him?” or, “Can you just sit next to me for a while?”
Lean on your community for help. Take up people on their offers. They’re not just being polite. They love you.
People will say, “I’m praying for you.”
I want you to know that what they mean is, “You are not alone.” You are going through the unimaginable right now. And people don’t know what to say—because how could words even begin? But we are all with you, every single step of the way.
When your mind finally quiets and allows you a few hours of sleep on your hospital cot, there is a nurse watching over your baby, making sure he is comfortable and safe.
When you are coaxing your child to have one more bite of food, there is a research team on the other side of the world trying to find a cure for his illness.
When you are wiping the tears from your cheeks and forcing a bright smile for your baby, your friends are thinking about you, wishing they could come hug you right now.
When you are clenching your hands tight and praying for guidance, answers and a miracle, we are all right there with you. I promise you are not alone.
You’ve got this, and we’ve got you.