The day your child is diagnosed with cancer, your world turns upside down. If you are lucky enough to come to a successful end of treatment, then it slightly shifts again, but it (and you) are never the same.
When Austen was diagnosed with embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma nine months ago today, I could hardly think about the next day let alone what it might feel like to come to the end of this part of her cancer journey. It was one day/one minute at a time. But here we are. She had her last chemo on May 11 and her port was removed this past Friday after receiving clear end-of-treatment scans. I feel like I am finally breathing in full breaths of air again, but the air is not as pure as it once was.
Even though Austen has an extremely good prognosis and low chance of recurrence, the thought will never be far from my mind. I know that every little illness or bump will cause my alarm bells to go off. I am so thankful that her young age allows her a little naiveté and that her dad and I carry that burden for her.
She is eagerly preparing for kindergarten and the excitement of riding the bus. Her hair is growing back quickly and she just got her ears pierced(!) Meanwhile, I am trying to figure out how to live as a mother of cancer patient-turned-survivor. I am willing myself to focus on the current joy and relief we are all experiencing and not dwell on what we have just been through. During her diagnosis and treatment period, my desire to be strong for her kept a lot of the weight of everything mostly at bay. But now that it is all over and I have allowed myself to relax, that weight creeps up in the most random of moments and can bury me if I am not careful.
The best way for me to dig out is to focus on the mission of Austen's Army. Austen's experience motivates me to work hard to make this organization a success. I am passionate about spreading awareness of this disease and raising funds to support research efforts. I do it for her, I do it for all past, current and future rhabdomyosarcoma patients and honestly, I do it for me. It is how I cope.
As we navigate into yet another "new normal" for our family within the past year, it is the intense desire to truly make a difference that will continue to ground us and keep us going. I hope you will join us!