30 DAYS/30 STORIES® 2020
I am Cole’s mom, Michelle, and I am also Executive Director of PCFLV. But first and foremost, I am a mom. A cancer mom. Cole was diagnosed in 2001, at the age of 3, with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Nineteen years later, I can tell you that the memories of those early days after diagnosis still haunt me. The feelings of fear and anger, anxiety and guilt, come rolling back over me in waves frequently and often at the oddest moments. Every time I meet a new cancer mom and see that “look” in her eyes, I remember being her. I am still her. And I always will be her. You never go back to NOT being a cancer parent. It is a permanent and profound transformation.
With that said, I truly believe there is good to be found in this journey as well. The collateral beauty, as I like to call it, of learning to live “unscripted,” of learning to be flexible and resourceful and resilient, of finding friendships and bonds with people who you otherwise never would have met, and of marveling at the wonders of your cancer child and their siblings. Because let me tell you, you will never meet a more resilient and compassionate group of kids EVER.
And one of those kids is my Cole. My man child, as I call him these days. I am proud of him for being willing to share his perspective on this cancer journey, as an adult survivor. A young man who is making his way in this world, with the people (and animals!) he holds dear. Someday, when he is a parent himself, I know he will begin to grasp what it was like for his dad and me back in 2001…although I certainly hope he will never fully to be able to understand.
Thank you for following along with our 30 Days/30 Stories® series this year and please read Cole’s perspective…
It makes me quite sad to think about how big of a part cancer is to some people’s lives. It is a daily battle for many families. There are bad days and good days, but even on the good days they cannot help but feel as if it is going to quickly become a bad day. This was the reality for my family for a few years. When I was diagnosed at three years old, I can imagine that this must have been the worst day for my parents. I do not have kids myself, but I do have a dog and I believe that he gives me some sort of an insight into how my parents might have felt. I really hate to think about it though. I have seen my parents scared but I am glad I was too young to remember what they were like that day. However, this fear did not cause them to freeze up. They quickly acted and got me the proper treatment and hopeful attitude that allowed me to eventually enter remission. I have been cancer-free ever since and have my parents and doctors to thank. Trust doctors and trust science.
I believe that my story is one of hope, especially for other families that are going through similar struggles that my family went through. I certainly would not consider myself an extraordinary person, but I am proof that childhood cancer can be overcome. I am 22 years old, I go to college, and I have a girlfriend and a dog that I love. The only reminders I have that I ever had cancer are my port, the yearly check-ups, and the fact that my mom is the Executive Director of PCFLV. Other than that, it hardly ever crosses my mind. Being past cancer is probably unimaginable if you are currently going through it and I understand that. I promise you it is possible, and I hope that you will get to see that.
Written by Cole