Parenting A Parent

By Sylvie Griffiths, MBA candidate, BIS

A month ago, my mother told me she has cancer. The very next thing she said, in true mom form was, “everything will be fine.” Today, my sister and I accompanied her to an important doctor’s appointment. Mom has had test after test, including a blood marrow biopsy related to her cancer type. The visit was painful and stressful to me in so many ways.

Today, I became my mother’s mom in a lot of ways. My sister is moving in with her and will be responsible for transporting her for radiation, chemotherapy, and the litany of doctor’s appointments she has almost daily. My sister is my mother’s mom in ways I cannot be; I live an hour from them and have responsibilities that keep me busier than I would prefer. This is a burden I bear because I know I will not be able to help with all her treatments that my sister will be living daily.

My mom and I have had our share of ups and downs in our relationship, but I love her. The love she has shown my sister, myself, and our families is the best gift a parent can give a child. I see her in myself, especially as a parent. Her initial response to her diagnosis was to protect her daughters from worry, and it is most likely what I would want if the tables were turned.

There is a huge stack of papers we received today after my mom’s doctor’s appointment with her hematologist. Most of the words we will google and the rest we will ask doctor friends about. Her cancer is incurable. Radiation and chemotherapy will have side effects that are unknown until they begin. Mom will not “kick cancer’s ass” as she keeps assuring us. Yet, my sister and I smiled and nodded hoping she felt we agreed.

A sweet nurse, seeing the look of worry and exhaustion on my mother’s face as she hooked up another IV, said, “you know the first drugs from chemo don’t make your hair fall out.” My mom smiled and said, “what great news.” Then she made chit-chat with the nurse, and I just looked on in awe. I was worried and angry and feeling that our lives would be forever changed. Me, the hairdresser, thought; who gives a hoot if you have hair this will cancer is incurable.

But my mom wouldn’t think like me. She loved the positive information and the time the nurse took away from the ten plus other patients who were surrounding us. She felt happy to make light conversation. When my sister and I got back from getting her a smoothie, she had made friends with an older woman getting chemotherapy sitting next to her. My mom has always put her children before herself; we are happy and ready to return the favor.

Resources regarding cancer affecting women can be found online at