Balanced Living with Cancer

One young family’s quest to find balance while living with cancer

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Trinket in the Jewelry Box

September 12, 2011 | 8 Comments

Last night our son was going through my jewelry box. He’s a precocious, I think adorable, 9 year-old.  He says to me, “Mom, if we need money we could always sell your jewelry.”   It unnerved me his concern over money and then I realized he had been overhearing the conversations my husband and I had been having lately about health insurance and growing medical costs and our concerns about medical debt.

As my son sorted through my jewelry he came upon a coin that grabbed his interest.  It was an inspirational piece you might find in a gift shop or stationery store.  He paused to read the inscription.  Looking at me he said, “Mom, where did you get this?”  I couldn’t recall – something that seems to be happening more and more frequently as of late.  “Will you read what it says and maybe I’ll remember?”

In his sweet, angelic voice he read one side of the coin, “Cancer”, then he turned it over and continued, “Cannot defeat the soul, cannot shatter hope, cannot depress faith, cannot destroy homes, cannot limit humanity, cannot kill friendships, cannot silence courage, cannot ruin the soul, cannot reduce the spirit, can be overcome …”

I took a deep breath and looked at him.  His eyes were wide, bright and he had a smile on his face that cut straight through to my heart.  I could tell he was pleased with himself.  He had touched his mom and he knew it.  This is a child who has only known his father to have cancer.  He has never experienced a day, in his short life, without his dad either being extremely fatigued or physically ill from cancer or its treatments.   At his tender young age he knows the fragility of life and yet his smile comes from a place of pure joy and happiness.

I wrapped my arms around him, buried my face in his thick hair, and mindfully held onto the feeling of calmness that came over me.  It’s these simple moments that bring everything full circle.  It is true.  Cancer can be overcome.


Copyright © 2011 Jeannie Moloo. All Rights Reserved.


Am I So Different

August 19, 2011 | 3 Comments

My husband’s appearance has changed dramatically since his stem cell transplant. The donor’s cells he received to replace his cancer ridden immune cells and “cure” his cancer see his body as a foreign body and attack, in his case, his skin. The donor’s cells are on a search and destroy mission and any organ such as his liver, eyes, intestines, or kidneys are fair game. The donor’s cells are just doing their job, after all, they are in a foreign place, somebody else’s body. This process is known as graft vs. host disease and one of the major risks of a bone marrow or stem cell transplant. When the target is the skin it can be particularly devastating both physically and emotionally. Doctors try at all cost to avoid graft vs. host disease, but for some transplant recipients and their families it becomes an inevitable part of their lives.

I came across this poem the other day. I have witnessed the stares, over heard the comments, and explained more times than I can count why my husband looks so different than before. After all the explaining, I’ve come to realize that no matter the reason what really matters is not the “why” but as the poem’s author writes, “give me your smile that’s true and bright, walk with me through each tomorrow, don’t shun me out of fright.”

I wish I could give the author credit, but they signed their poem Anonymous.

Am I So Different

Am I so different because I’ve lost my hair,
is that the reason you feel a need to stare,
am I so different because of things I cannot do,
does that really make me less normal than you,

Am I so different, so different from you,
is making me uncomfortable a pleasure for you,
if my looks are upsetting to one and all,
just try and remember that my life is no fun at all,

You see me like this and wince as I pass by,
never once do you notice the tear in my eye,
it’s not illness or pain that makes me cry,
it’s your stares and snide comments as I walk by,

So, please, I implore you, take this to heart,
I am truly human, not a species apart,
this illness is my burden, a heavy one too,
if not for a misfortune, this me could be you,

My life is now a battle,
this cancer I must fight,
your cruel and hurtful prattle,
pains me day and night,
instead of pain and sorrow,
give me your smile that’s true and bright,
walk with me through each tomorrow,
don’t shun me out of fright.



Copyright © 2011 Jeannie Moloo. All Rights Reserved.


Got Cancer?

August 10, 2011 | 4 Comments

During my usual scroll through Facebook this morning it struck me the number of recent posts from friends and family about someone close to them either dealing with cancer or having recently died from the disease.

I once asked my Mom how many people she knew when she was my age who had cancer?  Two people came to her mind.  One was an in-law who had breast cancer in her forties and the other a brother-in-law of one of her dear friends who had died shortly after being diagnosed with leukemia, also in his forties.  Two.

When I consider my close friends who I have known for more than ten years, I count 16 between the ages of 40 and 55, who have received a cancer diagnosis in the past five years. 16!

Some have told me I am just acutely aware of the cancer around me because of my husband.  I disagree.  Each of the 16 friends I have known well before my husband’s diagnosis.

Do I know more people than my mom did when she was my age? I don’t think so.  She was an elementary school teacher for 28 years.  She knew hundreds of families.  Cancer diagnosing has improved, so maybe it is earlier detection? Certainly that is part of it, but I don’t think that is going to count for such a dramatic difference – 2 for Mom, 16 for me.

Each time I hear of a cancer diagnosis, especially in someone middle-aged, I find myself focusing on the word ‘why’.  Why so many? Why so young?  We are good at asking why does cancer spread?  Why does cancer come back?  If cancer rates are indeed higher among the middle-aged compared to a few generations ago, we should adamantly be asking why?

Do your own count.  Unnerving, I know.  Count only your friends, who have received a cancer diagnosis in the past five years, are between the ages of 40 and 55, and you have known for at least ten years.  Don’t count acquaintances, people you casually know, or coworkers or neighbors unless they are close friends.

Chances are you too know someone close to you, young, in the prime of their life, raising a family, making a go of their career, who have been halted in their tracks by the disease and its treatments.  It is a disheartening realization to actually stop, pause, and make a tally.  See if you then find yourself asking, why?


Copyright © 2011 Jeannie Moloo. All Rights Reserved.