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Having cancer as a toddler mom

Having cancer as a toddler mom

Posted by Toddler Mom on Nov 11, 2019 10:15 am

Hi there,

I am the primary care giver for a 24 month old and discovered last week that there is a tumor in my esophagus. I'm waiting for results from the biopsy but the doctor said that because of the density, it is probably cancer - a GIST. He said this kind of tumor is usually slow growing and he doesn't think it has spread. So I'm grateful for that. I will probably need an esophagectomy in the next few weeks.

My husband and I were feeling pretty burnt out even before this came along. My daughter is very active, totally amazing and thoroughly exhausting. I'm looking for coping strategies for all of us. We are lucky to have family in town and my mother in law will probably come in from out of town to stay with us for a week or two to help out. I just ordered "Mommy's Going to the Hospital" from Amazon. I'm wondering if she should visit me in the hospital or if that's a bad idea. She will want to run around and push all the buttons. She is not designed to sit still. But I'm her preferred parent and I've never been away from her for more than one night.

I'd love to connect with others who have had similar experiences and hear any tips you may have for coping.


Re: Having cancer as a toddler mom

Posted by Lacey_Moderator on Nov 11, 2019 1:26 pm

Toddler Mom‍ 

I'm glad you found our community, although I'm sorry for the reason you are here. I can appreciate the added challenge of having a small child being a Mom myself. I'd like to introduce you to some other Moms like  WarriorWoman‍, Mamabear2012‍, momofthree‍, FTM‍, so_chickadee‍ who can share tips for parenting during cancer treatment. We also have some tips on our website: Parenting when you have cancer. Our Peer Match program is a great resource to try to find a volunteer who has had a similar experience to talk with over the phone. You can register here: https://match.cancer.ca/.  

It sounds like you are thinking ahead and doing everything you can to prepare and support your little one through this. Good job Mom! You will figure out the right plan and what feels best for your family. Lean on your supports and remember that it is important to give yourself the time you need for healing and to work through this. 

With a busy toddler to keep up with the waiting period for results should go quick! Silver lining?

Can I ask where you are located?


Re: Having cancer as a toddler mom

Posted by Toddler Mom on Nov 11, 2019 5:00 pm

Thanks, Lacey. This is helpful. Any tips other moms have would be great! I know a handful of people who had cancer young but none while they had young kids at home. I will check out the Peer Match program - it sounds like just what I need.

I'm in Ottawa. So far I've been getting care at the Ottawa Hospital General Campus.

Re: Having cancer as a toddler mom

Posted by Mamabear2012 on Nov 11, 2019 7:59 pm

Toddler Mom‍ 
I’m sorry you are going through this. My girls were 2 1/2 and 5 1/2 when I was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer. I was very worried about them, and how they would be affected by watching their mom battling cancer.
This is what I learned... 
It is so important to have a strong support system, because there will be times you won’t be able to care for your daughter on your own. This was the hardest for me, but I had to let my husband and family step up and help...and they did a great job. 
Make a plan when you can...meals, babysitting, etc. Making a plan for things also made me feel like I still had a little bit of control. 
Even though I wasn’t able to do a lot during treatments and surgeries, every night my girls and I would cuddle on the couch, watch movies, read books, play games. They didn’t see me any different. They still saw and loved me as mom. 
It is tough going through cancer with young children, but they were my best motivation to get out of bed each day. They kept me going and they were the ones that gave me so much joy on my toughest days.
As for the hospital visit...my daughters came and visited me once when I had my surgery, but we kept the visit very short. We also FaceTimed each night, and that seemed to work well.
Children are so resilient, and I found that the things I worried about didn’t even phase them. 
I wish you all the best, and please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need support.  

Re: Having cancer as a toddler mom

Posted by Toddler Mom on Nov 11, 2019 9:00 pm

Thanks, Mamabear2012‍!

This is really helpful. I totally a planner but this is such a different challenge from anything else I've encountered. Having ideas from someone who has been there is encouraging :)

Re: Having cancer as a toddler mom

Posted by mc2 on Nov 12, 2019 2:46 pm

Toddler Mom‍ Great advice already given.  I am doing radiation therapy for stage 1 breast cancer and have a 5 yo daughter and live just accross the river from you actually.  Here are my few tips:

- if you have longer bouts of not doing so well, or whenever you need it, appoint someone that can be  "meal train coordinator".  Apparently there are apps for that.  Removing meal making from the list to plan/do can give extra help.

- i only had to have day surgery so I chose to not have my daughter there to keep her routine as usual as possible.  Two friends took turn accompanying me and my husband took care of my daughter as per any other day.  she is in the here-and-now at that age so I don't think she realizes what happened and i preferred that but that is totally personnal. It was definitely weird not to have my husband with me at the hospital but i felt it was better. 

- i used the match program and also EAP from work.  I've only had a hospital card when I went to give birth before... The waiting is excruciating and cancer is hard to wrap my mind around, particularly when I think about my role as a mom.  these two things helped a lot.

- I have lowered my own "mothering" expectations wherever I could e.g. putting the same sandwich in every lunch is totally acceptable now.  I also accepted that I am not the "preferred parent" e.g. when she wakes in the night, my husband is now her go-to-person.  It allowed me to rest and it is good for them.

- i said yes whenever I could for play dates etc to broaden my network and that helped have a few more breaks for me and my husband. I also found a new babysitter.

Kids are resilient. So are we.  Take care and hope this journey is kind to you.

Re: Having cancer as a toddler mom

Posted by Sicily on Nov 13, 2019 7:34 am

The Ottawa Cancer Centre has social workers who may be able to help. This is a free service.

Re: Having cancer as a toddler mom

Posted by Toddler Mom on Nov 14, 2019 6:33 am

Thanks mc2‍ and Sicily‍ 

I found a Meal Train website - it looks helpful! People keep saying to let them know if they can help - this might be a good option. The only glitch is that I probably won't be able to eat actual food for a while... But my husband and daughter will need that kind of support .

I'll look into social workers to see what kind of support they provide! We do have an EAP at work - I'll be giving them a call.

Re: Having cancer as a toddler mom

Posted by Sicily on Nov 14, 2019 9:59 am

I would use the social workers at the cancer centre and Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation before calling EAP. These social workers specialize in oncology. I didn't find EAP to be as good. I spoke with cancer coach from ORCF, Melina, and found her good.

Re: Having cancer as a toddler mom

Posted by so_chickadee on Nov 15, 2019 12:23 pm

Hi Toddler Mom 

Sorry you have to go through this.  My three kids (uh oh all boys!!) are a bit older though, with the youngest now approaching 9 y.o. But I remember times when I have been dealing with another serious condition, and him being still a toddler same time. My major tip is to get any help you can. I don't know your family situation, but if there is someone in your family willing to help with babysitting - let them do this. I was attached to my toddler very much too, but what has to be done should be done. Your mental and energy level is as important as physical state. Please involve a person you trust for in the care of your baby. I know it's hard but you've got this. Please don't hesitate to pm. 

Re: Having cancer as a toddler mom

Posted by Toddler Mom on Dec 23, 2019 8:39 pm

I had a surgical consult last week. It turns out the surgery won't be as intense as we thought. I'll be at the hospital 1-2 nights and off work 2-4 weeks. That might be it or there may be medication and follow up scans - depending on how aggressive it turns out to be. It was better news than we were expecting.

I won't be able to lift my daughter for at least four weeks - which means I can't really be left alone with her. I won't be able to help with daycare pick up or drop off because I need to lift her into the car or stroller. And I wouldn't be able to stop her if we were walking and she tried to run into traffic. We're going to have her stay with my parents while I'm in the hospital. She's slept at their place before so it should seem less strange than being in our house overnight without me. Then my mother in law will be coming to stay for a week to help. When she leaves I'm hoping my parents and brother can cover most  daycare pick ups for the following two weeks. We'll be getting an extra car seat for my brother's car. My parents already have one.

A friend is organising a meal train. And I'm thinking I could have friends come visit me and my daughter a  couple times and help with any lifting while my husband takes a break. We'll probably do grandparent sleepovers most weekends too.

We've been reading "Mommy's Going to the Hospital". My daughter doesn't understand, really, but she knows I have a bobo and it's okay to be angry or sad when I can't play with her like usual.

We informed daycare and the have offered to help out with extra cuddles.

I'm feeling pretty good about our plan. And grateful that the doctors are optimistic that all could be back to normal for us soon :)

Re: Having cancer as a toddler mom

Posted by Wendy Tea on Dec 23, 2019 9:34 pm

Toddler Mom‍ , thanks for the update! Wow, you really have got this. Great job!  It looks like you have thought of everything. If you have others who can help in a pinch, ask them if you can text them if something unexpected comes up. Just in case of an emergency, like "We are out of milk". 

Wishing you all the best, and please stay in touch,
Wendy Tea 

Re: Having cancer as a toddler mom

Posted by Kims1961 on Dec 23, 2019 11:23 pm

Toddler Mom‍ ....Drop the Mic....now that's how it's done!   Great plan - well thought out and looks like you have your bases covered.  

It feels so much better too, when you know what the plan is and then can work with that.

When is your surgery booked for?

Thank you for this great update.  Kim
Her2+, ER+ Bilateral mastectomy in 2017, followed by chemo and radiation. Mack and Hannah's mom

Re: Having cancer as a toddler mom

Posted by Toddler Mom on Dec 24, 2019 8:19 am


Kims1961‍ Surgery is scheduled for January 13th. Once we had a date and an idea of what was actually going on, it was easier to focus on the plan vs trying to think of all the possible scenarios.

Wendy Tea‍ good point re help for emergencies! I will also probably ask my parents to pick up grocery orders for us through click and collect. We did that when my daughter was brand new and it worked really well.

Thanks again to everyone for the support!