When A Parent Has Cancer

7 strategies to help you move through your cancer diagnosis.

I wanted to share with you a story of courage because I met someone recently who has it in spades, and I bet a lot of Curve’s readers out there are facing a similar scary experience and don’t know where to turn.

There’s a Facebook group called “Queer Mamas,” which I recently joined, and it has been a space of daily fascination much to my surprise.

Usually I have a very solipsistic interest in Facebook; my interest in scrolling withers fast and surges only when my wife has posted something about our family.

But Queer Mamas and its 12,239 members’ postings has engaged me daily. I dive as deep as reading “replies” now, and I return to read new comments from people I don’t even know. I’ve started checking the Group’s posts on my laptop—instead of only on my phone while I’m just waiting for something else to load. On one thread I made a whole Evernote file.

It’s a close second to my February binge-watching obsession with The Fosters, which my wife and I spent the weekend trying to articulate to each other…

When you see or connect with people going through similar issues (in our case, how The Adams Fosters demonstrate the language of two moms) the example of someone else in your position has two major benefits. 

  • One, it can remove some of the anxiety you feel based on “unknowns” you may worry about.
  • And two, you gain a model illustrating not only that a solution is possible,but  knowing how someone else handled it can give you a chance to come up with a solution for how you can handle it.    

And this is the reason for my article today on dealing with something as scary as Stage IV Cancer when you have a three year old—and you’re also a single parent.

I think the title of the TV Series The Big C makes it poignant that the diagnosis of cancer in western culture has become akin to Voldemort fear level–it’s a topic we don’t even want to speak about.

So imagine how hard it must be to find pertinent resources when your life is unlike the mainstream’s and you seek the same kind of resonance, or sense of belonging, I’ve just described to you in my recent connections and exemplars of women in families like mine.

Aimee Taylor and I met through Queer Mamas. Her description of the isolation she felt in not being able to find the kind of information she sought, the lack of exemplars, brought additional pain someone in her position should not also have to feel.

So Aimee helped me work on this list of 7 things to share,for young parents like her, who are trying to raise a child through ‘the everyday’ challenges, and at the same time, trying to heal themselves to survive a disease that minute-to-minute is trying to ruin you.

I offer this not as a complete list. With Aimee’s permission, I offer her experience and mindset to others in hopes that we can grow this thread for queer parents who are surviving or struggling with illness.

 7 Strategies To Help You Move Through Your Cancer Diagnosis

  1. Ask your community for help. It’s not something that comes naturally to most people. But put yourself in your healthy friends’ shoes: even when they’re exhausted, there isn’t a friend they wouldn’t help if they were needed. Make a list of tasks you can delegate so when a friend asks, “what can I do” you don't feel overwhelmed even by the offer. There isn’t a friend or neighbor who won’t be glad they were able to contribute. At the worse case, if their request to help started out insincere—there isn’t a person who won’t be glad they were able to be there for you.
  2. Listen to your body.Taking time off to recover is hard, but overworking yourself makes it harder to stay strong in every way and to recover. Rest.
  3. Share the message. Now that you know how hard it is to be a sick parent with young kids, do what you can to help others connect. It’s easy to make connections on Social Media- you can find Aimee Taylor on the Queer Mamas Facebook group and she welcomes you to get in touch.
  4. Speak love 1000 times a day. It goes without saying how much you will want to hug and kiss and speak your love to your loved ones, children especially need to hear it. If you come from a family where that wasn’t modeled for you, or you haven’t always felt comfortable, give yourself permission. Even Too Cool Teens who brush off these attempts actually inwardly cherish it.
  5. Take care of the future. While you have the energy, prioritize the things that must happen to make sure your loved ones are always taken care of—even while you’re recovering. Finances and videos are only obvious ideas—but Aimee reminded me that building your community is just as important. Helping your children be surrounded by other family and friends who share your values will help them better cope with any change in their life.
  6. Find the joy. Let humor become your right hand tool. Even if it is forced, there have been many studies that show fake laughter has comprehensive health benefits—and further often lead to full laughing. Coping is a lot easier when smiles and the good energy of laughter break up your pain. 
  7. Don’t avoid the topic. Young children can’t comprehend the concept of lethargy let alone death. Most adults struggle, too. But you will need comfort for yourself and comfort for your family. Simba found his father in the stars–but if finishing this article with a Lion King reference seems ghastly, please take comfort in this written passage in a co-authored book:

“Every problem, every dilemma, every dead end we find ourselves facing in life, only appears unsolvable inside a particular frame or point of view. Enlarge the box, or create another frame around the data and problems vanish, while new opportunities appear.”  – Ben and Roz Zanders

About the Author:

Alysha Dominico is a Canadian lesbian mompreneur. Find out more about her work at alyshadominico.com

Connect with Alsyha on Twitter @alyshadominico