I’ve been paralyzed with fear since May 29th when the dr said my lymph nodes were concerning and everything else in my world flipped upside down. I knew it wasn’t ok, nothing felt ok. 3 weeks later, “malignant cancer cells” stopped me in my tracks and had me leaving my family mid-vacation to fly home for a second biopsy after the first confirmed my worst fears.
The most beautiful people I know have died from cancer.
The most beautiful people I know have survived cancer.
Cancer does not discriminate. It does not care if you are young, old, thin, fat, wealthy, poor, kind, mean, with children or not. Cancer is a beast.
I have felt frozen in fear. My entire energy has been focused on remaining optimistic, hopeful, and well-nourished. I can’t think straight. The simplest of tasks feel overwhelming. I can’t sleep, up late at night, awake early in the morning. I am forgetful. The only time I’ve been able to write was on diagnosis day, to convince myself that I HAD TO believe in my healing because to have doubt means death.
My brain is on repeat:
I am healthy.
I am strong.
I am brave.
I repeated this for an entire PET scan. I repeated this during my MRI. I repeat every morning and anytime I’m going to vomit in disbelief that there’s even the slightest chance that this could be IT. Because it can’t be it. This. Can’t. Be. It.
I refuse to believe it.
But I am scared. I am terrified. But, I have to get up, take care of my family, and take care of myself. Or death becomes a true possibility.
It’s suffocating. The anxiety in my chest, the tightness needing air, it exhausts my body while craving the oxygen I can’t seem to inhale fully, hard as I try.
The adrenaline and exhaustion are eerily reminiscent of not knowing WHEN my daughter would die, but knowing that inevitably she would. I’m surviving in Fight or Flight right now. But, I’m surviving.
I’m so grateful for the help I’ve received with meals for my family and babysitting my boys for the non-stop appointments with drs, specialists, technicians, chiropractor, acupuncturist. Each appointment sends me on step closer to answers, a plan, healing and the ability to feel confident that my boys are safe and cared for alleviates my biggest sadness in all this, my time being taken from them. But, it’s only for a short time and it’s better than the alternative.
I received the best news in the worst case scenario last night-THE CANCER IS ISOLATED meaning, it has stayed localized to my head & neck. This is so relieving and allows it to be easier treated, with surgery to remove the primary cancer in back of tongue, my lymph nodes, and possibly my thyroid OR daily chemo and radiation for 6 weeks. Both sound pretty painful and neither are ideal (because none of this is ideal!) but it means that the dr feels confident that this is treatable. TREATABLE! (Which is the opposite of death.)
I’m so tired. But, I’m ready to do this! I’m putting on my (love) suit of armor! Now that we have some answers, we gear up for the treatment. I’m not naive to think this will be easy, in fact I’ve been told this is the most pain I’ve ever endured. But I’ve learned, nothing worth having is easy and my life is worth anything they ask me to do.
I am healthy.
I am strong.
I am brave.
I can do this.
Oh, and this is where I start needing a ton more help. Please continue to check the Care Calendar at https://www.giveinkind.com/inkinds/324/lands-family-love if you’d like to help our family with meals, childcare for appointments, or supporting our family financially.
I love you all.
I’m not afraid of death. I’ve watched it, been in its presence. The rebirth into the other side. It was painful to feel the loss, but sacred to be in it’s presence. A gift. An honor.
It’s not death that I fear, it’s the pain for those left living. It’s that untouchable, aching hole in your heart that no other person can quite fill.
For the one who leaves, they don’t know the loss because they’re enveloped in love. There is not worry, fear, sadness. Only love.
But understanding this concept and conceptualizing this as a mom, a wife, daughter, sister, friend-that’s what makes me human. It's overwhelming, terrifying, scary.
I envision a long life. I see Adam graduating high school and Reid cheering for his little brother, so proud. I see Chris and me, empty nesters, enjoying our freedom and reveling in the boys that we grew to men. I see weddings and grandchildren.
I want to see this.
I choose to see this.
I want this life.
I always wondered how a person with a cancer diagnosis could “pretend” they will be ok, or believe it even. Now I know. You have to. There is no alternative. The energy that surrounds our body, ingrains into our cells, absorb into our beings, is so important.
I fear my siblings, children, parents, friends dying. I don’t want to miss them, I want to be with them in this world.
I fear leaving my family as a young person. I want to be present for their life celebrations. I want to hug them and their partners and children.
And so I will “pretend”. But really, I will believe. And this is hard for me. I like numbers, science, statistics, facts, certainties. I hate surprises, unknowns, unpredictability.
But, I have learned that faith and fear cannot occupy the same space, so I CHOOSE faith because I REFUSE to live in fear.
But know this, I am scared. Shitless. And sad. And angry. I don’t think this is fair. I don’t want to fight. I don’t want to prove to the Universe once again how strong I am.
But, I will.
I will fight.
I will believe.
I will have faith.
And I will remain the warrior I was born to be.
I will love the shit out of myself.
I will be healthy.
I will love my way through this.
I know who I am.
I know what I’m meant to do here.
I know what’s important.
Love each other.
I can’t be told that it’s going to be ok. Or that I “have this”. Nobody knows that. I don’t know that. But, I know I have today and I know I’m not done here yet.
Today I am alive.
Today I am healthy.
Today I will hug my 3 boys.
Today is a good day.
So many have asked, but to repetitively tell this story is exhausting and creates such negative energy in my body. So here you go:
I noticed a single swollen lymph node on the right side of my neck, under my jawline. After a doctor's exam, an ultrasound, a CT scan, and biopsy it has been confirmed "malignant cells identified of an unknown cancer". So, here I sit nearly 5 weeks later from that first appointment, anxiously and nervously, awaiting the ultimate diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment plan.
It is out of our comfort zone to ask for help, but I need to be as present and healthy as possible during this time. I need to be a good mom. In order to do that, I am learning to ask for help.
To help support my family during this time, please visit:
Give InKind is a place to offer meals, help with childcare, or donate to support any additional costs of this healing journey, regardless of distance. (There are even local restaurants listed for take-out!)
**And special note: Give InKind was founded by another bereaved family in honor of their beautiful daughter, Layla.
If you ask a bereaved parent how they survived the death of their child, they probably wouldn’t be able to tell you.
I don’t know how I got out of bed after learning that my daughter would not survive.
I don’t know how I got out of bed on the day we knew she would die, as she did in my husband’s arms.
I don’t know how I got out of bed every day for the past 6+ years.
But I did.
It has not been without tears, aching arms, and the disbelief that my greatest love will forever be missing.
But I continued to get up each day.
For the past 6+ years, life has continued to move forward. No, we have not “moved on” from our daughter but we have moved forward to create love, joy, and a family with our two sons.
We stay present and don’t dwell in our loss. We remember and include our daughter in our life and conversations. We wonder about her and miss her dearly.
But, we continue to get out of bed and bravely face the world.
Then, Mother’s Day comes. To think that this is a day that only affects moms is just not true. Fathers also feel the pain for their partners, wanting to fix it, make it better, or change the reality that can’t be changed.
Mother’s Day is a sucker punch to our grief. It’s the spotlight to what is missing.
The same argument can be made for any holiday or special day, really. And the same statement can be applied to anyone hurting on these holidays as they miss someone they love, or grieve a life they thought they’d have.
We do our best each day to brave the world around us and these “special days” are the obstacle to our course. Not only do we have to face the day, but we have to jump the hurdles that accompany it. Text messages, social media posts, advertisements, special brunches-while sweet and endearing, they magnify loss.
So my advice on these days is to listen to your heart, to stay present in the moment, and to be true to your needs. You may want solitude, you may need the company of others. Celebrating the other moms and women in your life may feel comforting, it may be overwhelming. And whatever you decide to do on this day that is intended to honor YOUR motherhood too, it’s ok to change your mind.
But remember this, you are still your child’s mother. You will always be your child’s mom.
So take today and do whatever you need to soothe your tender heart.
I am mama of three beautiful babes; two sons whom I have the privilege of raising and my daughter who lived for 33 sacred days.