A mum has written a poignant poem about what life is like when your child has cancer, which has helped other parents feel less alone in their struggles.
Sam Wiggins, 39, from Somerset, wrote the piece when her son Talisein was undergoing chemotherapy for a rare form of cancer called langerhans cell histiocytosis (LCH) which he was diagnosed with in 2017.
“He was six when he was diagnosed, he’s now seven,” Sam told HuffPost UK. “He is an identical twin, so he’s had to spend lots of time away from his twin, who until he became poorly, he had never been apart from.”
The mum-of-seven, who works part-time at Co-op and runs her own business making weighted blankets and special needs clothing, shared the poem in a support group on Facebook and swiftly found it resonated with other parents.
“Being told your child has cancer is the worst thing I think a parent can ever be told,” she said. “Second to there’s nothing they can do.”
In the poem she talks about rubbing her son’s legs at midnight because the chemotherapy made them hurt, and holding a bowl for him while he was sick - another brutal side effect of treatment.
Sam’s poem - I see you.
Cancer is the word we all fear.
The hushed whispers,
The gaze that’s never met.
It’s rubbing your child’s legs at midnight,
Because the chemo makes them hurt.
It’s watching the radiotherapy burn your child’s skin, and telling them it’s all for the best.
It’s holding the sick bowl because they’ve not stopped being sick for hours.
It’s pouring poison into the veins of your beautiful baby,
Watching them bloat from steroids, or turn into skeletons from infections and aggressive treatment.
It’s handing your child over to strangers, so they can operate on them.
It’s holding your child down for painful tests and procedures.
It’s comforting them, and telling them, everything will be OK.
It’s crying in the shower, because you have to be strong.
It’s saying goodbye to the warriors you meet along the way, some will make it, some will not.
It’s washing your hands 50 billion times a day,
The fear of infections never far away.
It’s blood tests, and biopsies, injections, meds,
It’s MRIs, CTs, PETs and X-rays.
It’s waiting by the phone, for the results, desperately hoping nothing has changed.
It’s watching your child sleep at night, and making memories while you can.
Even if your child is one of the lucky ones, it’s the late effects, the long-term consequences.
It’s physio, and OT, and psychiatrists, play therapy.
Even when treatment is finally through, even when your child is happy and well.
Cancer will always leave a scar, deeply emblazoned on your heart.
In its wake it leaves disabilities, and psychological scars, PTSD and anxiety, constant fear and worry.
When your child has cancer, it changes you.
You watch your child go to hell and back,
You get so used to your child having anaesthetic that you don’t cry anymore,
You calmly hold your child still for painful tests.
You seem so strong.
But I see you.
I know inside, behind that strong exterior, that mask you put on for all the world.
I know you’re slowly breaking, you’re trying hard not to show it, but I see it.
I know because my child’s a warrior too.
Commenting on the post, which was shared almost 500 times, Jim Bassi uploaded a photo of his child and wrote: “Thank you for summing up the experience so well.”
Cheryl Wilde wrote: “I see you.... I was you. My warrior lost the battle after seven years fighting.”
Talisein underwent a year of chemotherapy and steroid treatments, and spent a lot of time in hospital with infections. “During his admissions we met lots of other families going through a cancer diagnosis with their children,” Sam explained. “Sadly over the last year I have followed lots of beautiful warriors, and said goodbye to far too many.”
Her son recently finished chemotherapy and got to ring a bell in hospital to mark the occasion. Sam said he’s “doing really well” at the moment, despite not knowing whether the treatment has worked.
“He is due his first post treatment scan later this month, when we will find out if his LCH is still stable, or if it has grown, and he needs more chemo. LCH is a bit of a tricky one as you never get remission from it, its either active or inactive.”
She added: “I have seven children, so the last year has been very difficult trying to juggle childcare, hospital, home and work. But we made it, and he’s well, so I’m happy.”