Samantha Takes Back Control

In May 2017 my teenage son, Kynan, was diagnosed with a Pineal Germinoma brain tumour. As any parent who has been delivered such information will appreciate, I was sent on a very confusing emotional roller coaster.

I tried desperately to understand the information that I was being given, to comprehend how this could have happened and how I could have prevented it, all the while trying to remain strong.

I knew my husband and our two older sons were experiencing similar feelings and so I felt unable to express myself for fear of placing a larger than necessary burden on them.

So I fought many of my inner thoughts and fears on my own.

I tried to portray a strong front of positivity and happiness, as Kynan is an amazing young man who through treatment approached every appointment with the most beautiful smile, courage and strength, but inside I was falling apart.

My biggest issue was that I didn’t want to talk about Kynan’s situation, as when I did people felt compelled to share with me everyone they knew or had heard of that weren’t so lucky.

I was continuously anxious when the topic arose, but felt awful because I didn’t want to hurt their feelings when they were so concerned about my son. It was exhausting.

Towards the end of last year, I hit breaking point. The hospital social worker recommended I speak with a professional counsellor and put me in touch with the Children’s Cancer Foundation to seek financial assistance for the sessions.

I felt embarrassed and selfish for needing help – it wasn’t me that was sick…it was my son – and to a point like a failure.

But I knew I needed to vent to someone who wouldn’t judge me so off I went.

During my first visit, the counsellor (Di) carried the conversation while I sat sobbing trying to explain how I felt responsible because as his mother I should have been able to stop this from happening to him and make it all better. How could I be falling apart while he remains so strong?

She slowly taught me, over a number of sessions, how to politely deflect the conversations that I didn’t want to have with people outside of my immediate circle of friends or family. This was hard for me as I felt overwhelmed by the genuine concern and support of so many people who really wanted to be there for us and I didn’t want to offend them.

One suggestion was to say straight up that I wasn’t ready to talk about it and just shut them down. For me this was easier said than done and I didn’t feel comfortable doing it.

We decided that the best way for me was to simply say that he was doing really well and have another topic ready to switch over to very quickly.

I found that ensuring I was always prepared for these inevitable interactions relieved my anxiety and helped me to feel in control.

Once the new year ticked over, I would jovially say “that was last year’s news, this year he is fit and healthy…so all boring, just the way we love it!” This was the easiest and most successful way for me.

We spoke about how to remain in control of my thoughts and how to stop feeling angry or emotional at what other people said.

As the sessions went on, I became more and more comfortable with Di and I worked very hard to put into place the skills that she was teaching me.

My mind became clearer and I didn’t let my little inner voice or other people have such an influence over my thoughts. I had every reason to be positive and nothing was going to take this away from me.

Today I am very grateful for so many things: the health of my adorable son and the support of our family and friends, as well as the amazing community that surrounds families with children diagnosed with cancer.

Without financial assistance from the Children’s Cancer Foundation I wouldn’t have contemplated counselling because I felt our money needed to be spent on getting our son better. I was inspired by their support and used it to make sure that I gave the counselling sessions everything I had. I will be forever grateful.

There is absolutely no shame in a parent needing assistance to understand and deal with a diagnosis of childhood cancer. Until someone has been given the news that we were given you can’t imagine what it really puts you through.

A professional counsellor helped me more than anyone. With the techniques we put into place, I have seen my strength grow.

- Samantha

Thank you to Samantha for sharing her story with the Children's Cancer Foundation.

If you, or someone you know, is struggling, please contact us to access our Family Counselling service.

Kynan with mum, Samantha