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MY CHILD SURVIVED CANCER, SO WHY AM I DISTRESSED?

At 10 years old, Tyler Doloroso was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer called acute myeloid leukemia. His only chance for survival was a stem cell transplant. With no full match on the horizon, his brother Jahni (a partial match) eventually became his donor. Read the full story: How Jahni Saved His Brother’s Life. 


By: Melody Doloroso

It was only five months between Tyler’s diagnosis and his last cancer treatment, but every moment during that period was so intense and foreign to anything I’d ever experienced; it actually felt like years.

When we were in the hospital, my friends and family would comment on how admirable it was that I could stay calm and strong through it all. Looking back, I really don’t know how I managed. Two years later, my anxiety is still overwhelming and at times I find it hard to cope with the normal things. For example, if my son comes home tired from school, I panic and look for other symptoms like a temperature. The thought of him going on an overnight school trip will trigger my anxiety and “what ifs”. My mind thinks of worst-case scenarios and I get overwhelmed. The post-traumatic stress is very real.

What it takes to be a “strong mom” changes when your child is a cancer survivor.

Sometimes people ask why I’m stressed—after all, Tyler is in remission and doing exceptionally well. I can’t explain it except to say that when your child is diagnosed with cancer, your body and mind go into survival mode; you have no other choice. I did what I needed to do to get through it one day at a time. I wasn’t able to fully process everything that was happening at the time, so I guess this is what I’m doing now—processing it.

POGO-supported research explores the mental health of mothers and siblings of children with cancer.

Tyler has crossed many milestones which I’m grateful for, but there are days when I dwell on uncertainty. Vivid memories randomly pop up when I do normal things, like run errands or when I’m driving. Some good, some not so good. Sometimes memories make me cry. When I have these days, I can get sad, irritable or worried. It’s a unique thing to go through, to say the least, but talking through it with other cancer moms who can relate is very helpful.

Perhaps I’ll feel better when he hits the third-year remission mark, or fourth, or fifth—I don’t know. For now, if I’m feeling crappy, I won’t suppress it. I acknowledge that I’m still healing and let myself feel my way through my emotions one day at a time.

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