Hey there mom shopping next to me in Target. We’re both in the girls department checking out back-to-school clothes. You see my daughter. Well, actually, you only see her cancer. And suddenly you need to leave. I wish you would have stayed long enough to overhear the agonizing decision my daughter was facing. Would she look better in cheetah leggings or leopard ones?
Hey there grandpa at McDonalds. Yep, that’s my child. Yep, she’s a girl. And yep, I know her hair is funky. It’s falling out from cancer treatments. She’s not ready to get rid of it and I’m not ready to make her. Yep, she knows she has cancer. And yep, that’s my husband and those are my other kids. See how comfortable we are with each other? I wish we didn’t make you so uncomfortable.
Hey there expectant mom at Walgreens. You notice my daughter too, and instinctively touch your belly. It’s like I can hear your thoughts. You’re thinking, ‘Oh God. Cancer. I haven’t thought about cancer yet.’ You immediately add it to that already-too-long worry list for your unborn baby. I wish I could glimpse the future, and tell you that your baby will be fine, and you will be too. But I can’t do that. What I can tell you is that whatever challenges God has in store for your child, you’ll rise to them. Because that’s what parents do. They rise. You can’t comprehend that yet. But someday you’ll understand. You’ll rise. I promise you will. And stop worrying so much, you’ll miss too much of your miracle.
Hey there person in the hospital lobby. You see my daughter right away. You see all of her. You mouth “God bless you” to me. God bless you too. I hope your loved one heals completely.
Hey there fellow parent. We’re both dropping our kids off at school. You see me with my girls. You don’t know what to say so you don’t say anything. I want to tell you that telling me you don’t know what to say is exactly the right thing to say. And I understand if you can’t say anything, or anything yet, I really do. When you can’t say anything, a smile works too.
Hey there old self. You used to be all these people. As a gift to my new self and my friends, here is my public service announcement:
If you see us out in public, know that our daughter is well enough to be out. Know that we are happy for her, this day and this moment. Happy to do normal things again. The same things you get to do. Happy we aren’t in a hospital room. Next time you see us out just say hi, or glad you got out today, or you must be having a good day, or good luck with your treatment. And I get it. I really get it. Those words are hard to say. A smile works too.
Amy Graver currently works in the corporate world, and is a writer, a wife, and mom of four. Her daughter Lauren was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma at age 7. Amy’s writing chronicles the journey on which cancer has taken her family. Lauren’s cancer diagnosis imposed a new reality and a new perspective on life. She is dedicated to making the cancer experience better for future families. Amy is an enthusiast of US presidential history, she aspires to be a professional seashell collector, and is absurdly competitive about things that don’t matter.