Komen Atlanta is kicking off a new online series called “Monday Moms,” which will provide local mom stories about the unique challenges of being a mother with breast cancer. This week our feature Mom is Cati Stone, Executive Director of Komen Atlanta.
Monday Moms: Faking It
By Cati Diamond Stone
Executive Director, Komen Atlanta
My daughter “L” was 16 months old when I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. For her, my diagnosis meant Grandparentpalooza at our home throughout my year and a half of treatment. For me, it meant trying to figure out how to be a mom, wife, career-girl and cancer patient all at the same time – a combo platter of competing interests. But the most important thing (so I thought) was for L to never know I was sick. Innocence only lasts so long, and I was not about to give my toddler a dose of reality at such a young age. So I did what any mom in my situation would do. I faked it.
When I lost my hair from chemo, I told her I just wanted to try out a new haircut. When I couldn’t pick her up for weeks after my mastectomy, I pretended like I would rather play on the floor. When she saw me wince after radiation when my clothing was too tight on my burned skin, I laughed it off.
For a while, I thought I was getting away with my little charade. But then the low point came. I took L to see a play at a children’s theater. During intermission, an usher told L that it was so nice her daddy brought her to see the show. I was pale, bloated from chemo and had nothing more than peach fuzz on my head (I rocked the bald look because I never felt like myself in a wig and couldn’t figure out how to tie a scarf around my head without looking like a fortune teller). The comment stung, but it was a wakeup call that, in trying to make L feel like nothing was wrong, I was kidding myself too. I was sick, and everybody knew it but me.
L is now 4. She asks questions, and I answer them. She sees my scars and traces them with her fingers. She knows that I had cancer, she knows I was very sick, and she knows I am better now. I can answer all of her questions, except for one. She routinely asks if she will one day have to go through the same thing I did. As much as I would like to, I cannot fake an answer to this question. All I can do is tell her that I am working alongside many others who are fighting to find a cure for this disease, and that we will never give up until we do. For now, that is good enough for her.
In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Komen Atlanta is kicking off a new online initiative called “Monday Moms” that gives mothers a chance to discuss the unique challenges of being a mother with breast cancer – for example, the impact on their families, how they’ve discussed their illness with their children, how they managed the pain of treatment with little ones underfoot, etc. Monday Moms also can give people whose mothers have breast cancer a chance to post their own challenges, points of view or questions. Our goal is to give people in this community a place to celebrate successes, mourn losses or just plain vent about their experiences with breast cancer. We also want to give people a space to share stories, create a dialogue with others and feel heard.