Thursday, May 9, 2013

Domestic Enemies of the Cancer Mom

Today's post comes from reader Elizabeth Renker, who is a mediocre mom to three girls who will change the world someday, if they don't burn the house down first. She thought being a SAHM was hard, but it turns out being a SAHM to a kid with cancer is even harder. She shares her own rants at Confessions of a Mediocre Mom, where she discusses things like poop, wine, and losing her ever loving mind. She spends far too much time on Facebook, still doesn't fully understand Twitter, and lives vicariously through Pinterest

And now we present: Domestic Enemies of the Cancer Mom

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I am a mom to three terrifying, yet amazing, girls: Punkin - age 8, Goo - age 4, and Smush - age 2.


Goo has given me a run for my money since birth. She flies in the face of every parenting book and literally fights about everything. About a month ago, I found myself thanking God for that fight - because it was then that we found out she has a malignant tumor called rhabdomyosarcoma.


There is no doubt in my mind that she will beat it. She’s fierce, she’s rocking her bald head, and she’s pretty much writing the book on how to cope with cancer. At four years old. She is my hero, and my husband - whom I lovingly refer to as The Nerd - is rocking a bald head with her. He let her do the honors with the clippers. I cried. And then I rubbed their fuzzy heads.


Cancer is terrifying. It turns your life upside down. And if you don’t find the funny on a daily basis, you will lose your mind. I almost did, more than once. Until I started realizing that cancer brings on a whole new level of domestic enemies that I can rant about. And these days, I'll take what I can get.


  1. The gas budget. We live approximately an hour away from the pediatric hospital where Goo is being treated. We travel there five days a week. In my minivan that I’m fairly certain uses more fuel than a NASA rocket. Our gas budget is now equal to or greater than the income from my work-at-home gig that I had to give up to care for Goo and the rest of my crew. Super.
  2. The food issues. Because chemotherapy causes a compromised immune system, certain foods are off limits. Like fresh berries. The one food I could ever, in the history of her life, get Goo to eat without complaining. Thanks, chemotherapy. I spent four years fighting this kid with the promise of unlimited strawberries if she ate her dinner, and now I got nothing. Bring on the chicken nuggets.
  3. My life is, once again, all about poop. Diarrhea is bad. Constipation is bad. Funky colors are bad. Irregularity is bad. I think about, talk about, and look at poop all. day. long. And I will continue to do so for the next year, because poop frequency/consistency/regularity are critically important during chemotherapy. And people say motherhood isn’t glamorous. As an added bonus, Goo now yells, “Mommy! You gotta check my poop!” whenever she goes, no matter where we are. This is particularly fun in public restrooms and fancy family dinners.
  4. The commenters. People mean well. They want to be helpful and encouraging. But they say stupid things to a parent of a child with cancer. Things like, “Wow! It must be really bad!” Or, “Well at least you aren’t stuck in the snow during this blizzard!” That’s an excellent point. Because watching my beautiful baby battle a terrifying disease is totally better than, say, scraping off my car. And then there’s, “You’re poisoning your child with that medication. Vitamin injections are proven and the only cure.” I’m sure that non-accredited or peer-reviewed article you read is the absolute authority, and all of Goo’s specialists are just mislead. Thanks for the tip. When your kid has cancer, inject as many vitamins as you want. In the meantime, back the heck up. I used to be super non-confrontational. My kid’s cancer cured that. Consider yourself warned.
    Uh, has anyone seen my kid?
  5. The spoiling. In the hospital, doctors and nurses (aka superheroes), actually hate giving needles and crappy medicine and time-consuming tests and procedures. They actually just want to fight for your baby and make her all better. And because of this, they like to give prizes to my little warrior for being so brave. So. many. prizes. In one month, we accumulated 3 full shopping bags of coloring supplies, 4 sparkle lights Barbies, 2 play dough kits, a piggy bank, a paper doll kit, and 14 stuffed animals. Except now Goo is all, “I washed my hands. Can I get a prize?” And then I start twitching because there is no more room in my house but how the crap do you say no to your bald baby in the fight of her life?
  6. The deliveries. People love to send deliveries to kids in the hospital. Two things a kid on chemotherapy can’t have? Fresh flowers and fresh fruit (unless it’s been thoroughly scrubbed, and I trust no one). Top deliveries to a kid in the hospital? Flowers and fruit. Which I have to intercept and hide so that Goo doesn’t become a gremlin when I say she can’t have them. Because no matter what anyone tells you, being a gremlin is a side effect of chemotherapy.
  7. Mom guilt. Oh. Em. Gee. The guilt is overwhelming. Goo’s particular type of cancer begins to form in utero, and even though every medical professional on the planet tells you it’s not your fault, you totally don’t believe them. It was all the Ramen noodles I ate, I’m sure of it. And guilt over being away from my other babies for days or weeks at a time while I get Goo through her treatment is overwhelming. How do you divide yourself between the most important people in the world? You do your best, and sometimes you buy things. Things you swore you’d never buy. I hate the guilt.


The one thing that doesn’t suck about cancer? The way everyone you know - and some you don’t - come together to help. Families with a child fighting cancer need help, even when they say they don’t. They need things like gas and grocery gift cards, meals delivered in disposable containers they don’t have to wash, and free babysitting when the family is up to it. Because leaving your baby is unbelievably hard, but if you want to keep fighting this fight, you need a break.

Our church stepped up and held a St. Baldrick’s fundraiser - an organization that raises funds for pediatric cancer research through people shaving their heads in solidarity with our little warriors. Together we donated $3,000 to help fight childhood cancer. Take that, rhabdomyosarcoma.

Cancer sucks. We’re totally gonna kick it to the curb. And my feisty little Goo is going to write the book on how to beat cancer like a boss. And I’m going to write the book on how to not say stupid things to the parents. Because the one phrase that never gets old? Cancer sucks. It’s going down.


(c)Herding Turtles 2009 - 2013

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