Celebrating Motherhood as a Cancer Mom
“On Mother’s Day I can think of no mother more deserving than a mother who had to give one back.” ~ Erma Bombeck
Today we celebrate motherhood. For some it is a day of great joy and happiness. For others – those who have lost a child, those who are longing to become a mother, or those missing a beloved mom – it is a bittersweet day. Motherhood is a title that brings with it as much honor and respect as complexity and difficulty. It is a vocation for which no one ever feels truly qualified and an occupational description that changes daily, comes with no days off, and will always leave an indelible mark.
As a mother of three, there are moments in my 2+ decades of motherhood I have felt like a superhero and celebrated my valiant accomplishments. Unfortunately, there have just as many moments my superpowers felt lost to human frailty and fragility. Whether physically, mentally, or emotionally wounded, there is nothing like the strength of a mother when her child is in need.
“Your child has cancer.” Four words that change lives in an instant . . . and instantaneously change how life is lived each and every day moving forward. I heard those words in 2005 when my son Jack was diagnosed with neuroblastoma at just 4 years old. It was then that I dedicated myself to finding, funding, and fueling better, less-toxic therapies for every child, everywhere facing a cancer diagnosis. I saw the need in the eyes of my son and vowed to prevent another mother from having to face the same fear.
Childhood cancers are considered rare diseases, though these cancers are the leading causes of death by disease in children. So how can this be considered rare? We can call a disease “rare” or we can do what is rarely done and create massive, sweeping change to ensure children survive and thrive to take part in a full lifetime of celebrations.
After seven years of treatment, my beloved Jack’s death in 2012 left me with a scar that will never fully heal. Honestly, I want that scar visible for the rest of my life because it has changed me and reminds me every day that I am forever Jack’s mom. Ask me about my scar. Ask me about Jack. I encourage you today and every day to ask a grieving mom about her child. Let her tell you about the love that lives on in her. Whether it has been one month, one year, 10 years, or 50 years, there is no greater gift than the ability to talk about our loved ones – those we hold in our arms and those we can only hold in our heart.
I am proud to lead Beat Childhood Cancer and choose to fight not because I can save my own child, but because I can save another mother from feeling hopeless. I want to assure her there is great and abundant hope with opportunities for more hugs, more photos, and more celebrations of life. We will beat childhood cancer with the help of change-making, heroic partners like Love Your Melon, Team Parker 4 Life, Maddie’s Promise, Little Warrior Foundation, and so many others dedicated to stitching together hope and smiles with sweeping social impact. Thank you.
Regardless of how you define motherhood, I believe that no one shows courage in the face of crisis quite like a mom . . . and this mom is no exception. We mothers are the cheerleaders, the prizefighters, and the warriors standing in the gap for all children forever seeking the best no matter how young or old that child may be. I am honored to represent every childhood cancer mom on this Mother’s Day who, like me, bear the scars of an unwanted battle. Ask her about her scar, she’ll be honored and grateful to tell you.
Sarah Bartosz, Executive Director
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