Tag Archives: Cancer Mama

The Struggle is Real, even Nine Years Later…

Griffin waiting before surgery

Back in January of 2012, my son Griffin started his radiation treatments to his face. Now, nine years later, we are once again dealing with the side effects of this treatment. Don’t get me wrong, these treatments and many others saved my son from Rhabdomyosarcoma when he was only two years old. But now, at 11, he is dealing with health issues that no little boy should ever have to think about, never mind go through. 

As his mum, I go through waves of anger, doubt, peace and sadness. I’m mad that although we won his battle, it sometimes doesn’t feel like we won the war. Like, these little side effects will harass us for the rest of his life. I doubt myself that I made the right decisions with his care. But in my heart, I know that we are so lucky to still have him, we came so close to losing him. I should be so thankful and happy. But it’s hard. It is so fucking hard. Watching your child in pain, watching your child struggle, watching your child grow up “different”, it’s hard. 

It is extra frustrating when “muggles” (non cancer people) don’t understand that even though the chemo has stopped, the battle is not necessarily over. There is a very big possibility Griffin will not be able to have children, that he will be diagnosed with cancer again before the age of 50, and that he will be diagnosed with at least one major chronic condition related to his cancer treatments. 

The struggle is real. The struggle is not over. The struggle will follow him for his entire life. But the struggle makes him stronger. The struggle makes the good times even sweeter. The struggle showed us who our friends are, what our blessings are and taught us the most important lesson of all…you cannot ever let cancer win. Ever. 

Waking up, groggy and mad about the IV
A little Among Us gamer time!

Lessons Learned from 2020

Griffin- Rhabdomyosarcoma Survivor

Happy New Year! Welcome 2021!

Wow, so 2020 was a rough one. 

Just to start, my son Griffin was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma in his eye orbit at the age of 22 months waaaay back in 2011. He is now 10 years old and continues to be cancer free. 

When the lockdown first began, in March of 2020, I was excited to have a week or two off over March break with my son. I figured we would get some down time together, watch a couple of movies, maybe do some light renos around the house. But as the lockdown continued, my world started to shrink and the flashbacks of cancer isolation started to fill my thoughts. Back in 2011, we had to put ourselves in isolation in order to keep Griffin safe. We didn’t go to stores or the spa, we didn’t visit or chill. If we did go anywhere, we wore a mask. I remember people looking at us like we had three heads in a pharmacy once. I just wanted to wear a sign on my back that explained all of this so the staring would stop. 

So as the lockdown came upon us in 2020, the PTSD of Griffin’s cancer fight came creeping back. First it affected my dreams, I would dream that his cancer is back or covid gave him cancer or the like. Then I just started feeling very isolated in my own home, just like when Griffin was sick. I wasn’t alone but I felt very alone. 

I had been working at my job for the past 16 years. I had to take time off when Griffin was sick and we were laid off during the pandemic as the government shut our workplace down as non essitial. I valued my work highly and without working, I felt very useless. I’m not one to enjoy being on government assistance. I like earning my own money and enjoying what I earned. It was very hard for me to wrap my head around that I was now suddenly unemployed. I now had to start job searching…are resumes still a thing? How does one look for jobs? Who is going to hire an old lady like me??? My depression took hold at this point. It was very hard to apply for job after job with zero response. Or go to interviews and hear nothing back. I felt like a failure, who was past her prime but at the same time, I refused to take a job for minimum wage or work in a field I was not excited about. I knew this was going to be an uphill battle, I just wasn’t sure if I was ready for the fight or even wanting to fight? At this point I just wanted to curl up in a ball on my bed and never come out. 

Once summer hit and the restrictions were lifted a little bit, my parents joined our bubble. It gave us somewhere to go every day. A reason to get out of bed and get dressed. It got me out of my depressive funk and back into being a functioning adult. My mother is quite good at amusing us and there was always something to do. From swimming in the neighbours pool, to making garden gazing balls or tea on the back patio, to raising butterflies and releasing back into the wild. We started making masks which we gave out to our local community and cancer networks for free. It was something small but it gave back to the fight. It gave me a job. It didn’t pay but it made my mind busy and kept me above water! (To date we have given away over 1500 masks!)

I was amazed at the change and growth that 2020 brought to us! People learned how to garden again, they took the time and love to foster animals and complete new DIY projects that they never had time for before. It brought back intimate home cooked dinners and family game nights. It brought campfires in the back yard and hikes in the woods. It brought a rise of homeschooling and reading to your kids. It sold out of bikes and home gym equipment. It inspired us to learn new hobbies, skills, crafts. We helped our neighbours, our communities and reached out to family and friends virtually. We found new ways to communicate, celebrate and remember. It gave us time to slow down…literally smell the roses and enjoy what we actually have. Yes, we had to sacrifice some things like international travel and cruises  but look at all we gained! LOOK AT IT! It is up to us to find that silver lining in this whole situation. 

I learned that you can make your circumstances what they are. You can look at your quarantine time as a punishment or you can make it a blessing. Our time fighting cancer has shown that our family is strong and that I am strong. I am not defined by my profession but I am defined by what I choose to do. I feel blessed that I have had this year at home with my healthy son and my loving husband and we are able to have the time to slow down and appreciate what we do actually have and not focus on what we are missing. 

Stay healthy, stay safe, stay positive! 

Friendship on our Level

A friend told me something powerful today.

That if I wasn’t here, she wouldn’t still be here.

Let that sink in for a moment…

That if I wasn’t here, she wouldn’t still be here.

That if I wasn’t here, she wouldn’t still be here.

It took me aback for a minute. I took it like, if I wasn’t here, neither would she be, as in like…life. It could go so many ways, suicide? Running away? Wither up and dying from my lack of horrid jokes and hummus desk snacks?

She said it seriously, with tears in her eyes. I was speechless for a moment. That is quite a powerful message to hand someone…without an explanation. But that significant message was oh-so precious. It must be handled carefully, like a delicate orchid and treasured for the meaning behind it. It is not something you can laugh off or pish posh.

If you weren’t here, I wouldn’t be here. Think about it.

Looking back on it now, I believe she was speaking of work, like she would have quit her job by now. But either way, it is quite the statement.

She values our friendship so much that my simply being here, alters her life, her path, her choices. That my dear folks, is friendship at its most deepest and cherished level. We are not simply co-workers that sit beside each other and fill our days with idle chitchat. I care about her life, I feel like I know her daughters and mother on a deeper level than I actually do. I feel her pain and I share her shining moments. We get a kick out of word play and grammar puns, she is my go-to gal for English questions, like, “do you ‘bare’ with me or ‘bear’ with me? Either way sounds not too fun!” She cares about others, to the point that she puts herself out. She will stay late after her shift to finish your conversation and she slips you a homemade concoction of essential oils when you have the sniffles. She is older than me by a generation I would say. One of her daughters is my age and yet, I don’t feel “mothered” or that generational gap that I feel with other older people…she is just…her. Beautiful in both mind and spirit. She often gives me pause. She will say something or forward me something to read and I have to actually think about it before I respond. She understands life differently than most. She understands life on a different level than most. She gets what is hidden in-between the lines and words and interprets them for me. She stops and looks at sunsets and frost patterns on  windows. She sees the beauty that most of us just walk by without notice. She literally stops to smell the roses. She’s like a Buddhist monk hidden in a little lady’s body who wears 2 coats in the winter for quite logical reasons.

Cancer has taken so much from her and although we have cancer in common, both being caregivers and supporters, our journeys have taken very different paths. Our roads with grief, guilt, stress and eventually healing has been rocky and bumpy and filled with potholes. But we share it together, over cold leftover toast and a cuppa tea.

She has seen some dark places but she has also lived in the light. She married her very best friend only for him to be taken away by cancer at a young age. You can tell his presence is missed daily and also deeply. She lights up when she tells stories about him. There is a twinkle in her eye that is rarely there…it is great to see. And yet, the pain is evident. She sometimes reminds me a granite boulder. Strong and powerful, hard to break and why would you want too, as the colour and texture is breathtaking. And yet, there is a crack. A single, small, chip in her granite. The water gets in, year after year, the fall of winter and the rise of summer brings this crack to the surface, getting bigger, more significant and stands out. It is absolutely heartbreaking to see a chip in a perfect piece of granite and not be able to do anything about it. No amount of duct tape, hugs, tea or alcohol (my go-to fixer uppers) will fix this crack. It will always be there. That is what cancer does. Cracks a perfect life, splits a happy marriage and family, chips a woman until she is on her knees baring the weight of all these broken pieces on her back. This is not weight that anyone else can carry. I hope with time and support and love, she will be able to stand tall again. Some days are worse than others, for both of us. But I think, together, we got this…

We may differ in so many ways, her husband died, my son survived. She struggles with loss and loneliness, I struggle with clinginess and neediness, I love pretzels , she threatens my life if I mention them and she is Scottish where I am English! It is amazing we can even sit together! And yet, as shitty as cancer is, I feel like this friendship is something amazing that came out of it.

And on some levels, if she were no longer here, a very big, granite sized piece of me would be gone too…

And please remember, no matter how alone you are feeling, you are never, ever, ever alone. Please reach out…


Find your Cancer Hobby

Find Your Cancer Hobby!

Rainbow Blanket

For pretty much my entire childhood my Grandmother would try to teach me how to knit. I remember spending hours upon hours in her basement, frustrated to be kept indoors while the boys were outside playing. I thought knitting sucked and hated it. Fast forward 20 (cough..cough…or so?) years and my 22 month old son was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma. My world was flipped upside down…as I stumbled through life, trying desperately to grab anything that felt “normal” I tried knitting again in the hospital as my son slept off the chemo. My skills with two needles is severely lacking, I had trouble keeping the proper tension as my life would shift from high to low in a heartbeat. My grandmother now suffers from dementia and I never learned how to cast off so the never ending scarf is approx. 12 feet long. It is as shapely as a curvy lady with a magnificent hourglass figure. Not very desired in the fibre arts, but it’s my chemo scarf and it’s hideous but I wouldn’t change it for the world. My stress was taken out on those stitches. The hours ticked by as my needles clicked together. That sound still reminds me of my grandmother.

Fast forward two years, my son is cancer free and recovering wonderfully! And I, as a Cancer Mama was not. I suffered from depression, PTSD and survivors guilt. I was trying very hard at keeping afloat but having serious trouble with sleep and “thinking” about things. I would lie awake at night haunted by what I had seen, the other cancer kids we had lost and how I could possibly be happy when other kids are suffering.

One day I woke up and thought to myself, I’m wasting my time, if I’m going to be awake, I might as well be DOING something! I ordered myself a set of cheap crochet hooks and some (horrid) yarn on line determined to teach myself how to crochet. I figured I could stay up all night crocheting chemo hats for the kids at the clinic. At least my suffering would be of use!!!

That one little decision changed my world!

My Survivor Griffin dropping off the hats my crochet group made! Spreading the love!

Cutest little baby hat ever!

Now, a year later, I am a full blown crochet addict! And proud of it! I have started a crochet group in my hometown as people from all walks of life gather to gab and learn. My stress is pretty much nonexistent now as I know my hook and yarn will be there for me. If I’m feeling anxious at the doctor’s office? I whip out the good ol’ yarn bag. People young and old ask me what I’m doing, what I’m making, I make friends wherever I go! It opens up the line of communication and brings awareness to childhood cancer as I tell them I’m making chemo hats for the kids.




Road Trip Crochet!

Stressed out by scanxiety while travelling to your hospital? Crochet a granny square style blanket to keep a chemo patient warm in those chemo chairs! My husband calls it road trip crochet! (Not while you are driving of course! Yikes!)



Crochet seems to me anyway, easier than knitting and I am able to give someone something that I made with my own hands and with love. When I hand over a blanket, I know it took me hours and hours to make. I hope they love it as much as I do. It’s like giving someone a homemade hug they can take home!




Yarn friends are odd friends! Mary and I doing a little retail therapy before her surgery!

But the most important lesson of all? You have the power to change your life. You really, seriously do. Yes, I know crochet sounds ridiculous. But find your hobby, find your love, painting, sewing, pottery, tattooing or gardening, whatever makes your heart sing! And make some amazing friends along the way!