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Yes, my kid has cancer. Here’s what you should say

Yes, my kid has cancer. Here’s what you should say

A public service announcement:

Hey, there, mom shopping next to me in Target. We’re both in the girls department checking out back to school clothes. You see my daughter. Well actually, you only see her cancer. And suddenly you don’t want to look at clothes anymore. I wish you would have stayed long enough to overhear the agonizing decision my daughter was facing. Would she look better in cheetah leggings or leopard ones?

Hey, there, grandpa at McDonalds. Yep, that’s my child. Yep, she’s a girl. And yep, I know her hair is funky. It’s falling out from cancer treatments. She’s not ready to get rid of it and I’m not ready to make her. Yep, she knows she has cancer. And yep, that’s my husband, and those are my other kids. See how comfortable we are with each other? I wish we didn’t make you so uncomfortable.

Hey, there, expectant mom in Walgreens. You notice my daughter, too. It’s like I can hear your thoughts. You’re thinking, Oh God. Cancer. I haven’t thought about cancer yet. You immediately add it to that already-too-long worry list for your unborn baby. I wish I could pull you aside and tell you that your baby will be fine and you will be, too. I wish I could tell you that whatever challenges God has in store for your child, you’ll rise to them. Because that’s what parents do. They rise. You can’t comprehend that yet. But someday you’ll understand. You’ll rise. I promise you will. And stop worrying so much- you’ll miss too much of the awesomeness.

Hey, there, person in the hospital lobby. You see my daughter right away. You mouth “God bless you” to me. God bless you, too. I hope your loved one heals completely.

Hey, there, fellow parent. We’re both dropping our kids off at school. You see me with my girls. You don’t know what to say, so you don’t say anything. I want to tell you that telling me you don’t know what to say is exactly the right thing to say. And I understand if you can’t say anything yet, I really do. When you can’t say anything, a smile works, too.

Hey, there, old self. You used to be all these people. As a gift to my new self and my friends, here is a public service announcement:

If you see us out in public, know that our daughter is well enough to be out. Know that we are happy for her this day and this moment. Happy to do normal things again. Happy we aren’t in a hospital room. Next time you see us out just say hi, or glad you got out today, or you must be having a good day or good luck with your treatment. And I get it. I really get it. Those words are hard to say. A smile works, too.

Amy Graver is a happy wife and mom of four. She blogs about parenting and the journey on which cancer has taken her family. Her daughter Lauren was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare muscle-based cancer, just before starting second grade. Lauren is a patient at Advocate Children’s Hospital. 

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2 Comments

  1. hi, I am the mother of a daughter with pancreatic cancer, and the grandma of a child with leukemia. Our experiences are interesting. my daughter has not lost her hair, gotten bloated from steroids, or has many of the visual reminders of her condition. Her cancer does not respond to chemo. Meanwhile, the little guy has garnished all the sympathy, blessings, and make-a-wishes. people, virtual strangers, have paid for our meals at restaurants because we have had him with us. His course has been easier in many ways than hers, BUT as his hair fell out, we received the treatment as you describe. People do their best to be supportive. If they haven’t dealt with illness, especially an ill child, it can be awkward.
    We almost lost my daughter 3 times to sepsis (doctors missed it because she didn’t look sick enough, so how could she possibly have blood infection, endocarditis, and PEs???) At times, I wish people could have “seen” her struggle as they do with little D. It would have validated her battle in many ways. The look of sympathy is better than the scrutinizing and doubtful looks she receives from some people when she goes to a mall, movie, or tries to live a normal life.

  2. Sausha M Wright June 3, 2016 at 2:33 pm · Reply

    I too remember those looks when my mom was going thru the effects of terminal brain cancer and all she wanted to do was shop at the local Wal-Mart while she still could…she moved a little slower and needed a little more help…But she was out until she could do no more!

    Good Luck with the second grade!!!

About the Author

Amy Graver
Amy Graver

Amy Graver is a happy wife and mom of four. She blogs about parenting and the journey on which cancer has taken her family. Her daughter Lauren was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare muscle-based cancer, just before starting second grade. Lauren is a patient at Advocate Children's Hospital.