Mother’s Day is here, and I’ve been thinking about you a lot, so much so, that I felt compelled to write you a letter.
Being a mother isn’t always easy.
I know you’ll agree when I say that the pressures of everyday life, coupled with the stresses and strains of being in a constant state of ‘mum’ can be overwhelming.
Add breast cancer into the mix and being a mother suddenly takes on a whole new meaning.
Nothing or nobody could ever prepare you for that responsibility and I make no apology for calling it that, because that is exactly how it feels, right?
You feel responsible for causing your loved ones worry and concern, but nothing quite equals the burden you carry for hurting your children.
Up until my diagnosis I never felt guilty about anything, especially where it concerned my children. I always considered myself a caring, nurturing sort. Firm but fair and just like you, I’ve only ever wanted the best for my son and his sisters.
However, since that fateful day, I’ve been plagued by overwhelming feelings of guilt and betrayal.
The guilt trips for putting my children through turmoil have been plenty. When we broke the news, my son was 14 and my twin daughters, 10, all three at impressionable ages. Old enough to understand and savvy enough to worry.
For almost 11 years, I’ve been relieved to be able to put them at ease and say to them “It will be ok”, “There’s no need to worry” or “Mum’s not going anywhere” and it’s at that point I’m usually able to see our future, clearly - as a family, together.
Yet, living life on the edge has meant not having the guarantee that I won’t cause them any more suffering. The betrayal lies therein, because, I feel like I can’t be trusted to not hurt them.
Yes, like you, I do live for the day and I thrive in the present but deep down I still feel helpless in the knowledge that one day things might not be ok. They are seldom times and I almost feel ashamed to admit it, but my mind wanders and when I try to think about the years to come, my stomach churns.
That unique and joyous love that I felt for my children the day they were born is on the same level as the fear that engulfs me when I consider the worst scenario. I understand you, mother with breast cancer, when you say that the thought of leaving your children is more painful than dying itself.
We can’t help but wonder if any psychological damage has been done to our children. The ripple effect of a cancer diagnosis is widespread and deep. With that in mind, all we want to do now is apologise. Apologise for the hurt we may have caused them and the sleepless nights we’ve given them.
Even though, we’ve tried our very best to always protect them, sometimes, it’s all too much to bear.
Having recently received my third breast cancer diagnosis, I believe, makes me quite the expert in this rollercoaster of emotions. I’ve seen lots of ups and downs, been through several twists and turns, been scared to bits, had my breath taken away, and then felt the sweet relief of making it to the end of the ride and getting off. Even if only for a while.
All the time you’re on that terrifying rollercoaster, you’re constantly seeing the world from different angles and viewpoints. You finally understand the meaning of life.
That life is your child. They are the air that you breathe, the heart that beats within you.
Whatever you’re going through, whatever stage of treatment you’re at, your children will give you the strength and courage to see it through. Find solace in them and they will protect you just as much as you protect them.
It’s ok to feel the guilt and be apologetic but don’t dwell in that place; feel those moments briefly and let them sweep over you. They have no right to be take hold of your thoughts.
Breast cancer isn’t your fault.
If truth be known, your children wouldn’t want you to think that way, even for a nano-second.
You see, as hard as breast cancer tries, it will never take away your privilege of being a mother.
It will never stop you loving your children. It will never stop your children loving you.
It will, however, make you wiser and stronger. It will reinforce your existence, it will re-energise and recharge your maternal instincts. Most importantly, it will seal that unconditional love for your children, forever.
I hope you have a wonderful Mother’s Day,
Love and light,
From one mother with breast cancer to another.
Mary’s children still have a mum this Mother’s Day for one main reason - breast cancer research. To give hope to mums with breast cancer, help fund Breast Cancer Now’s vital breast cancer research at breastcancernow.org