Meet 10 Awesome Moms With Cancer
The inspiring stories of ten moms who faced cancer—including moms who were diagnosed during pregnacy—and won! Plus: Take our pledge to stay healthy for your self and your family!
These ten women are among the thousands diagnosed with cancer each year. They caught it, fought it, and so far, they're beating it. Let their incredible stories inspire you to take charge of your health, too—you're NOT too busy for a checkup!
Head-banging to Nirvana, sipping Champagne, and rockin' impossibly high heels may not be the first images that come to mind when you hear “moms with cancer,” but that's exactly what went down when ten survivors got together for this photo shoot. I can't imagine what the makeup artists were thinking as we sat in their chairs dishing about what type of antinausea meds we took, who kept their wig, and what's worse—chemo brain or mommy brain? In addition to all the air guitar and laughter, there were tears as we recalled the tough times—like trying to put on a happy face for our children when we were tired and sick—and the worries that still plague even the most optimistic of us.
As an almost 11-year survivor, I was the veteran of the group. In 2001, when I was 23, I was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia, a form of blood cancer that traditional chemotherapy and radiation do little to stop. I may never be cured, but I take a pill that keeps my cancer in remission with almost no side effects. I had to take a pretty ginormous risk and suspend that treatment to have my two children, Alex, 5, and Nora, 2 1/2. Now every morning we all take our “vitamins” together, only mine, which essentially keeps me alive, isn't shaped like Fred Flintstone.
The frightening fact is, thousands of young women get diagnosed with some form of cancer every year, and many of them have children. But there are so many other varieties of cancer affecting women, too. We hope our stories inspire you to never put your health on the back burner, no matter how crazy life gets—karate-practice carpools, IMs from your boss, and all. Every one of us feels incredibly lucky (yeah, weird word choice but so true) to have found our cancer when we did (mine was discovered in a routine blood test at my annual physical). Because of it, our kids still have their mothers. Pretty awesome mothers, if we may say so, at that!
Moms Diagnosed While Pregnant:
Jacie Brandes: 41, is group associate publisher of Parenting
Type of cancer: Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
Diagnosed at: 32
Mom to: Grace, 8
“Everyone told me I must be so tired and breathless because I was pregnant, but I knew it had to be more than that. When I got diagnosed, I was told that chemo couldn't wait till after the birth. My OB said, ‘Let me break this down for you—the baby can't live if you don't live.’ I was like, ‘Right, OK, game on!’ That was the exact moment when I became a mom. I felt completely responsible for another life. I felt that she was going to survive and she was going to be fine. We named her Grace because by the grace of God, we knew she was going to be OK. And she is. Grace knows I was sick—she's seen all the photos and my radiation scars. (Eventually, I had a stem cell transplant, too.) She's curious. I don't believe in lying or dodging her questions, so I answer them directly with the minimum amount of info she needs to understand. I don't go into a ton of detail; I just explain that I had a disease and worked hard to get rid of it. Whenever Grace sees pictures of me in my wig, she's always like, ‘Mom, that wig was so awful!’ But as honest as I try to be with her, for now I've chosen not to use the word ‘cancer.’ I don't think she'll understand what it means, and when she repeats it, it sounds a lot scarier than it really needs to be.”
Erin Zammett Ruddy is a mother of two. She writes the Mom Without A Filter blog on Parenting.com.