My daughter is 21, lives at home and is a nursing student. When she was 10 my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer. When she was 12 my sister passed away from breast cancer. Since then, we have participated in Relay for Life in her memory. When she was 19, I was diagnosed with oral cancer and now living with the side effects that she sees everyday. I just asked her if she was going to the oral cancer walk tomorrow, she exploded!!!!!!! Yelling she said, “Mom all my life all I’ve heard is cancer! First it was aunt Kenna, and now it’s you! I don’t want to hear everyone’s sad stories, see everyone it effects because I have to see it everyday! NO I don’t want to go! I’m sorry if that hurts your feelings but I have absolutely no desire to spend my Saturday in a state of depression hearing nothing but cancer. No thank you!” I got upset, then sad, then well I don’t know how I feel now……. Any opinions? I want her to be there, but I don’t want her to be miserable:(
I’m really touched by your daughters ability to express herself. I wonder if my children ever felt that way, but never said it. My husband has been pretty clear that he doesn’t want to hear me public speaking about my survivorship because it’s too painful for him to relive it. However, what saddens me is how these walks, to me, are so inspirational – seeing survivors and hearing stories about how they have thrived despite their devastating side effects of treatment. These walks are about how so many can turn adversity into OPPORTUNITY: an opportunity to leave a legacy to out children of CHOOSING gratitude, choosing courage, choosing moments to cherish with loved ones. It’s human nature to complain about our losses, it’s a SKILL to recognize our gifts throughout our life’s challenges. These walks are such a great opportunity to speak about what is so difficult to speak about: how lucky you feel to be alive to have them to live for, how they inspire you to keep going…..share your feelings without telling them how they should feel. Life will always be bitter sweet and the bitter times, make the sweet times even sweeter. Tara, your instincts are directing you just where you should be. You want to share your survivorship, but right now, she doesn’t want to. She is entitled to her feelings and they need to be respected. On some level, I’m sure she is scared that it runs in the family and she is next. Perhaps, you can reassure her that your cancer is unlikely genetic. Because of your sister, you and she will have diligent healthcare to make sure you catch it early. At some point, try talking about the incident and how it made you feel. Or you could write her a letter. Tell her you felt hurt that she turned down doing this event with you and tell her why it means so much to you. Tell her you are sorry she had to be pulled into the world of cancer. You are proud of how strong she has become and it will only serve her in her life to cope with other life challenges down the road. Tell her the reason why you wanted her to join you at the walk, because she was a motivation for you to live, because she deserves recognition for surviving the ordeal of watching a parent go through treatments for oral cancer. Remind her that despite cancer, you are enjoying life, watching your family reach new milestones and how grateful you are for that and how it’s worthy of celebrating and honoring. Also, by participating in the walk you are playing a part in raising awareness in the community and the family. It sounds to me like these thoughts need to be articulated for her to understand and address her strong feelings, which are normal and understandable. As a professional storyteller, I would tell her that her experience with cancer will serve her well as a healthcare provider. She can use the story about her aunt and you to connect with patients so they trust her. She can tell patients and families who are hurting what it was like for her as she lived through the period of time you were going through treatment. Please let me know how your next conversation goes. It would be helpful for both of you to address the incidence when there is no yelling, but respect for each others feelings and love.
The morning of the walk, I asked her one more time if she wanted to go. Again she said no. I went alone and tried to put it behind me and enjoy my day. After being there about an hour, out of the blue, she showed up with a smile on her face. It was never discussed. I never asked her what changed her mind. I just smiled back and she acted as if everything was ok. I’ve wanted to discuss it again but have never had the courage to bring it back up. Neither has she. I’m not sure if it was guilt or a change if heart…. I just don’t know. Our children can try and put it behind them and try their best to pretend it didn’t happen. But, in the end, it’s a part of the fabric of their lives. Attached is a recent photo of us. Thanks for sharing your advice. I know I’m not alone and others can benefit from your letter.