Iron Nan(a)

Many people remark on Karyn’s incredible strength. They talk about how amazing it is and how surprised they are that anyone could be so strong.

You know who isn’t surprised? Anyone who has met Karyn’s mom.

Mary Kantola, AKA WonderMom, AKA SuperNana.

I’d argue she’s from another world, except for the fact that she’s so damn human. Take that, Superman.

If you’re lucky enough to know her, you not only know what I’m talking about, you probably collect the comic books.

Hold onto those comics and keep them in good condition. They, like her, are priceless and only increasing in value.

 

 

Things I’m learning (While They’re) at Camp

Our children have left the building. They are spending a week at sleep away camp. Their first time. Our first time. Everyone was a little nervous, but at the same time looking forward to the week. The kids because they knew they were in for a fun-filled week. Us because we could play movies with bad language and explosions at whatever volume we wanted, starting said movies before 9pm. I occasionally worry about something happening with my brain while they’re gone, but then I force the thought out of my head, knowing full well that the chances are very low…but there’s still a chance.

So, while they’re gone, I’ve been learning a few things…

If your child insists on buying some Almond Dream Bites right before she leaves for a week of camp…don’t. Just don’t do it. Those little bites of deliciousness will disappear right before your eyes…into your mouth and down to your tummy.

If your children will be gone for a week at camp, get all of your chores done on the first couple days so you can play to your heart’s content afterward. You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment rather than feeling guilty and overwhelmed at the end of the week for not taking the opportunity to get it all done. And don’t try to get it all done, you deserve a little fun.

A date night involves going out, talking, reconnecting with your spouse, enjoying each other’s company. It does not mean sitting on the couch watching a movie with bad language and explosions before falling asleep 3/4 of the way through. That’s sad and points to old age, not a week off without children. For goodness sake, fall asleep in a movie theater or in the middle of a performance. If it’s not a date night feel free to change into your comfy clothes and pick a movie while you eat dinner on that couch, normally a forbidden activity.

For all of you women who think you’re wearing the right bra size and yet you curse its incessant poking and squeezing, get thee to Nordstrom immediately. Ask for a bra fitting and brace yourself for amazement. If you’ve already done so, good on ya’.  It’s totally worth the trip to hell…I mean…the mall. Your husband will be happy too since bra sizes are random and your new size may make you sound much more buxom – which, for some reason matters to some men. You don’t have to tell him that it’s all about comfort.

Have you recently gotten a book you’ve been anxiously awaiting, perhaps for months, years even? Has this book prompted you to make strange comments like, ‘I hope I live long enough to see this published and read it.” (After thinking about all of the other more important things you think about when someone tells you you’ve got brain cancer, of course.) I’d suggest putting off reading this book…you will get absolutely NOTHING done the rest of the week. Or…if you’re ready to commit, pick it up and read it cover to cover, only putting it down to shower (optional) or have a cat nap (not optional.) Once you’re done, know that there’s a book 9 coming out and set a goal of living until THAT one comes out 4 years from now. Then start the series over again.

The dog will still want a walk every day, completely oblivious to your limitless schedule. Even he must be enjoying a quiet household, right?

You will still think of your day and your to-do list in terms of when the kids will get out of school. Today, for instance, is an early release day and I must be ready to pick them up by 1:30. Then it will dawn on you that your time is not restricted by the school day. You’ll sit for a minute as you come to terms with this temporary freedom before you carry on with your afternoon’s activities.

As you go to bed each night you will find yourself wondering if they’re doing ok, if they’re having fun, if they’re having a hard time falling asleep, or if someone has fed them a plateful of bacon? Even while you’re enjoying your childless week, you can’t wait for them to come home and tell you all about their first week at sleep away camp.

Now if you’ll excuse me, there are some Almond Dream Bites waiting to be eaten.

Correction: My most sincere apologies to the Hain Celestial Group for incorrectly identifying your delicious little balls of almond ice cream covered in a crunchy layer of chocolate as a Tofutti product. While Tofutti makes a number of delicious fake ice cream products, nothing really compares to your addictive Almond Dream Bites. They are in fact, dreamy.

My Mom Is Love

I am so lucky to have a mom like my Mom. My children are incredibly lucky to have a Nana like their Nana. My husband is thankful and lucky to have a mother-in-law like his mother-in-law.

I have so many memories of my Mom, but on this Mother’s Day, I’ll share a some of my favorites. I’ll leave out the ones that would embarrass my brother. (You’re welcome Jon.)

1. My mom was always trying new things. Candle making, brining freshly picked olives, macrame, cooking school, spending a summer cooking in a Scottish castle, starting a cookie business. Some of them stuck and some didn’t, but she was always game to venture out to try new things.

2. She lugged me around to the various activities that I wanted to explore when I was young – swim lessons, tennis, ballet, gymnastics, piano lessons, more dance lessons. She supported my enthusiasm for each activity and didn’t get mad (at least not in front of me) when I decided to move on to another. In my defense, having a ballet teacher tell you that she knows your posture is correct because you’ll be able to hold a pencil between your butt cheeks can turn you off ballet in an instant and she agreed it was odd enough to quit.

3. My mom knew EVERYTHING. She had a sixth sense about where I was, what I was doing, and had no qualms about magically finding a phone number of some stranger’s house (where I wasn’t supposed to be) and calling to say she was on her way to pick me up. My mom had a way of scaring the crap out of me by letting me know NOTHING was going to slip by her. Somehow that made me feel loved and safe – even if I didn’t admit it at the time. I can only hope that I can scare the crap out of my own daughter.

4. She encouraged me to continue doing things I loved doing, even when some b#%#h of a teacher told me I was a terrible writer and would never, ever be a good writer (or something equally horrible to crush a kid’s soul and dreams.) It took me awhile to get over that serious blow to my confidence, but my mom never gave up encouraging me and telling me that she had confidence in my skills. And look at me now Mrs. Merrill! Ppssshht (or however you spell a raspberry sound)!!

5. My mom survived my teenage years when I was nearly impossible to live with. She let me know that no matter how horrible I could be, she was still going to love me (even if it was REALLY hard.) The drama and angst of my teenage years were probably awful and I’m sure my daughter will put me through the same sort of torture. Even through that torture, she did continue to love me.

6. My mom has always been there when I’ve needed her – driving 6-7 hours to be there for happy and devastating moments. She was there to take care of me when I had nasal surgery to correct my deviated septum – recognizing the signs of a bad reaction to Valium when I pointed out there were tiny men dancing on my nose and then listening to me swear loudly as they pulled 6 ft of gauze out of each nostril.  She was there when I had my tonsillectomy – learning along with me that foods you’d NEVER think were acidic are acidic and agreeing that baby food was nasty. She was there when my daughter was born – immediately loving her unconditionally as she does all of her grandchildren. She was there when I lost my second daughter and quite possibly saved her twin brother in the process, experiencing devastation and tentative relief in rapid cycles. She arrived in the nick of time before my son was born and went out to buy preemie clothes when he was 2 pounds smaller than expected. She was there when I was diagnosed with brain cancer, taking care of my children, my husband and me as I recovered from surgery, went through weeks of daily trips to Stanford for radiation treatments, and suffered through chemo. All of this happening during a kitchen remodel – proving her status as a saint.

7. When I became vegan and married a vegan and then we decided to raise our children vegan, she made every effort to learn how to cook vegan meals for us. She doesn’t have to, but she does. She willingly cooks 2 meals when we visit, even during holidays. While I help cook some of those meals, she happily makes us feel comfortable, accommodating and respecting our dietary choices.

There are so many memories of my mom, I couldn’t possibly name them all here. She is amazing and I have learned so much from her about how to be a good mother to my own children. Thank you Mom for all of the sacrifices, love, and support you’ve given me through good times and bad. I couldn’t have had a better mother to lead the way in life.

Happy Mother’s Day today and every day.

mommebaby mommeteen

momlucia   momciame

Goodbye Shirley

Shirley Temple Black’s passing touches my heart. Not only was she an inspiration for little girls everywhere who wanted to sing and dance, she was amazingly talented at her young age. Her movies offered an escape from the dark times during the depression era. She became a Hollywood and cultural icon and then, as an adult, became an ambassador. And they named a drink after her that gave children an opportunity to feel special when they went out for dinner with their family. No one can say she wasn’t amazing.

As a testament to her lasting impact on our culture, I had a Shirley Temple doll when I was little – in the 70’s. I loved her corkscrew curls and her smile, always her smile. She came to me with a cute little polka dot dress. I probably played with her for endless hours pretending she was singing ‘Animal Crackers in my Soup’ and ‘On the Good Ship Lollipop’ and dancing along.

My Grandmother loved to sew and she fostered my love of Shirley and dolls to come by making clothes for her. I don’t think I appreciated the talent she had in making complicated tiny clothes to offer Shirley a broad and diverse wardrobe. Shirley had pajamas, fancy dresses, coats, and casual wear – occasionally with a matching outfit for me.

My mom has carried on that tradition, lovingly making beautiful clothes for my daughter’s dolls. ‘Big Baby’ has jackets, pajamas, overalls, and fancy dresses. Her twin dolls, ‘Amelia’ and ‘Jackson’ have clothes she’s made as well – showing us that we’ve moved beyond Ken dolls and realized that boy babies exist in our world. My daughter has loved those babies and those clothes her whole 10.5 years and will likely continue to care for them her whole life – even if  she doesn’t play with them as she moves into her teenage years and becomes an adult. She’ll come back to them and remember her Nana’s love, just as I remember my Grandma’s.

I can sew – as my mother taught me, and continues to teach me – and I’ve occasionally ventured into doll clothes. I’m not nearly as patient or talented as my mom or Grandma, but one day I hope to be. I will continue to practice and hone my skills as I make clothes for friend’s children, getting to a smaller and smaller scale. American Girl dolls are fun, the wardrobes little girls amass are amazing (and expensive), but nothing will be as cherished and valued as the clothes made with a grandmother’s love.

I can only hope that I’ll be around to lovingly make clothes for my own grandchildren. I hope that my daughter (and son) will offer the clothes they’ve been given for their dolls to their children to play with and dress up their own dolls. I believe dolls are meant to be played with, not stuck on a shelf somewhere only to be viewed and not touched. For both boys and girls, I believe having a doll gives them an opportunity to learn how to gently care for another being – translating to the humans in their lives.

Thank you Mom and Grandma for these precious gifts and memories.

A sample of the many clothes my Grandma made for my Shirley Temple doll

A sample of the many clothes my Grandma made for my Shirley Temple doll

Sleep Away Camp

I never went to sleep away camp when I was a kid. The opportunity just never arose. Instead, I went camping, backpacking or took road trips with my family.

My kids have the opportunity to go to sleep away camp this summer. This camp is designed for kids with a parent who has (or had) cancer. It’s meant to allow kids to have a great week just being kids, with the opportunity to talk about their experience if they want to, or not talk about it if they don’t. It’s not therapy. They have the chance to make friends who are going through the same kinds of things they are.

My littlest is excited to go. My eldest, not so much. She wants to bring a friend. Since none of her friends have parents with cancer (thank goodness), that’s not really an option. She fully believes this will be a week of therapy, even with multiple assurances that it’s just meant to be fun – no therapy involved. She’ll meet new friends, try new things, laugh a lot and come home asking when she can go back. She still doubts us.

She’s normally resistant to trying new things, even though experience has shown that when she does, she enjoys it. Soccer being a good example. So we weren’t surprised when she replied to our announcement with a firm, “I’M NOT GOING!” So, we dug a little deeper.

With as much as we’ve talked about it and as open as we’ve been to questions, she doesn’t want to talk about my cancer with others. It’s not that it’s embarrassing (like everything else to a 10-year-old), she just doesn’t want to talk about it. I understand this, since it’s not something I want to talk about every moment of every day either. But it brings up a some thoughts about cancer from a child’s perspective. While we’ve been very open with our kids about what’s happening, when there’s nothing happening it becomes easy to ignore it or push it to the back of the closet. How do explain to a child that Mommy is doing well now, but it can all change in a heartbeat? Can you explain that to a 6 and 10-year-old without setting off extreme anxiety? Getting them to a point where they are constantly on edge waiting for something traumatic to happen? Or does that prepare them for the possibility of the trauma? We don’t know what or when, but we’ll likely see some more drama in our lives. How do you explain to children that something MAY happen, but we don’t know what or when?

So, coming back to camp. We asked her who, besides us and her grandparents and neighbors, she has talked to about it. She said no one. We asked if she had anyone who’s gone through something similar. She said no. We asked if she felt she could talk to any of her closest friends if she got worried or anxious or just felt like she needed to talk to someone about it. She said no and mentioned that some people don’t even know and she’d like it to stay that way. I understand where she’s coming from – I don’t want cancer to be everything that I am, with people treating me like I might keel over at any moment, dancing around me as though I might break. She doesn’t want to be seen as ‘that kid who’s mom has brain cancer.’ She just wants to be a kid.

I think the week at camp will be good for both kids, to be able to talk to other kids who’ve experienced similar things with their parents. But is that enough? Should we be taking the kids to family therapy? Should we be helping them to process the possibility of the worst case scenario more? Or should we just keep allowing them to ask questions, sharing information if anything changes, and continue to let them have their childhoods without their mother’s cancer interfering with their days and friendships?

Childhood Anxiety

My son’s reading light has developed a ‘twitch’. It behaves like a strobe light when you first turn it on. Eventually, after some effort, it behaves like a reading light should. While in strobe light mode, I cover it up with my hand – sensitivity to the flickering on my part. Last night, he asked me to not cover it up because he liked it when it flickered (this is the kid who wanted to put the Instant Party Machine on his Christmas list when we got yet another catalog in the mail.) I explained that the light hurt my eyes when it flickered and I wouldn’t remove my hand. He asked why so I explained that for some people, that strobe light activity is hard on their brains and can sometimes trigger a seizure and I wasn’t taking any chances. Keep in mind, my kids have seen 2 of my seizures and have to walk home from school because of them. After we finished our book and were snuggling before he fell asleep, he asked if he was going to have a seizure. I explained that he wouldn’t likely have seizures in his lifetime. I went into a little more detail about why I do and what we’re doing to avoid another. He was confused why I had a seizure BEFORE I had brain surgery – but finally understood after I explained a little more detail. He had an ‘OH, now I understand’ moment and went to sleep peacefully.

As an aside – my desire to put the 7 person tricycle from that same catalog on MY Christmas list was nixed. I thought this was unfair and tried to make the argument that surely we could find 7 people to ride it with us. No luck. Clearly it was a matter of where to store it rather than the $20,000 price tag.

Back to the anxiety… This morning, I woke up and had no voice (thank you lingering cold.) I woke my children up with whispers. My daughter was unfazed. My son, remembering the expressive aphasia preceding the grand mal phase of my seizures, was not quite as unfazed.  He asked if I was ok at least 4 times. I explained in a whisper that I was fine and had just lost my voice, but it would likely come back later in the day. Unconvinced, he kept a close eye on me while we went through our morning routine. Once he saw that the routine hadn’t changed and I still had enough awareness of the time – 5 minutes to get glasses and shoes on, so move it! – he finally relaxed.

While most of the time, our kids handle the new me and all that comes with it calmly and bravely, every once in a while the anxiety comes through. It’s a reminder to us that we need to check in from time to time and remind them that all is ok and they can always ask questions if they’re worried about something…anything. I don’t think this is necessarily unique to our family, so remember to tell your children you love them and look for the signs that maybe, just maybe they need to talk about their worries.

A Day Off

In celebration of all of the veterans who have served and sacrificed for our country, my kids had the day off from school yesterday.

Since I can’t drive at the moment, we had to find things to do around the house & neighborhood. We decided on a photo safari, making art, cooking and reading books. Sounds like a pretty awesome day to me!

We went on our photo safari and looked for fall colors, interesting textures, and other cool things we found along the way. There’s a construction site a few blocks away, which was one of those cool things we found. The dog found a squirrel, which was another cool thing…for him.

Here are a few of the photos we took on our safari:

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We experimented with melted crayon art. My son wants a HUGE canvas to paint a masterpiece, but I couldn’t figure out how to get 3 of us to the art store and then get that huge canvas back home again…on bikes. So, we compromised with a small canvas and a few crayons. I didn’t really think through the physics of using crayons and a hair dryer to make a work of art. But we managed to improvise and came up with something worthy of a gallery – even if it’s our home gallery. A little clean up with a broom and sponge, you couldn’t even tell that the first and second methods to make our ‘painting’ created an enormous mess – inside the house. Here’s what we made:

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The book of the week was “The One and Only Ivan” – now read by both me and my daughter. Easy and wonderful read. We also read the fourth Stink book – “Stink and The Great Guinea Pig Express” with my son. But the favorite read of the day were old National Geographic Kids and Highlights magazines.

The cooking was left to me, because of some pressing ‘makeover’ activities. I had to promise not to post pictures of said makeovers. So, left to my own culinary devices, I modified a recommendation by the kid supposed to be helping me make dinner. My Chili Mac & ‘Cheese’ was a hit and we had just enough left for Tuesday lunches.

Along with a rousing game of ‘2 minutes 10’ – which involves coming up with a list of things in a given category in under 2 minutes, which we shortened to 1 minute (easy if you’re the first one to go, less easy if you’re second or third) – we had a pretty great day. The kids were amiable most of the day and I think we made some memories along the way.

While we may not have made it to a Veteran’s Day parade, we appreciate our veterans immeasurably, especially our family members and friends who have served. While we enjoyed having the day off, we believe you deserve to be celebrated every day. Thank you.

Mission: Almost Normal Childhood

Having young children, we’re always very conscious of what we say around them. We offer opportunities for them to talk and they have total freedom to ask any questions they want. We try to keep their day-to-day lives as normal as possible – homework, chores, lessons, etc. We don’t want them to worry or spend their days being anxious, we want them to live life and experience their childhood without fear of what might happen, what if… WE don’t even know, so how would you explain that uncertainty to a child?

They are pretty typical kids and siblings. They resist doing homework. They have messy rooms and leave their stuff all over the house.  They pester us to watch TV. They use their imaginations and create music, art, and cool dance moves. They fight and bicker about pretty much anything. They look out for each other and sneak in acts of love and kindness. They get silly and loud. They like to cuddle and read together. They throw fits when they can’t find the ‘right’ pants to wear on a cold morning. Pretty normal kid stuff.

But they’ve still seen their mom have seizures and be taken away in an ambulance. They’ve still seen their mom in the hospital with ~35 stitches in her scalp. They’ve seen their mom suffer through chemo and radiation, unable (or unwilling) to get out of bed some days. They know I have brain cancer and that it’s serious, though we’ve avoided discussing the ultimate risk of death. They’ve seen me going to Stanford for frequent appointments and taking a handful of medicine twice each day. They have gotten a little too comfortable with my memory loss and have learned to play it in their favor – well, at least the tween has tried.

While they lead pretty ‘normal’ lives, we can see the trauma and anxiety come through from time to time. If I pause in the middle of a sentence, I get a rapid, ‘Mom, are you ok?’ If I cough while I’m reading a story, I get a ‘Mom, are you ok?’ If I get lost in a thought, I get a close look-over and a ‘Mom, are you ok?’ My daughter often double checks that I’ve taken my medicine (after 2 alarms and text reminder have already occurred.) Occasionally, my son will tell me ‘that I’m going to live a very long time’ in our bedtime cuddling. I catch the hidden glances in my direction any time they sense something is out of the ordinary.

Unfortunately, a few people have made comments like ‘everyone with cancer dies’, which WE know is not true. Those who make these comments don’t think of the impact those four words can have since I’m not THEIR mom and they’ve not experienced what our kids have lived through in the last year. But to our 6 and 10-year-old it’s a scary thing to hear. It makes the fearful ‘what if’ come to their minds and we have to spend a few days talking them down from the fear and anxiety – to get them back to spending more of their time just being kids.

The brain cancer is perhaps a little harder for them to grasp, because it’s less visible. But the seizures are VERY real and VERY visible and VERY scary. Being able to talk about it helps, but sometimes it’s easier if you can write it down. This blog has been great therapy for me, and since my daughter also loves to write, I asked her if she’d like to write something about what it’s like to have a mom with brain cancer. She immediately said ‘yes.’ This is what she wrote:

It is sort of scary to have a mom who can have a seizure, but knowing what to do and that we have neighbors that will help makes it a lot less scary. It is annoying that we have to walk a lot of places, like soccer practice and home from school. I am still a little scared when I hear a siren. Now she has a special medicine or as I like to call it ‘miracle medicine’.

That ‘miracle medicine’ is Ativan. I got a prescription after my last seizure, which was a status epilepticus. I’m supposed to take it if I seize in an attempt to avoid another life threatening episode. We can only hope that the secondary seizure medicine I now take will work, and that potential emergency doesn’t happen.

A fire truck and ambulance came into the neighborhood last night after bed time. She called out for me and I had to reassure her that I was fine and they weren’t coming for me.

I feel like we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping our kids’ lives on track and ‘normal.’ We don’t coddle them or excuse any bad behavior, but it’s important to remember that they feel anxious and have experienced trauma too. Sometimes a little more patience and an extra hug are needed. Then they need to go finish their homework and clean their rooms, just like any other kid.

Knitting Lessons, The Sequel

This weekend, I revisited knitting lessons with my daughter. I first attempted them in the summer of 2012 and discovered that neither of us had the patience for it. I asked if she wanted to try again and her response was, ‘kind of, but you’re just going to get mad at me again.’ Oh boy, time to swallow my pride. I admitted that I was less than patient with her, but I felt that I’d do better this time. She agreed to try again and the lessons began.

During our first lesson (this time), she learned how to cast on and count stitches. She had the sense to start easy and make a scarf. I had the patience to explain it and show her with my own needles and yarn repeatedly, without snapping whenever things went sideways. I explained that it takes practice and there will be times that she’ll just have to start over – as I, and most knitters, have done many times. After some trial and error, she got it down. She decided how wide her scarf will be and got enough stitches cast on to start the next step.

I showed her how to hold the yarn and do a basic knit stitch. I explained that there are 2 ways to hold the yarn and the way I learned has its issues. She may go visit our neighbor to get a lesson in the other (probably better) way. That’s as far as we got, but it was further than the first attempt.

I’d love it if she learned to knit because it’s something she’d have in common with me, her Nana, and our neighbor, not to mention a few of our friends. It’s a skill that used to be a given for children to learn – girls AND boys. Perhaps less critical a life skill than it used to be (given the general availability of socks), it is still a very valuable skill to develop. It exercises fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, concentration, creativity, and generosity – since a knitter is likely to make gifts for others. It’s a skill she can continue to hone as she grows and offers the satisfaction of accomplishment with every project finished.

I’ll keep offering lessons and demonstrating my ability to be patient. I’ll continue to encourage her through her triumphs and mistakes, showing her the extremely awkward and probably quite humorous way I held my needles when I started my first project. She’ll hopefully see that she’s already further ahead than I was at this stage in the learning process. She’ll also learn that I have limits to my knitting prowess, which will likely motivate her to improve beyond me so that she can become the teacher and I, the student.

Perhaps my son will want to learn too.

What Would You Want?

I often think about leaving my children behind, not at school…in life. I think about it and I’m terrified about it happening, of missing out on their lives, of them living those lives without a mother, feeling that loss at such a young age. That fear causes me to avoid doing anything to give them something to remember, to hold on to, to give them comfort when they need a mom – or a whole family – if I’m not there. If I write for them, record stories, put together photo albums or any of the other things I’ve heard suggested, what if it means I’m done? What if finishing that list of things triggers something?

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I was 4 days past her due date. It was 105 degrees outside and we had no air conditioning. I was desperate to get that baby out of me. I ate every spicy food we could get our hands on, I moved rocks in the back yard (we were going to start a landscaping project – it wasn’t just a random act), I walked a lot…pretty much anything that you hear can help spur on labor. I had a gardening project I was saving for after she was born and finally, I had run out of things to keep me busy so I just said ‘srew it’ and got started on it. It involved attaching galvanized containers to the fence and planting herbs in them. I had literally just finished planting the LAST herb (basil) and my water broke. Clearly, this is indisputable proof that if I’ve got planned projects and I just go ahead and finish them, big things will happen. Right?!

While I’m optimistic that I’ll be around for a while yet, I’m afraid that if I don’t write to them or do some of those things that will help them remember me and support them through their grief I may miss the chance and be too late. So, I have this conflict of finishing that list and triggering the worst OR finishing the list and feeling relief because it’s done if the worst should happen unexpectedly. While it may be a clear choice when written down like that, for some reason it’s one of my biggest struggles. It’s where my strength falters.

I don’t mean to be pessimistic, I think it’s more realistic. I will die – we all will at some point. I want my children to know they were everything to me, that I wouldn’t ever leave them if I had the choice. I want them to have memories as they grow, to have something that will wrap them in the warmth of a hug and make them feel safe, to have something that will remind them I’m there in those big moments in their lives – telling them all the things I would have said if I were standing in front of them as they graduate, marry, have children, save the world.

For those who have lost a parent, I don’t want to bring up feelings of loss that have already been worked through, but I want to get this right. In my connections in the cancer community (stupid cancer – there’s enough of it that we have a community), I’ve met young people who’ve lost their moms or dads to cancer. I would love to hear from some of them what helped with their grief, what did their parent leave behind to let them know they were loved beyond words, what helps them when they’re in need of a parent (advice, hugs… whatever) who is no longer around. What don’t you have that you wish you had? What would comfort you? What would help you move on from the grief with strength and confidence, knowing that parent is in your heart and with you always. What advice would you have for those of us at risk of leaving our children behind?