My sons were too young to understand cancer when I was diagnosed in 2009. Just little sprouts, barely 3 and 5 years old, and since I didn’t have chemo to peg me as a cancer patient, I didn’t tell them. There seemed no point. I was able to spare them, really myself, the horrible task of talking about Mommy being sick. I simply headed for surgery with a hug and a promise that what was broken inside me was about to be fixed.
Two young boys didn’t question and in a jaunty sort of way (not really), I went off to have a bilateral mastectomy. Despite several stealthy follow up reconstructive surgeries and regularly scheduled visits to my oncologist, nearly 7 years have passed and my sons still don’t know.
In my house, breast cancer is a big secret.
I’m not looking to debate the rights and wrongs of denying my sons this knowledge. I figure, at some point, one way or another when I’m ready, this secret will make itself known. I only pray it’s not because there’s a recurrence to discuss.
But, in the meantime, as many other parents probably do, I spend a great deal of time arguing with my youngest.
He’s now 9 years old. He’s smart, loves a bad joke, crafty in a good way, and has a gigantic, loving heart. He’ll go out of his way to pave an easier path for someone in need. He thinks he’s lucky. He says he has a good life, a nice home and loves his family and I soooo, so love that about him.
As many positive things there are to love about this boy, there’s this one thing…He will argue with me at the drop of a hat. About absolutely anything, anywhere, any time. Doesn’t matter what I say– The sky is not blue and I can’t prove it.
I don’t know why this is, why we butt heads so fiercely every morning and every night and most moments in between. Honestly, it’s a total drag. Thankfully, he’s not like this in school or I’d be facing a larger problem, but he’s good there. “He’s a pleasant addition to the classroom.”
That’s nice. He saves it all for me. And perhaps, that’s it. I’m an easy target, the easiest. I love him unconditionally and he knows that. He understands no matter how ugly the fighting gets, how much he argues, how much he blatantly ignores what I say…It’s all fine because I’m not going anywhere.
I’m his biggest supporter, his biggest fan. He believes, as any 9 year old should, that I will forever stand by his side cheering him on. Ultimately, he knows no matter what, I will aways love him…and that’s true, but I’m human and I’ve seen enough of life to grasp how fragile it is, how painfully short it is. How at risk I am for this crap called breast cancer to reappear and take me away from him.
And then what?
Will he look back on these turmoil-filled days with regret? Will he wish he’d been nicer to the one that loved him the most?
I don’t know. I hope not. There’s no need for guilt here. I know he loves me. It’s not his intention to be argumentative, disrespectful, and even bratty. It’s less about me than it is about him, growing, testing his wings.
But, I have to wonder on mornings such as this when he climbs the bus steps with barely a goodbye…what if he knew? Would it make a difference? Would he be more agreeable because his mother may not always be here?
Would he appreciate our time more?
Actually, I doubt it and that’s fine. Death is a scary, difficult topic for a young boy–for anyone. He shouldn’t have to understand or worry about it. I want him as far from it as possible for as long as possible. It will find him eventually. As it finds all of us.
None of us ever escape the loss of someone we love. It’s just a part of life. As are the arguments between mothers and sons, even when their secrets aren’t as big as mine.