When my dad was first diagnosed with cancer, the hardest words for me to say out loud were "my dad has cancer". I didn't want it to be real, and each time I said it, it felt like another piece of my heart was breaking. I had to hold back tears every single time I said it. And I'm just me- a normal, 20 something year old girl in Michigan. So I applaud you for having the bravery to share your mom's diagnosis with the world.
Your mom's cancer journey is unique. Your reaction as a caregiver is unique. There is no comparing your story, or your mom, to anyone else. That is not my intent of this open letter. Although my dad has cancer, I cannot feel what you feel, you cannot feel what I feel, my dad will have different experiences than your mom, and vice versa.
But your mom is now a survivor. And you are now a caregiver. And my heart goes out to both of you, as well as to your dad and your brother.
Although each story is different, and although I cannot predict what will happen in your case, I want to tell you a few things I have learned.
- Everyone around you will react differently. Some may look at you with sad eyes and a frown...their voices will get quieter as they gently ask you how you are doing. Others will carry on as if everything is normal. Some won't say anything at all. Some will send you random "check in" messages. Others will totally swoop in, prepare meals, do the dry cleaning, check the mail. LET THEM.
- There will be times when you won't know what to say to your mom. Things like "it will be okay" and "stay strong" seem so cliche, but you won't have the words. That's okay. A simple tap, hug, or hand squeeze go a very long way.
- Give yourself time. The ups and downs can be exhausting. The fear of the unkown will be your worst enemy. It's okay to unplug, escape for a while. In your case, I recognize how near impossible this may be. Find the quiet moments when you can and use them to take care of yourself.
- It's okay to cry. It's okay to laugh. It's okay to punch someone- or something. I took up kickboxing during my dad's cancer journey and it's been one of the best decisions of my life.
- Ask questions. Get clarifications. Know the plan. Know that sometimes the plan changes.
- You are not alone. Sometimes it might feel like you are, even if you KNOW you aren't. Sometimes you won't care if other people are suffering because all you want is your mom to get better. That's not selfish. That's normal. This is your mom.
- "Shake It Off" is one of the best songs to play on repeat after a long day of doctor appointments and tears. Trust me.
- As gut wrenching as some days can be, when you begin to live your life to the fullest, the world becomes even more beautiful.
A lot of people are going to tell you to "be brave" or "be strong" or "be positive". I'm just gonna tell you to be you. Whatever emotion you feel, be it, and don't apologize. You have permission to feel. You've already shown us how brave you are- by letting us hear the songs you write, by taking risks in your music, by sharing your mom's diagnosis with us. It's okay to break down. It does not make you weak. It doesn't mean you are giving up. It simply means you are human. And if there is anything I know about you, Taylor, it's that you undoubtedly love humans and our interaction with one another.
It's been 1 year, 6 months. and 21 days since my dad was diagnosed with cancer. There have been bumps in the road along with moments of victory and celebrating. Each doctor appointment brings on waves of anxiety. But each moment I get with my dad is special, and I treat it as as such. This cancer thing thinks that it can just come in and tear us apart, but it can't. No matter what, it will not break us. We just keep on moving. We'll kick cancer's ass, together.
My family sends our love right to your family.