Notes from a Mother with Cancer

“Ever since you got cancer you are so mean!”  

Theses are the delightful words of my teenage son, who truly thinks that because I have cancer I am taking it out on him.  That I am just pissed off at having cancer and that he never does anything that deserves to be yelled at. He also feels that he should be able to do whatever he wants and that I am far too controlling.

When I tell people that I have a 15 year old son, the comments I receive sound oddly familiar to the one’s I got when I told people that I had cancer:

“Oh you poor thing.”

“This too shall pass.”

“You will get through this with time.”

“I will pray for you.”

The double whammy this year of dealing with my illness and also with the hormone laden mood-swings of my eldest born self-serving-entitled teenager has all but blown the roof off my house. This past week brought our frustrations to new heights when the doctors told him he had a knee disorder and ordered my jock son to rest the knee for 4-6 months causing him to quit his beloved JV hockey team and sit around the house playing X-Box 360. This coupled with the fact that the doctors have ordered me to lay-low for 2 weeks after surgery has turned our house into a battlefield.

I hate X-box.  I hate all computer games.  I always have.  This year was the first time any gaming system was introduced into our house and now we have two –the Wii, which I bought them last Christmas and the X-Box 360 which my son purchased with his own money thus making him believe he can play it whenever he wants for however long he wants. This on-line live contraption means he sits in our playroom for HOURS talking into a Janet-Jackson like headset to his friends who are sitting in their play rooms and play these games together.  No human contact…no outdoor fresh air. It came to a head the other night when I found him on it at 2:00 am, 7 hours after he started!

My other two kids,age 12 and 9, seemed to understand my need for peace this year.  They were easy on me after chemo and surgery and generally have really tried to be good.  My 15 year old — well, it seems like he has gone out of his way to irritate me.  He claims that I am meaner since I got cancer. What he can’t seem to understand is that even if I didn’t have cancer, I would still be angry about X-Box and I would still be telling him what to do.  It’s all about timing.  He happened to head full fledge into teenager-dom at the same moment I got cancer. Unfortunately, as a typical first born, his only perspective on things is about how they effect HIM. My cancer has been an inconvenience to him on more than one occasion.  Also unfortunately, he, like my husband has a difficult time expressing his feelings and therefor much of what he may be feeling gets swallowed up into a world of inane sports facts and weather talk.  This is something I continue to work on daily.

As I pondered our fight the other night it dawned on me just how difficult it is to be a “Mother with Cancer”. I blog on a website that goes by that name; and there is a reason it needs it’s own special site. Mother’s who have cancer have an extremely difficult time. No matter the age of the children.  Each phase of child rearing brings with it it’s own set of problems and when you heap on the sickness and fatigue of battling cancer and dealing with treatment not to mention the impending feeling of anxiety over “what if”…the combination of mothering and cancer is overwhelming.  Yes, it is horrible when father’s have cancer, but no matter how involved Dad is in the family, it is always easier for him to take to his bed when he is not feeling well.  Mom always has to be “on” no matter what.

Weather it is the physical exhaustion of chasing a toddler or the mental anguish of dealing with a teenager, mother’s who have cancer are a special breed.  Tough as nails as my mother would say, we have no other choice.  Every day we put the needs of our kids before our own (as do all mothers) and wait till the wee hours of the night to think about our own worries.

I know that eventually my teenager will outgrow this phase. I also know that I have many things to work on when it comes to dealing with him. Since he is my first I do a lot of “test” parenting on him. Sometimes I have to change my expectations and my tactics when things start to go awry.  Eventually too, my cancer, will fade into the background of our lives; He will find something else to blame my “meanness” on; maybe it will be my new job, or my book tour (ha), something other than cancer.

For now though, my hats off to all Mothers with Cancer and their ability to get through another day.  Lord knows it aint easy.

About francesbarrie

Cancer survivor,mom,triathlete,writer,jewelry maker, baker. Staying happy and healthy,living life and enjoying it one moment at a time.
This entry was posted in breast caner, cancer, chemo, chemotherapy, family, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Notes from a Mother with Cancer

  1. gina says:

    Fran my Fran, 1st, take the (ha) away from the book tour. You have a way of making the horros of going through “teenagedom”with our kids seem humorous and almost even normal.

  2. John Marchiony says:


    Thank you for this post, and all that came before. I appreciate your candor and insight into life with kids, made more acute through the lens of your battle with cancer.

    I write to let you know that I read your blog eagerly and support you with my thoughts, hopes, and best wishes. I’ll do so very actively through the 2009 PMC, and then afterwards. It is my team’s tradition to ride in honor of cancer survivors, thrivers, and angels. You, I sense, are a tremendous thriver. I look forward to thinking of you as we train and then ride (and in between, I’m sure).

    My mother lost her battle with cancer. I’d be happy to share the perspective of “a son ofa mother with cancer” with your son.

    Thrive! Fran. I wish you the best.


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