It's been almost four years since my cervical cancer recurrence, but my two sons, Matthew (17) and Ethan (13), never traveled with me to MD Anderson until my check-up last month. I planned my appointment over their spring break so we could fit in a few college visits in Texas. I knew it might be emotionally difficult for them to go to MD Anderson. So, I did my best to handle the visit the same way I handled my treatment. I tried to let them see and feel my confidence.
Not only were we there for my appointment, but they joined me on the visits with all of the wonderful people I've have met in Houston through my journey. Both boys agreed that it was cool to see my home away from home.
How our visit affected my sons
After our visit, I gave Matthew and Ethan a few weeks to digest the emotions associated with going my oncology appointment before asking them a few questions separately about the experience. They both agreed that MD Anderson was not what they expected.
They were both surprised and saddened by how many people -- of all ages, races and genders -- were treated at MD Anderson. Matthew said being there made him sad because he knew what the families he saw were going through.
They both agreed they were glad they didn't travel with me during my cancer treatment. Matthew said seeing how sick I was at home was enough. He didn't need to see more. Seeing how tired and sick I was from my treatments on the way back home would have killed him, he told me. His words spoke volumes.
What I learned about my sons
I was surprised by how clearly Matthew was able to articulate his feelings about the experience. Of the two boys, he is the one who doesn't like to talk about his feelings and definitely not his feelings about my cancer.
Not only was he able to talk about the parts of the visit that were difficult, but he told me he gained an even bigger message from the visit. He said that by being there he could see that progress in cancer treatment is being made. He said that seeing a meeting room full of doctors helped him see that many people are working hard for a common good, giving him new hope.
The last question I asked them was if they would like to go back for an appointment with me again. Ethan's answer was "nah" and Matthew said, "Yes, but not if you have cancer."
My boys were an example of strength in the purest form. They didn't have enough life experience to help them with perspective during my cancer treatment. They could only use the tools they had been given to handle it.
As the parent and the cancer survivor, I'm supposed to be the strong one, but my kids showed strength in a way that was beyond their years.Having them join me in Houston was confirmation that they still have that strength. They are my heroes.