The Baggage & Motherhood Guest Writer’s Series gives a space for moms around the world to share their story of what life has thrown their way and how it has impacted them in their role as a Mom. This post, Kelsey Egly writes about the earth shattering news of a stage 3 cancer diagnosis, and how she found strength to fight cancer while living as a wife and a mom to her young son.
All of the posts in this series touch on the real life struggles of bringing your “stuff” with you to your most important job: Motherhood.
How a Cancer Diagnosis Made Me a Better Mom
I know, the title of this post probably made you do a double take. It might seem a bit extreme at first glance, but hang with me, I can explain.
In July 2018 my world and the world’s of those closest to me got turned upside down.
In March 2018, while nursing my six month old son, I noticed a small lump in my right breast.
I quickly called my doctor and was reassured that it was likely a clogged milk duct or something of the sort. Fast forward a few months and this “clogged duct” still had not gone away.
I went on to have multiple ultrasounds and even a biopsy of the fluid found in what was now being called a cyst. — Benign. Tested negative for cancer.
Those were the results I was receiving, yet I still had this weird feeling that something was not right.
As time went on the “cyst” continued to grow and became extremely painful.
Finally I called the doctor back and insisted on further testing.
After a biopsy of my actual breast tissue I got the dreaded phone call, the type of phone call that literally brings you to your knees.
Even though I sort of knew it all along, hearing the words “you have cancer” quite literally took my breath away.
I had just been given a cancer diagnosis. My mind started racing with millions of thoughts and all I can remember is just repeating out loud “I am going to be ok” over and over again.
You never really know how you are going to react to something traumatic and to be honest, I couldn’t do much of anything.
It took me walking into the house and looking at my son’s little face to burst into tears. He was only ten months old, how the heck were we going to make it through this?
The weeks after my diagnosis were definitely a blur. Countless doctors appointments, learning specifics about the type of breast cancer I had and getting everything all lined up to start chemo in September 2018.
I kept wishing someone would just wake me up. This had to be a bad dream, thirty-year-olds don’t get a cancer diagnosis of stage 3 cancer… so I thought. Unfortunately, I couldn’t have been more incorrect in that assumption and this was now our life, our new normal.
While I used to obsess over trying to micromanage just about every aspect of my life, my new reality was one of very little control. I could no longer control how I physically felt, I could no longer control how I looked, but you know what I could control? My mindset. Easier said than done, that’s for sure, but my gosh it makes a world of difference.
While I would be lying if I said 15 rounds of chemo, surgery and 33 radiation treatments all while caring for a tiny human was a cakewalk, I definitely learned a few things along the way that made things a whole lot easier.
Repeat after me: I CAN and I WILL
If I had a dollar for every time I said those words both in my mind and out loud over the last year, I would be a rich lady.
I CAN get through this. I WILL be able to put this all behind me one day.
I CAN beat this beast and I WILL see my sweet baby grow up.
I CAN get out of bed today, (even though I feel like garbage) and I WILL be the mom my son needs me to be.
I think this mantra can be applied to many of the tough issues that life can throw at you.
Mind over matter became a life necessity for me because really, what other option did I have? Quitting is not something I know how to do, nor was it a new habit that I was going to let myself develop.
Cancer taught me to focus in and draw strength from things that motivate me the most. It taught me the true power of the human mind and it allowed me to prove to myself that I CAN and I WILL no matter how steep the hill ahead may be.
Perfection is Overrated
Ever since I was little, I had this vision of what my life would look like as I got older. I am a planner by nature, and there is nothing that makes me tick more than a perfectly executed plan.
While there have been lots of little things in life that have caused me to deviate here and there, cancer has been a swerve like no other. I’m sure that doesn’t come as a shock to anyone, but the crazy thing is that it is a detour I am SO glad I took.
It turned my world upside down and slapped me in the face with everything that is important. Life doesn’t have to be perfect for it to be beautiful. I used to constantly seek “perfection” and would often find myself anxious and stressed because maintaining that lifestyle, especially with a kid, is nearly impossible.
Going through a cancer diagnosis and cancer treatment have taught me to redefine the word perfect. It has taught me to live in this very moment and think about all of the things I DO have vs. all of the things that I wish I had.
I know it sounds so cliche, but none of us are promised tomorrow. Maybe I accomplished nothing on my to-do list today and my screaming child threw himself on the floor of the post office 4 times within a five minute span of time, but ya know what? I was graced with another day to live this life. I was given another day to hear my baby say “I love you the most!”.
That sounds pretty perfect to me.
Accepting Help Doesn’t Mean You Are Weak
Accepting help from others is not something that I am good at. I am not the best at wanting to talk about my feelings, I’d much rather just gather my thoughts and figure out a plan of action all on my own.
Cancer taught me that I was going to need to snap out of this way of thinking real quick.
I needed help.
I needed people to talk to.
I needed to give myself permission to accept the kindness and generosity that was being constantly offered by my family and friends.
Allowing others to help you doesn’t make you weak, in fact I learned that allowing myself to rely on the support of those who love me only made me stronger.
Family stepped up big time when it came to caring for our son, meals were dropped off on our front porch, friends sat next to me and helped pass hours of time during chemo treatments. The list of helpful things that people did for us could really go on forever.
It is OK to ask for support if you are going through something, big or small.
We are not meant to navigate challenging times alone and you can’t pour from an empty cup. The power of a cheering squad/support team/tribe/village whatever you want to call it, is truly remarkable. These are the people who will pick you up and carry you on their backs all the way to the finish line.
Let them love you because sooner or later, you will get the opportunity to return the favor.
Dealing with a cancer diagnosis is never easy no matter what phase of life you are in. It is such an ugly disease that has the potential to rob you of so much if you allow it to.
However, just like any challenging time in life, it can really change you for the better if you choose to shift your mindset.
The past year has taught me so much about who I am as a person, and more importantly, who I am as a mom. I always heard that you never fully understand the love of a parent until you become one and I whole-heartedly believe this to be true. I’d go through hell and back all over again if it means I get another day to be my son’s mama.
Your child(ren) provide such a source of strength and as a result you are living for much more than yourself. I am nowhere near perfect, but at the end of every day, I know that I am doing my best with each day that I am given. All moms are superheroes, this I am sure.
No matter the cards that you are dealt, you CAN and you WILL find a way to power through, you will learn to find beauty in the imperfections of life and you will never regret letting those who love you provide support when you need it most.
Kelsey is a wife, mama, and a Breast Cancer thriver! She lives in Kirkland, Washington with her husband and two year old son. Ever since receiving a cancer diagnosis of Stage 3 breast cancer in 2018, she has been determined to not only beat this disease, but also make sure that the rest of her life is the best of her life!
One of the many things Kelsey has done to improve her life after she beat cancer was to become more aware of putting clean products on her body and skin. Kelsey did research and found that while the EU bans over 1,500 toxins in their beauty and skincare products, the US only bans 30. Yep, just 30!
Kelsey has become a huge fan of the clean products from BeautyCounter and she has even become a consultant for them. I just started using their products because of Kelsey, and I think they’re great.
Check out her shop so you can see what clean products you’d like!
Kelsey is not only a breast cancer survivor and thriver, but she is my cousin, and one of my all-time favorite people.
I cannot thank her enough for being so brave in so many ways. Kelsey’s attitude as she took on cancer was so positive and upbeat the entire time. And now, she has shown tremendous courage to write about such a personal topic with the hopes of helping other moms going through something similar.