By: Trish Adkins
Nicole’s daughter Lilly was diagnosed with neuroblastoma when she was just a year old. She recalls:
“It shook us. Our bond got stronger and we stuck together as a family to get through some tough days for Lilly. We had to be strong for Lilly to be stronger,” said Nicole.
The moment your child is diagnosed with childhood cancer is the moment your motherhood changes forever.
My own daughter, also named Lily, was diagnosed 14 years ago with a brain tumor called ependymoma. Today, she is 15 years old and cancer-free.
I asked some fellow hero moms with children who were in active treatment during the pandemic or still in the early years post-treatment, what this last year was like and what insights they had on motherhood:
Lara Stuart, Mom to Quincy (Childhood Cancer Hero)
“Cancer has continued to keep me humble and grateful. It was even more evident during COVID-19. We were just about to catch our breath and start pre-school and the pandemic hit. It made us figure out creative ways to keep the ‘ship upright’ during this stressful time. My advice to other moms: always put your oxygen mask on first. That’s what they tell you when you board a plane. Applying it to your life is crucial.”
Nicole Ibbotson, Mom to Tyler (SuperSib) and Lilly (Childhood Cancer Hero)
“Watching a child battle cancer will change your life forever. You never think it can happen to you. This experience has taught me to appreciate every little milestone, every day. My eyes were opened up to a whole different world of pediatric oncology. I recommend all my fellow moms out there to go enjoy the little things...Let the kids paint, let them dig. There was a time when I did not know if my daughter would survive and I was begging to see her make a little mess again. Make time to go to your child’s sports games, practices and school plays. Your heart melts when they catch you in the crowd and smile back at you. Your children love you as you are, no matter what!”
Molly Sturgis, Mom to Evelyn (SuperSib), Telly (Childhood Cancer Hero) and Hattie Mae (SuperSib)
“We are all just one incident away from completely changing our life’s trajectory. It’s something we hear all the time yet don’t truly feel the weight of the words, until we do. My son’s initial cancer diagnosis and the news of relapse are just two incidents that carved a new path for my family. From the advocating, to the scheduling, to the appointment juggling, to the researching, to the therapy homework, to the cooking, cleaning, worrying, teaching, refereeing, and parenting...it all piles up and the hours of the day never are long enough...but that’s what being a mom is all about; it’s showing up (hardly ever perfect) willing to try our best with each new sunrise. So, give grace. Give grace to yourself. Give grace to others. And most importantly, believe you are doing your best, because if you showed up, you most certainly are.”
Erica Avello, Mom to Frankie (Childhood Cancer Hero) and Brooklyn (SuperSib)
“Frankie had to be hospitalized last year. Because of the hospital COVID restrictions in those first few weeks/months, my husband and I weren't allowed to be in the hospital together. I really learned just how strong I could be when I had no one else there with me. On the other hand, my own mother, mother-in-law, and friends really stepped up and gave me a ton of support. So, while I already knew mothers had a tremendous amount of love in them, it was nice to have that support when I needed it most. My advice to other mother's is so ordinary... don't take time with your kids for granted. You don't know how much time you have so make the most of it.”
Morgan Griffin, Mom to Scarlett (Childhood Cancer Hero)
“Scarlett was diagnosed when she was 4 months old, during the COVID pandemic. It was hard that only one parent was ever allowed in for all procedures, checkups and throughout her chemotherapy treatments. It allowed me a lot more one on one time that I wouldn’t necessarily have been able to spend otherwise. It’s tough to watch your own kid go through such a fight and at times I felt there wasn’t much I could do to help. I think we have formed a very strong bond because of everything we have been through together. I’m glad I have been able to be there every step of the way for her.
I would give other moms the advice to stay strong! I know it sounds easier said than done. These kids are true warriors and our support and love really can help them through some of the tough times. Additionally, I would say to accept help and support anywhere they can get it or are offered it. Sometimes it was humbling to accept help, but in the end others do really just want to help and we can’t do it all by ourselves for our kids. I found support in so many different places and am so grateful for it as I think it’s what powered me through to be there for Scarlett."
Emily Gigler, Mom to Edie (Childhood Cancer Hero) and Kinsey (SuperSib)
"Advice that I would give to another mother would be love your babies hard and don’t take a second of their lives for granted! Teach your children to be strong, have faith and love others!"
Happy Mother's Day to all the moms that hold their children's hands through cancer, first days of school and walks around the neighborhood. Meet more amazing Hero Mom's, here.