“There are two types of pain in this world: Pain that hurts you, and pain that changes you.”
The type of pain that cancer brings to one’s life (and their loved ones) is indescribable. Until you go through it or have someone intimately close to you go through it, It’s hard to understand. Sometimes we focus so much on the negativity associated with pain that we miss the meaning of why things happen and how it changes your life. What surprised me the most is what I learned from having cancer.
Appreciating the Little Things in Life
Before cancer happened, I used to think to myself how being a mom was sometimes so draining. When would I have time to do things for myself? Can I just use the restroom in peace? Can I eat my food while it’s hot without having to scarf it down? Would my house ever be clean for longer than 15 minutes? And this was just with one kid. How drained would I feel when we have our second child? Of course being a mom is rewarding, but it’s nonstop! I think other moms out there get exhausted from it all, too.
Then I got diagnosed and in a sad, cruel way, I got what I asked for. I couldn’t take care of my daughter the same way before and relied on others to help. I spent hours in the hospital by myself and had more than enough “me” time. I had all the time now to use the restroom or eat my meal slowly. I vowed to myself that when I was healthy again, I would never complain again about being too busy being a mom. I would take a crazy life juggling two kids over cancer any day. Cancer gave me a new perspective on motherhood; I’d embrace the daily chaos instead of resent it.
Acts of Kindness
So many people reached out to us offering to help or asking how they can help. I learned from the beginning I would have to be okay with accepting help. As hard as it was for me to accept (I always feel like I’m inconveniencing people), I knew I couldn’t get through this alone.
We had a meal train set up for us by the YMCA and by my coworkers at DE. We never had to cook once in the last four months and this greatly alleviated our to do list. We had delicious food delivered to us. My friends are really great cooks! Sometimes I was surprised by the people who signed up to bring a meal for us. I didn’t know they had cared enough about me and my family to spend their time and money to provide us a meal. I was taken aback by their act of kindness and generosity. I may never be able to equally reciprocate back to them, but I want to pay it forward to someone else to keep the kindness chain going.
It wasn’t just meals provided to us. I had family and friends also provide care baskets to me, toys for Camila, and play dates with Camila. I’m so grateful for these kind gestures.
Almost unconsciously, we know there are people in our lives who love us unconditionally. Our parents, significant others, extended family, best friends, etc. But to experience someone’s unconditional love for you is an awe inspiring feeling.
This unconditional love is something I saw firsthand daily for the last four months. When I was unable, Roberto took care of me, our household, and our daughter. He did it without hesitation and with pleasure. My parents prioritized taking care of Camila and Joel to help us balance all of my medical appointments, household chores, and giving Roberto a break. Even at 33 years old, I see my parents selflessly never wanting to stop taking care of me. They are my best teachers on how to be a good parent to my own children.
Everyone Has Their Journey
When I was younger and got out of a bad relationship, I asked myself “why me?”. It was difficult for me to understand why I couldn’t have a happy relationship while many others around me did. What was I doing wrong? What did I lack? I longingly wanted the same happiness.
It wasn’t until I became a mother that I realized everyone has their journey in life. Camila was a fussy newborn that didn’t sleep well at night, I had a questionable breastmilk supply, and I was sleep deprived. I looked at my other mom friends and it seemed like everyone had it together (and social media does not help this). It took awhile for me to realize that no two people have the same experience. Everyone has their ups and downs that they deal with. Comparing myself to others or longing for a life that appeared perfect was unrealistic. Once I accepted and understood this, it made it easier for me to enjoy motherhood rather than constantly question it.
I’m glad I learned this lesson before I was diagnosed. Throughout my cancer journey, I never asked “why me?”. This was my life journey. I was handed these cards and it was for me to own. What may be bad in my life may pale in comparison to someone else’s life. It isn’t my place to ask “why me?”.
Whenever I go to MD Anderson and see all the people there, I always wonder what is there journey. Were they there for the first time, feeling scared and anxious? Or perhaps they have been in remission for years and just doing a follow-up. Maybe they are in the middle of their treatment and feeling emotionally drained. They all have their own story.
While cancer robbed me of so many things—my hair, my time with my family and friends, my health, just to name a few—it changed my outlook in life for the better. I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore. I stop and try to appreciate the simple things in life. I’m more certain than ever that I married the best man in the world. I appreciate my parents even more. I would have never learned this if it wasn’t for cancer.