July 26, 2017
How my breast cancer journey helped me support my son
BY Emmie Gooch
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, I remember thinking that if someone in our family had to face this disease, I was glad it was me. Today, it’s not. It’s my precious baby boy. My eight-year-old son, who was five when I was diagnosed, is now facing his own cancer diagnosis.
As a parent, it hurts so much to watch your child face this disease. The treatments can be so hard on the body. But Cameron is a fighter, and I know that part of the reason I went through my own battle was so that I could help him through his.
A rhabdomyosarcoma diagnosis
In September 2016, Cameron was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a type of soft tissue sarcoma that occurs mostly in children.
He had several rounds of chemotherapy at a local hospital to shrink the tumor in his abdomen, then surgery to remove what was left of it on Dec. 16, 2016. He also had a month of proton therapy at MD Anderson’s Proton Therapy Center. Cameron will finish receiving his weekly doses of chemotherapy at the end of July.
Cameron has handled cancer the way he handles everything else: sweetly, quietly and bravely. He is one of those people who inspires others with his strength without even realizing it.
Sharing what I’ve learned from cancer
As a breast cancer survivor, I have a unique perspective on a lot of what Cameron has faced, from surgery to chemotherapy and everything in between. I also know exactly how it feels emotionally to be a cancer patient. That’s why I do everything I can to help him.
Cameron and I didn’t have the same chemotherapy drugs, and they didn’t affect us in the same way. But I still remember how some smells in the house would turn my stomach, so for the first few days after he starts an infusion, I pay closer attention to what we cook and which perfume I wear.
I also remember water tasting like dirty ice. Cameron says the same thing, so we use a glass instead of a plastic cup and stick to certain brands of bottled water. I know what it’s like not to be tired or nauseated, but just not to feel good. Having gone through it myself, I also know it gets better.
Paying it forward
I firmly believe that Cameron and I have gone through cancer so that we can help others. We are both pretty shy and introverted, though, so we’ll have to do it in our own way — maybe by sharing our stories, offering a hug or just praying.
Cameron’s cancer journey has even made him a better advocate for himself. He used to be the kid who wouldn’t tell the teacher if he forgot his snack. He was a rule-follower who put himself second. But now he says, “You have to push the saline slowly, or I’ll throw up. Don’t count before you poke me. You need to use this kind of dressing.” He’s learning that it’s important to speak up and make his needs known.
Cancer won’t stop us
Cancer does not have to define or defeat you. A few days after my diagnosis, I resolved that cancer was not going to stop me. And Cameron hasn’t let it stop him either.
My son has been playing baseball since he was four. And though he had to sit out the fall season last year, he was back on the field when spring came around.
Cameron wants to show other kids that they can play no matter what, even if they’re having a hard day. He has been an inspiration to us, too. Whenever something’s not going right, I look at this brave little eight-year-old and think, “Well, if he can handle that, I think I can handle whatever obstacle I’m facing.”
He is definitely my hero.
Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by calling 1-877-632-6789.
Cancer does not have to define or defeat you.
Survivor & Caregiver