Staring Down Cancer

Seeing through the eyes of cancer

REUTERS/Brian Snyder

 (REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

I just returned from the most beautiful weekend in Washington, D.C., where my daughter graduated summa cum laude from George Washington University.  As I looked at all of the young graduates, beaming with pride, I thanked God that I am still here so I could experience this day with my daughter.

The really maddening thing about cancer is that every time a momentous event arrives, at some point you're going to experience a part of the event as a person with cancer.  You don't want to.  There are plenty of days that I don't think about it.  Denial is my friend, but it's going to creep in at some time, so here's what crept in.

I looked at the happy, beautiful young men and woman.  I wondered what kind of childhoods they had.  My childhood was, for the most part, happy-go-lucky.  Those were the days you could play outside all day until dark.  No fears, no worries, no one in my family had health problems.  In fact, my first experience with death was when my grandfather died when I was 21.  Pretty lucky, huh?

But, here’s what I thought as Cancer Girl: How many of these kids had to go through childhood with a mother with cancer, or a parent or sibling with a chronic disease?  How much suffering did they see?  Who has scars?  On the outside, it was a moment of pride and happiness, but what else was going on – on the inside?

My children were 8 and 10 when I was diagnosed, and my illness greatly affected their childhoods.  Even though we down-played it when my husband and I told them, two short years later, my cancer became stage IV, and I was really sick.  I was in and out of the hospital, missing some of their events, because I was sick or just too darned tired to get myself out of bed.

There is a tendency to reply (and I know a good number of you are thinking this) that my cancer made my daughter stronger and helped her to appreciate life more.  My diagnosis gave her coping skills that she may have never developed, and those skills are what makes her so accomplished today.

No, no, no.  Absolutely nothing good comes from having cancer or growing up with a mom who has it.  Sorry, but that is the truth.  When anyone starts that with me, I have to walk away or verbally dispose of them in some ghastly way.

"Life is like a box of chocolates," right?  It is what it is, plain and simple.  We are left to deal with it.  I just wish my children didn't have to deal with it.  

Noreen Fraser is living with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer. She is the Founder and CEO of the Noreen Fraser Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to funding groundbreaking women's cancer research. To stay in touch with Noreen, please 'LIKE' The Noreen Fraser Foundation on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.  Noreen can be contacted via email at