How my breast cancer journey helped me support my son

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, I remember thinking that
if someone in our family had to face this disease, I was glad it was
me. Today, it’s not. It’s my precious baby boy. My eight-year-old son,
who was five when I was diagnosed, is now facing his own cancer diagnosis.

As a parent, it hurts so much to watch your child face this disease.
The treatments can be so hard on the body. But Cameron is a fighter,
and I know that part of the reason I went through my own battle was so
that I could help him through his.

A rhabdomyosarcoma diagnosis

In September 2016, Cameron was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a type of soft tissue sarcoma
that occurs mostly in children.

He had several rounds of chemotherapy at a local hospital to shrink the
tumor in his abdomen, then surgery to remove what was left of it on Dec. 16,
2016. He also had a month of proton therapy at MD Anderson’s Proton
Therapy Center
. Cameron will finish receiving his weekly doses
of chemotherapy at the end of July.

Cameron has handled cancer the way he handles everything else:
sweetly, quietly and bravely. He is one of those people who inspires
others with his strength without even realizing it.

Sharing what I’ve learned from cancer

As a breast cancer survivor, I have a unique perspective on a lot of
what Cameron has faced, from surgery to chemotherapy and everything in
between. I also know exactly how it feels emotionally to be a cancer
patient. That’s why I do everything I can to help him.

Cameron and I didn’t have the same chemotherapy drugs, and they
didn’t affect us in the same way. But I still remember how some smells
in the house would turn my stomach, so for the first few days after he
starts an infusion, I pay closer attention to what we cook and which
perfume I wear.

I also remember water tasting like dirty ice. Cameron says the same
thing, so we use a glass instead of a plastic cup and stick to certain
brands of bottled water. I know what it’s like not to be tired or
nauseated, but just not to feel good. Having gone through it myself, I
also know it gets better.

Paying it forward

I firmly believe that Cameron and I have gone through cancer so that
we can help others. We are both pretty shy and introverted, though, so
we’ll have to do it in our own way — maybe by sharing our stories,
offering a hug or just praying.

Cameron’s cancer journey has even made him a better advocate for
himself. He used to be the kid who wouldn’t tell the teacher if he
forgot his snack. He was a rule-follower who put himself second. But
now he says, “You have to push the saline slowly, or I’ll throw up.
Don’t count before you poke me. You need to use this kind of
dressing.” He’s learning that it’s important to speak up and make his
needs known.

Cancer won’t stop us

Cancer does not have to define or defeat you. A few days after my
diagnosis, I resolved that cancer was not going to stop me. And
Cameron hasn’t let it stop him either.

My son has been playing baseball since he was four. And though he
had to sit out the fall season last year, he was back on the field
when spring came around.

Cameron wants to show other kids that they can play no matter what,
even if they’re having a hard day. He has been an inspiration to us,
too. Whenever something’s not going right, I look at this brave little
eight-year-old and think, “Well, if he can handle that, I think I can
handle whatever obstacle I’m facing.”

He is definitely my hero.

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