Guest post by Lori Adams
My 12-year-old daughter Hannah is like other girls her age: she likes to dance, listen to Taylor Swift and hang out with her friends. But there’s one thing that sets her apart from other kids her age: Hannah survived cancer.
Hannah was diagnosed with Stage 3 Wilms’ tumor at 5 years old. I remember that day vividly: She was getting ready for ballet class when I noticed a slight bulge on the side of her stomach. That night, Hannah broke out in a high fever. When the doctor mouthed that six-letter word, time stood still. I felt angry, guilty, frustrated and helpless. I wanted to give my daughter the world and, suddenly, I wasn’t sure I could.
I did not want cancer to rob Hannah of life’s pleasures. I wanted her to go to ballet, make friends, be a big sister and so much more. Instead, she lost all her hair, her weight dropped from 52 to 40 pounds and she had seven months of chemotherapy, radiation treatment and an eight-hour surgery—all before she was 6 years old. The tumor had engulfed her left kidney and was the size of softball. Nurses poked needles into her, doctors used big words she couldn’t understand and she always felt so cold in hospitals. She remembers that most people did not treat her like a normal kid, which is all she really wanted. People were afraid to approach her and always seemed to stare and not know what to say.
Yet throughout her ordeal, Hannah was full of positive energy and was almost emotionally immune to her situation. Today, seven years later, she’s in remission, dancing three times a week and playing the piano. Her long hair has grown back. She brings a sense of hope and gratitude that she’ll be taking with her on the road as a Youth Ambassador for Hyundai Hope On Wheels, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping kids fight cancer. Hannah and her fellow ambassador Ryan Darby will travel around the U.S. visiting children’s hospitals to inspire kids with cancer and remind them that they too can beat this horrible disease. The one thing that amazes me is the resiliency of these kids, their maturity, confidence and how they manage to teach grownups to see life in a new way.
So to those parents who are watching their children fight this disease, I know that you’re going through an awful time right now and the situation feels out of control. I also know how important it is not to feel alone. There is no handbook, no guide and no right answers, but here’s what I, the mother of a cancer survivor, can offer you:
1. Never feel guilty. Nothing you did caused your child’s cancer. And don’t try to figure out why they got cancer — it’s unlikely you’ll find an answer. This is a disease that doesn’t discriminate and it knows no boundaries.
2. Empower yourself to be your child’s strongest advocate. Educate yourself on your child’s cancer and different treatment options. And when dealing with the dozens of doctors and healthcare providers, feel free to ask questions and provide input. This is your child’s life at stake and you have a say.
3. Allow yourself to feel how you want to feel. Don’t let other people tell you how to react and respond to your child’s cancer. You don’t always have to be strong — let yourself feel scared, frustrated and mad. And use your faith or spiritual beliefs to find sanctuary, strength and peace.
4. Take care of yourself. Remember to eat, sleep and get some exercise. If you’re not healthy, you can’t take care of your child.
5. Treat your kid like a kid. Kids with cancer don’t want sympathy. They want to be treated normally and have fun. Let them! They are a lot stronger than you realize.
6. Communicate often and keep your child involved. Make them feel included. You’ll become so busy and involved in their fight against cancer that you’ll forget to keep them up-to-date on what’s happening and how they’ll be affected.
7. Remember the other members of your family. Cancer affects the whole family; let them fight with you. But also remember to schedule cancer-free family activities like game nights. Take some time to re-center with your spouse. It feels like cancer takes over your life, but don’t let it control all your everyday activities.
8. Rely and broaden your network and support system. You can’t do this all by yourself. Ask others for help and accept their willingness to help with errands like laundry and grocery shopping, for example. It might seem trivial, but even the little things will help give you more time in the day. Also, seek out and talk to other parents who have kids with cancer. You’ll need a growing support system that can relate and help you cope.
9. Share your story and spread the word about pediatric cancer and how important it is to continue to find a cure. The passion of volunteers, nurses and doctors combined with the grants for research and treatments are getting us closer to a world without childhood cancer.
Lori Adams’ daughter Hannah was diagnosed with Stage 3 Wilms’ at age 5. Today, Hannah is a Youth Ambassador for Hyundai Hope on Wheels, a nonprofit organization dedicated to end pediatric cancer. Lori lives with her husband Sean and their four children in Jacksonville, Florida. They enjoy boating, skiing, swimming, and spending time outdoors as a family.
Via : parade