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Marije and her two sons looking into the camera

Something happening to me was one of my biggest worries as a parent

Marije had 2 young children when she was diagnosed with primary breast cancer. Here's how it affected her.

It’s something you always fear 

When you have young children, the worst thing you can imagine is something happening to them. But the next worst thing is something happening to you, because you don’t want to leave them behind. That’s the biggest worry as a parent. 

When I was diagnosed, my eldest was 4 and my youngest had just turned 1. I was still breastfeeding, so that was a factor that was impacted by my diagnosis, because I had to stop quite suddenly. It was slowing down anyway, but the option to make that decision myself was taken away from me – which was quite nasty.  

I felt guilty  

It’s very physically tiring already, having two young children that still need you. But the mental impact of knowing that life is so fragile – it just hits you in the face. 

Treatment, as well, made it so that I was not always capable of looking after them. 

When my husband’s parents stepped in to help, I felt guilty about it. The children had a great time, of course – they were with their granny and granddad. But, as a mother, I struggled to let it go. 

But having children while going through chemotherapy is almost a curse and a blessing at once. My husband works abroad a lot, so I had to be there for my kids. It’s hard as you’re so tired all the time, but you still have a reason to get out of bed. 

It is a bittersweet experience 

If you go through a traumatic experience, it’s a game changer. Even before I had cancer, a few years earlier, I lost my sister. It was so sad. And my older son, too, was born 10 weeks premature. So those two things had already given me this perspective. 

It’s bittersweet, in a way. When I did fun things with my boys, I would feel a mixture of wanting to cry because I would get thoughts like, ‘Are these memories that I’m making with them the ones they’ll have of me if I’m not going to be here?’ At the same time, I would feel gratitude of being able to enjoy the moment with them.  

My advice to other parents in this situation is to just keep swimming. It’ll be hard, but it’s doable.

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