Waiting for Savasana

The Lessons of Cancer


Last night, my younger son said to me, “Mom, why don’t the doctors just shoot you full of some kind of chemicals to make sure the cancer doesn’t come back?”

We all stared at him for a minute, mouths agape.

“You know…you could go to the doctor and he would have a big needle and shoot you full of stuff to clean out that cancer!”


My older son looked incredulous.  “That’s what she did!”.

Younger son looked confused.

I explained, “You know the chemo I did?  That’s exactly what the doctors did.  We did that.”

Older son said, “What do you think Mom did all summer?!”

My first chemo.

My first chemo.

My younger son then said, “But if you did that, then why can’t we be sure that it’s gone forever?”

Awwww, son.

So I explained that I did everything I could to cure my breast cancer.  First surgery, then chemo, then radiation, then Tamoxifen.  I explained that the protocol is promising and that it works for a lot of people and that we really hope it works for me.  My older son piped in and said, “Mom’s cancer is Stage 3.”

And I said, “It’s not just Stage 3 it’s Stage 3C.  The closest you can get to stage 4.”

Younger son asked, “What’s after Stage 4?”

And I gently explained that Stage 4 is it.  But that these days, there are many people who live for years at Stage 4.  My dad lived at Stage 4 for ten years.  And that’s a really long time, especially for kidney cancer.  I also explained that he was Stage 1 or 2 for ten years before that.

“So here’s the thing, guys.  I had all the treatment and now I am trying to keep my body healthy because I believe that a good immune system is part of all this fighting cancer stuff.  In all the years I knew my dad, he was rarely if ever sick.  The rest of us would be down with some illness and he wouldn’t even catch it.  He’d be the one taking care of all of us!”

“And the kind of cancer my dad had, it isn’t very treatable with chemo and radiation.  After my dad’s first surgery, the doctors sent him home and wished him luck…and that cancer stayed away for ten years!  That’s something!”

Doctors have written papers about my dad’s strength.

And then my younger son asked the question he always asks, “Which DAD?”

And I explained it was his Pupa.  The only Dad of mine we knew.  My adoptive dad.  And as always, this led to the questions about my birthdad, R.  He died of brain cancer three years before I found my birth family.

“That’s a lot of cancer, Mom.” my eldest said.  And that’s not even the half of it.  My birthmom had breast cancer a year before me and her mom died from lymphoma in the ’70’s.

“Yes.  We have a lot of cancer in our family. We have to do what we can to fight it.”

So then we talked about all the things we are doing to try to stay healthy.

We all exercise, we go on a lot of walks (the complaining about the walks are endless!).  We eat better.  We eat lots of vegetables.  We don’t eat as much meat.  We limit dairy.  I’ve been making our bread in the bread machine almost every day…honey whole wheat.  I juice vegetables several times a week.  We eat green smoothies.  I offer it to the boys.  They don’t always take it.  The other day I did my first shot of wheat grass.

We’re getting crunchy in here people!

We eat a lot of brussels sprouts and cauliflower and broccoli (roasted in the oven and 350 with some olive oil, salt and pepper, mmmmm).

We eat a lot less sugar than we used to…well, I do anyway.

I drink a lot of green and white tea.  I take a lot of supplements.

We all try to get good sleep.  Both boys have an early bedtime because sleep is important.  They complain but when they get to stay up, they are miserable the next day so what’s the point?

The reality is, that genetically it seems my boys and I have some predispositions to cancer.  I know I do.  The jury is out for them.  But I feel like now it’s my job to model prevention for them and to do it in a way that doesn’t scare them.

We don’t cram it down their throats and believe me, we still have cookies in the house and chips.  But we model better eating and better sleeping and better exercising most every day.

I know my little boy wants a guarantee for me.  He wants me to be 100% cured.  I hope I am.  I hope I can be that for him.  But I also know that with my diagnosis, it would be cruel to tell my boys that I am “Cured” forever.  I am cured for now and we have lots of HOPE.  And hey!  There’s things I can do to stay healthy.  Look at me eat my beets!  Look at me down this nasty wheat grass!  Look at me going for a 5 mile walk!  Look at me do my qigong video! (You’re doing great, Mama!) I am not doomed.  We have hope!  That is important.  And most importantly, I have my boys to live for, to fight for.

What would I do without those boys?


2 thoughts on “The Lessons of Cancer

  1. and what would they do without you Beth – you are all so fortunate to have one another. BTW, what do you put in your bread? I have a bread machine and would love a good honey wheat recipe!

  2. To quote someone I know who is undergoing treatment for a stage 4 cancer, “Grateful for another day of loving and being loved.” My heart goes out to your beautiful family.

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