Meet Olivia! Olivia just started 3rd grade. Some people may ask why I chose to lead with that fact. Well, Olivia was 4 years old when she was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. I was given the privilege of getting to take care of Olivia and her family. So many people have asked me how I handled pediatric oncology. The answer is simple. Even through the bad days, sweet children like Olivia, and amazing parents like Sarah, in the hardest time in their family’s life, relied on me. They needed someone to care for them both, when they were overwhelmed with change and chaos that cancer brings. I asked Sarah and Olivia to answer a few questions.
What has been the greatest challenge for you?
Olivia – “The tube up my nose, I didn’t like when they put it in.”
As a parent, watching their child go through cancer treatment, my greatest challenge was almost losing her due to an infection while she was going through treatment. After treatment, my greatest challenge has been the anxiety that comes with the fear of a relapse (either of her original cancer or a secondary cancer caused by the treatment) and heart problems that can arise out of nowhere because of the types of chemo she received. Learning how to live a “normal” life after cancer treatment has been a struggle. It’s hard to stop worrying about every little illness or bruise and it is extremely difficult to not expect the worst outcome of everything that happens in life. I now fear the worst in every single situation I am in.
What have you learned from going through this journey?
Olivia said she didn’t know but I have watched what she learned from my own eyes. She learned her own coping mechanisms that get her through every day struggles. She has an imagination that is out of this world and is able to tune or check out whenever she feels uncomfortable or scared into her beautiful imaginary world. I have also watched her have complete compassion for other kiddos who are sick, sad, alone, scared, etc. She includes them when she can. She also just recently donated her long hair to Children With Hair Loss and was extremely happy and proud to do it. She has asked me several times if a kiddo has gotten a wig out of her hair yet.
Being a parent to a child with cancer, I have learned a lot from going through this journey. One of the most important things I learned is not to waste time. Our family enjoys each other and all of the really little things that you wouldn’t normally notice so much more. We enjoyed each other before but not like we do now. We have a love and bond for each other that I can’t quite describe and I am so very thankful for that.
What advice would you have to anyone who is going through what you are/were going through?
Olivia – “I would tell them to do activities like coloring, puzzles and books.”
As a parent, my advice to other parents is to take the treatment 5 min at a time. Don’t look too much further than that. You can always get through 5 min but if you start trying to get through more than that in your head, you will go crazy. It’s not normal to watch your child go through this so if you start thinking too far ahead it will completely overwhelm you. But one of the most important things I can tell a parent is to not expect a “normal” life when treatment is over like everyone around will expect you to have. If you think life will go back to normal and you expect it to, it will side swipe you and break you into a million pieces like it did to me. I fought the “new normal” so much when treatment was over. All I wanted was my old life to come back and I expected it to…why would it not? Cancer was gone, right? Wrong, it’s never gone and life will never be the same. But that doesn’t have to remain a negative. As hard as it is, find your new normal and learn to live life to the absolute fullest.
“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think,
and twice as beautiful as you’d ever imagined.”
To read more about the Beauty in the Struggle series check out part 1
Beauty in the Struggle | A Personal Series About Cancer Part 1