I don’t normally get personal here on the Cancer.Net Blog. Sure, I might provide an amusing anecdote every now and then, but in general, I stick to providing tips from experts and research from meetings and journals.
However, with the snow finally melted away and buds just beginning to peek out on the branches, the promise of new beginnings is all around. And for me, there’s no way to talk about new beginnings without thinking about the endings as well.
You see, last year, just around this time, my aunt—my mom’s identical twin sister—died of advanced breast cancer. This was the end of a long journey that spanned 12 years, one remission, one recurrence, and numerous treatments.
It also marked the beginning of my cousin Maryssa’s journey into motherhood. She was 10 weeks pregnant.
“I remember when I first told my mom I was pregnant and due in September,” Maryssa said. “It should have been one of the happiest moments in my life, but she told me that she wouldn't make it until September. That was the first time I realized she didn't have much time.”
It isn’t easy to look forward to a new life while mourning the loss of another.
“I remember thinking that I'm going to be a mom and then remembering I no longer had a mom,” Maryssa recalls. “I would break down because I no longer had her around or had her there to ask questions.”
Still, throughout her pregnancy there was always something to look forward to. February and March there were ultrasounds to actually see the person growing inside her. In April there was the blood test to find out if it was going to be a girl or boy. It was a boy. Then throughout the summer it was watching him grow bigger and stronger. Finally, in September, Maryssa was able to hold her son, Jamison, for the first time.
According to Maryssa, “January was when reality really hit. I was going back to work and would not have this baby with me for the first time since my mom died. I think that was when I really dealt with my emotions and loss. The first day back, I wasn't only worried about leaving Jamison for a long period but not having him with me. He had been my protection from the world for so long.”
The anticipation of Jamison’s arrival gave Maryssa, and the rest of the family, something positive to focus on. And now, hearing him laugh or seeing him try to crawl gives them an opportunity to remember.
“I imagine what my mom would think, how big her smile would be, and just how much she would love him,” Maryssa revealed. “It has all been bittersweet, and I really don't know how I could have made it through without Jamison. I will always remember, the day after my mom died we heard his heartbeat for the first time. I know it isn’t true, but part of me believes that when my mom passed, she passed her heartbeat onto him. He constantly reassures me that life goes on. He gives me hope even on my darkest days.”