After the cancer treatment, "my body and mind were bruised and battered". But the process also gave her a completely new perspective.
To set out on a journey dealing with a life-threatening disease can be grueling. You spend your days walking in and out of hospitals, you're constantly asked by friends and family about your last doctor's appointment; you can't help but wonder whether every special moment you spent with your family might be one of the last.
For one woman, Jennifer Bringle, cancer showed her some of life's greatest lessons through the painful moments. It changed the way she looked at life and changed the way she looked at motherhood.
Sharing some of the moments that almost every mother goes through, she wrote for Good Housekeeping, and said, "During the harried first couple of years of my son’s life, I'll confess that I wasn’t the best mom. I spent way too much time on my phone. I lost my cool more often than I’d like to admit. I found myself wishing he’d grow up a little faster, that the job of being a mom would get a little easier."
All the challenges she faced eventually made her feel like she was failing at being a parent. "It can be really tough to parent a small child, and there’s a lot of pressure to be perfect — to achieve those Instagram-worthy images of smiley kids who never cry, elaborate Pinterest-approved birthday parties, and homes that somehow manage to look like a page from a magazine instead of a place where a family of actual people get down to the often messy business of life," she went on t say. "There were many days when I scrolled through my social media feeds and felt like an utter failure."
In July 2016, Jennifer found out that she had breast cancer at the age of 37 and that terrifying diagnosis left her feeling barren and drained.
"After my diagnosis, I endured a brutal regimen of chemotherapy and multiple surgeries, including a bilateral mastectomy and a preventative oophorectomy to reduce my ovarian cancer risk," the mother wrote. "And while the months of treatment left me in remission, my body and mind were bruised and battered, leaving me weak both physically and emotionally. As I waded through the wreckage of a cancer diagnosis and treatment, I couldn’t help tallying all I’d lost: my breasts, my hair, my fertility, and the ability to trust my own body."
While in remission, she could only count all the things that she lost at first. But eventually, she realized she had gained "a new sense of perspective", which "reshaped the way I approach parenting my now 5-year-old son."
Jennifer wasn't the only one who went through a remarkable transformation. She believes that her new, calm persona has rubbed off on her son. "Facing a potentially life-threatening health crisis really helps you to recognize how inconsequential the small stuff can actually be," Jennifer wrote, talking about how she's no longer affected by the very things that used to upset her before.
"Cancer also taught me a lot about the value of time. Once I received those initial biopsy results, my first thought was my child, who was only 20 months old at that point," the author also added. "The prospect of leaving him motherless while he was still so young gutted me. Having lost my own mother while I was still in college, I knew the agonizing pain of not having your mom around when you still desperately need her. I couldn’t bear the thought of my son enduring that same grief."
Although her fears found some solace in the clean post-treatment report, she was still afraid that the disease might return. "So I’ve become more focused than ever on being present and spending as much quality time with my son as I can," she wrote. "He’s an only child, so I’m often his playmate, helping him assemble Lego projects or playing hide-and-seek in the backyard or getting messy while assisting with his latest finger-paint masterpiece. I genuinely love hanging out with my kid, and even better, I know I’m creating happy memories that I hope will comfort him should I no longer be able to do so myself."
What Jennifer sees as the biggest takeaway from cancer is the ability to go easy on herself and not fret about what's "ideal" and what's not.
"...Cancer taught me to give myself a break. I don’t have to be a perfect mom... I’ve come to peace with the fact that my home will never be completely neat and tidy, and that my kid sometimes leaves the house in mismatched clothes because I haven’t had time to do laundry," she said. "In this so-very-short life, those aren’t the things that matter, and they aren’t the things my child will fondly remember long after I’m gone. My legacy won’t be picture-perfect, but hopefully, the time I spend and the love I give will endure far longer for my son than any carefully crafted photo op."