Surviving cancer. It alters so much about who you are: your values, your hopes, your mindset, and your ambitions. You become acutely aware of what truly matters in life, and perhaps, not surprisingly, the things you once placed value on and gave all your energy and time to, were not the things of importance.
My son was 12 months old when I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and 21 months old when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My disease impacted his life, and for that I feel resentful. As a parent, your job is to protect your child; and as a mother those instincts to protect your young are dominant and fierce. But I was weakened, and I could not protect my son. I could not shield him from the hell that is cancer. It pains me to feel as though I failed my son, to feel that somehow I faltered… it’s a dark and dangerous path for me to traverse down, should I allow my thoughts to take me there; should I allow my primitive instincts to dominate me. But I stop myself, and I gently remind myself that I had a village. And as a family unit we allowed that village to hold us up and help us through our darkest moments. My son, though in the throws of this cancer journey with me, had a village protecting him. And so his memories will be unique. His childhood, special.
That time Liam made his first painting, using hot wheels cars – Magic Castle Daycare, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre 2016
That time Liam got his first [airbrush] tattoo – The Children’s Holiday Party, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre 2017
The very idea of missing out on Liam’s life made my blood run cold. In the early days of diagnosis I worried that he would never know me; that he would not remember the lullabies I sang to him, the stories I read, the sound of my voice, and the countless sleepless nights that I cuddled and soothed him. I was terrified that he would not remember the love I bestowed upon him. This fear was a driving force. I vowed I would do all that I could – that was within my reach – to recover from this disease. I fought, and I continue to fight, because the remnants of cancer – the emotional baggage – it stays with you for a long time. It takes you for a journey.
And it is surviving cancer that made me realize what is truly important in life; it’s sharing moments, being present, and building memories. This is how you become immortal. This is how you remain in your loved ones’ lives.
That time we made a hot wheels drive-in theatre – Spring, 2018
That time we skipped rocks in the water – Summer, 2017
That time Liam rode a roller coaster for the first time – Summer 2017
No matter the journey, where you are within that journey, or where you might end up, it is imperative that you live. It is essential that you are present, in the moment, and building memories. These moments that you create don’t have to be grand, in fact, the simpler the better. Because it is the spontaneous, simple moments that often stand out. They are the ones we hold closest to our hearts. They are the stories we recount.
Build your memories. Tell your stories. Share moments with those you love. Because that is all you truly have in this life. That is what will matter in the end.
Building Memories. Published by Crystal Joy Hall