When I was a young girl I remember feeling my heart pounding in my chest as I lay in my bed, wide-eyed in the dark, waiting for the monster hiding in my closet to jump out and devour me. I held my breath thinking that if I were very still the monster wouldn’t know I was there. I wondered how my brother and sisters slept so peacefully nearby. Didn’t they know they were in imminent danger? I would eventually fall asleep and wake up the next morning, with the sun streaming through the window, feeling safe and brave enough to open the closet door to make sure my monster was gone.

I had a similar experience in my adult life–happily married and mother of two wonderful children. I remember my heart was pounding in my chest, as I lay in a faux leather hospital recliner, wide-eyed in the dark. Only this time I was next to my son’s hospital bed. I was not sure what woke me. Did the IV alarm go off? Did my son call out? Was I really still here? I was fighting some serious monsters.

About a year after the birth of my second child, I was diagnosed with cancer. During the next five years my husband and son would also be diagnosed and treated for cancer. I don’t really remember how I felt when the doctors told me I had cancer, but when they told me my son had cancer it felt like I was standing in the middle of the freeway at rush hour. All I could hear was whooshing, as cars sped by. I had no sense of where I was and what else was being said. As a parent you want and expect to be there for your children. I was terrified that my husband and I might not survive and my son and daughter would be left without parents. I couldn’t even allow myself to think I might lose my son. What must my daughter be thinking? What was happening to our family? It was completely overwhelming.

I always thought I had to be strong and manage everything on my own, that I shouldn’t burden others with my fears. It has always been very difficult for me to show vulnerability. Being a nurse, I wanted to be seen as capable and reliable. I wanted to be strong for my son and my husband and daughter. Unfortunately, I found I was emotional all the time and failing miserably at trying to stay in control. With the help of others, I soon found that no one expected me to be strong all the time. There were many people willing to answer my endless questions so I could make informed decisions. I learned that when I shared my feelings with family and friends they felt comfortable doing the same and together we supported one another. I found great strength in that. My family taught me to live in the moment. To enjoy the simple pleasures a day together can bring, even if it is spent in a hospital room playing Go-Fish for hours on end.

It is now more than five years since my son completed his treatment. We are all healthy and enjoying our lives. My son and daughter are students in college and I am so proud of all they have accomplished despite the challenges. My husband is well and continues to be the love of my life. I can’t say that I never worry about the future, but I no longer feel alone in the dark hiding from my monsters.

Peg Doskotz

Peg has lived on Long Island, New York for the last 25 years. She is married with two amazing children. She worked as a registered nurse for over twenty-seven years. Currently, she works as a Clinical Implementation Specialist for electronic medical records. Peg enjoys spending time with her family, doing crossword puzzles and reading. This year she will be traveling to Zion National Park in Utah to support her husband, Mike, who is hiking as a member of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training fundraising effort.

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