I felt many emotions the day we found out about Joey's brain tumor. My mind, heart, and gut would continue to cycle through so many emotions over the nearly 14 months before his death.
The day the doctor said to me, "Bad news, it's a tumor," I felt like everything dropped out from under me. I felt confusion and disbelief, anger and sadness.
And denial. I definitely felt denial. I kept hoping the scans were wrong. I kept hoping that there really WAS something the doctors and surgeons could do to save his life.
And after his death, I felt devastation, heartbreak, and relief.
It may seem unbelievable to say that I was relieved that my son died, but his life could not go on the way it was. His suffering was truly over.
When Joey's brother Slim was diagnosed with autism two years ago, I felt relief once more. Not that my son was going to have a lifetime of social challenges and difficulties, but relief that he could finally get the services and treatments that we knew could help him achieve and put his wonderful mind to work.
When we hear the words "diagnosis" or "diagnosed" they often put a sick feeling into our stomachs - even as moms of "typical healthy" kids (are any of them without challenge though?) - because we can imagine how we would feel if that were our child. What would we do? How would we feel? In what ways we would deal with the changing hand we'd been dealt?
People say that attitude is everything. Some people, myself included, are naturally more negative thinkers, assuming the worst right away. Some are sunny sunshiners from the get know and just know everything will be just fine.
Both people's kids get cancer. Both have children born with Down syndrome or autism. A person's attitude doesn't change the circumstances, but it can color how you deal with the hand you've been dealt.
I was curious how other moms reacted to a diagnosis their children received. Not asking what it was, I took to Facebook to ask them to describe their reactions and emotions in three words or less.
Overwhelmingly, there was almost a 50/50 split between the top two responses: worried/terrified/scared and relieved.
I think that says a lot. I think it says that a mother's sixth sense is there, and it's strong. We know our children, and we know when something is not right.
I knew something wasn't right with Joey in the months leading up to his cancer diagnosis. He was tired and not as energetic as usual. He had grown apathetic about many of the things he loved. I suppose in some ways, I was relieved to know; though I was hoping it was allergies or migraines, not a huge tumor.
Here are some of the other emotions that moms had when they found out about their child's diagnosis:
- nervous, anxious
- protective and mama bear
- stunned, blind-sided, shocked, sucker-punched
- frustrated, overwhelmed
- pissed, angry
- motivated, determined, resolute, focused
- devastated, sad
- hopeless, powerless
- lonely, alone
And also? They will change day by day, hour by hour, and yes, even minute by minute.
There is nothing fair or right about your child not being anything other than how you dreamed him to be. It's okay to feel angry and sad and hopeless and helpless about it.
But it's also okay to feel relief and gratitude and the resolve that makes you want to kick ass like a mama bear for your child.
My favorite response I kept for last, and it's my three-word pep talk for you:
"We got this!"