Thoughts on our Cancerversary

Nine years ago today, my son Connor had his last chemotherapy treatment. Today, I want to share thoughts that have been playing through my head over the last year.

As the mother of a childhood cancer survivor, I always have in the back of my mind that he could suffer a relapse or a secondary cancer as a result of earlier treatment. This fear is prevalent among all cancer survivors, whether pediatric or adult. Of course when you're dealing with a child, there's a much longer life time of fear and worry to consider.  Admittedly, as time passes, that fear becomes much more faded and less real. It's always there, but definitely not something that you think about on any with any sort of regularity. 

I often talk about Connor's cancer journey and the fact that he is a survivor because I run Connor's Heroes Foundation, the organization that we named in honor of Connor after he completed his treatment.  We provide direct support to other families battling cancer so that they never feel alone.  Sometimes families coping with their own journey ask whether I still  have fears about Connor relapsing. I would truthfully answer that I don't really worry about him anymore. He's a survivor and I feel confident of that. Well, that all changed this time last year with a routine eye exam. They found swollen optic nerves, which, his optometrist very bluntly informed me, often are indicative of a brain tumor. In a moment, we went from being supremely confident in his survival to horrifically afraid that we had not dodged the bullet after all. We spent a week filled with so many blood tests, appointments with specialists, a bone marrow biopsy, spinal tap, head CT, and MRI.  We researched, prayed, and tried to remain faithful and positive – even in the midst of intense fear.  Our fears were compounded by the fact that his pediatrician and oncologists were moving quickly with fierce determination. His oncologist who had given us his original diagnosis had tears in her eyes when she ran into us in the clinic and heard why we were there. 

After a week of intense anxiety, which we completely shielded from Connor, we were overwhelmed with relief and gratitude when we learned that he did not have cancer again. When I shared my relief with Connor, he said matter-of-factly, “I don't know why you were worried. I knew nothing was wrong with me. I kicked cancer's butt and it isn't coming back!” 

So, on this day of celebration in our family – Connor's “other birthday” – we give thanks and we are truly grateful. It weighs heavily on my heart, however, that so many other families go through similar situations and do not receive good news. Just this last year, I know of at least 7 families who had a child relapse or suffer from a second form of cancer. It hurts my head and my heart to know how hard this journey through childhood cancer becomes for families who have already believed that their child “kicked cancer's butt.”

Knowing and understanding the emotional roller coaster that families endure once their child has been diagnosed with cancer is the reason that we started Connor's Heroes. It's why I am so passionate about the programs and support we provide to other families. Wishing with all of my heart that no other family should have to hear the words, “your child has cancer,” is why we created the Connor's Heroes Pediatric Cancer Research Fund. We must do more to improve the treatments for our children. We must find a cure! 

There, I did it! I completed my first official “blog” entry.  Thank you for reading it and thank you for everything that you have done, and continue to do, to Be a Hero to Children with Cancer!