The past year has been my most challenging as a mother, yet Mother's Day 2018 will also be one of the most joyous as Austen completes her chemotherapy treatments for rhabdomyosarcoma on Friday, May 11. I couldn't ask for a better gift: the gift of health and life for the precious child who made me a mother.
In the months since her diagnosis, I have been both broken and fortified. I have been in turn fragile and fierce. I have tried to bear as much of the burden of her illness for her as I could. I have learned that I can hurt deeper and love harder than I ever imagined.
One of the first things I did upon hearing that my child had cancer was to join support groups. While I had many family members and friends on whom to lean, I knew that the only people who could truly understand what I was feeling were those going through the same journey. These online groups became a safe haven for me to go when I had a zillion questions and to vent when my emotions got the best of me.
Though I have met very few of these online supporters in person, I care for them and their children and my heart breaks whenever they post about a set-back or a loss. It breaks in a way it was unable to before I became a cancer parent because only now do I truly understand the fear of the very real possibility that you can lose your child.
My wish for this Mother's Day, and for every Mother's Day to come, is for the time to come that if a parent has to receive the news of a cancer diagnosis for their child, that the shock is immediately followed by relief when the doctor says, "But it's going to be OK." It's going to be OK because there are new treatments in place that will kill the cancer without toxic side effects. And that those treatments WILL cure the disease.
That is what Austen's Army Foundation is all about: advancing the efforts of research so that my wish can become a reality. I am confident that Austen is going to be completely free of disease after her final treatment and our Foundation's goal is for every mother (and father) to eventually be awarded that same confidence.