A woman at the center of a family tree

My Family Is Closer After My Lung Cancer

I was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer five and a half years ago. Although the pain caused by lung cancer and the side effects of treatment have been stabilized, I have a lasting hidden condition that somehow bothered me, and it’s getting stronger so recently I started to speak about it.

When someone's time is cut too short

I was listening to a podcast on a Saturday morning. It was about a young Toronto (Canada) mother who was diagnosed with cervical cancer four years ago. After diagnosis, she devoted herself to advocacy to encourage the young girls in grade 9 high schools to have the vaccine. She died recently during the pandemic.

What caught my attention is that the father talked about himself and their two boys’ experiences losing the wife/mother and handling the pandemic. The father talked about the ten year-old boy, who became very close to the father since his mother’s passing, and he was terrified of losing the father since he has lost his mother. The father also spoke about how important he looked after himself because his boys relied on him. During the talk about pandemic and recovery from losing the wife/mother, it’s obvious the mother is no longer in the picture. They have moved on.

It’s the fact that life moves on without me

I was touched by the father’s being candid and honest. He told the truth about life, although the truth is not convenient but realistic. I felt pulled in two opposite directions. In one way, I wish my husband and children can have their lives soon after I pass away, but secretly, it is not a good feeling to imagine my loved ones getting on with their lives so fast without me. I want to remain in their lives longer.

My family is closer since lung cancer

I remember when I was just diagnosed with lung cancer, my older son, who was in another city in the medical school, was playing an essential role to take care of my family and me. He was very calm and capable, totally out of my imagination. Somehow too calm; I felt there was a distance between us, which had never been before. I wanted my son, not a doctor.

I asked him two years later when I was stabilized. He told me very calmly that when he got the news, he cried badly. After that, he didn’t cry any more. He came back whenever he got a chance, even just for three or four days. Every time he came back home, he always cooked and talked to his siblings. I never saw him so close to his brother and sister. He grew up, but at the same time, I felt I lost him. Later, he asked my husband and me to send his brother to the university he attended. They are seven years apart and are unbelievably close now.

My daughter was at the first-year university when I diagnosed with lung cancer, and she happened to be with us. She was mom’s girl, and we used to talk and spend a lot of time together. After these years, I felt that she is closer to his dad and brothers, and now she is, no doubt, a daddy’s girl. This doesn’t mean she didn’t go to the hospital with me and took care of me. But during the past five years, I noticed she deviated away from me like I lose a daughter, but my husband and two boys gain a daughter and sister.

Occasionally, I talked to my husband about children not being closed to me anymore. My husband used to joke with me that: "WE are the 'gas station' for these kids, and WE are no longer needed..." I appreciate it that my husband always stands with me especially since I have lung cancer. Don’t mistake me; I want my children to be close to their dad and each other, especially I have stage 4 lung cancer, and anytime I can be gone.

It’s a gift for my family to be close together

I appreciate the father in the podcast being so candid. I finally have the guts to face the reality that one day, not too far in the future, I will be gone. My family will have their lives. It’s nice to see my children and their father so close. That’s a gift.

Have you noticed family dynamics change since your diagnosis?

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