Facing First-Time Parenthood… and Cancer

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By Lyndsay McCaffery

The first year of your baby’s life is special. They come home to you this eating, pooping, screaming machine and twelve months later they are their own walking and babbling little person. It is a year to truly cherish because you realize what parents mean when they say, “they grow up so fast.”  Well, my baby’s year is going by incredibly fast. He is a crawling, smiling, happy boy. Meanwhile, I feel I have hardly moved at all. A shocking diagnosis interfered with what was supposed to be the happiest time in my life.

What do you do when you are a new parent and you have cancer? I know the answer firsthand.

When I was pregnant, I started experiencing knee pain that was so intense I could barely walk. Doctors knew something was wrong but couldn’t do anything too invasive until after my baby was born. After an MRI scan revealed a large mass, I was having all sorts of tests done from head to toe. Some involved injecting me with radioactive dye where I was unable to hold or feed my son for 24 hours. I felt like I was spending more time away from my baby than with him. This was precious time I could not get back.

Lyndsay McCaffery and her son,

Lyndsay McCaffery and her son

I was finally diagnosed with a low-grade form of bone cancer that required surgery to remove the mass and replace part of my femur. The recovery would be long and involved me being unable to walk or live in my own home, and most importantly, I wouldn’t be able to care for my son. All the fun and exciting plans I made for his first year were ripped away in an instant. Being a new parent can be a scary and isolating experience. So can having cancer. Put them together and you have a situation people thank their lucky stars isn’t happening to them. My husband and I recently attended the Young Adult Conference at Dana-Farber. We met and talked to other parents who were affected by cancer. Some were new parents like us and others had older children. It was the first time since the birth of my son that I did not feel alone anymore. I could not believe there were others out there who understood completely what we were going through. Support for families like us is so important, I only wish there was more of it out there.

If I could give any advice to anyone going through what we are, it would be to accept what you cannot change and try and learn from it both as a patient and a parent. There are going to be moments of sadness and anger. I cannot count the number of times I thought and continue to think, “Why did this happen to me?” It’s unavoidable so it’s important to allow yourself those moments; they are normal and healthy.

At the same time, cancer is an amazing opportunity to show your children what true courage and strength is. Fortunately, my little boy will be too young to remember this challenging time in our lives. At the same time, this journey is a part of our family history and it has shaped who we are. I am beyond proud of my husband and my parents; and I am grateful every second of every day for their support and love. I want my son to know that we came together, faced this battle head on and won. I am still unable to walk but I am cancer free. My prognosis is good and I am moving forward. My future is bright and I have my amazing little boy to share in it with me.

Lyndsay McCaffery is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Billerica, Mass. She is a trained singer and actor with degrees in both Musical Theatre and Theatre Education.

7 Comments:

  1. What a beautiful piece. You are a strong, brave, and inspirational person!!! Keep up the great work!!

  2. Congrats on facing this head on. I can relate, as I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at 5 months pregnant. But with the help of Dana Farber and the Brigham, I made it through my treatments during and after birth. Dwelling on the “why me” doesn’t get you anwhere. but focusing on moving forward and as said above, showing your family its just another bump in life’s road is the best attitude to have!!!

  3. What a great article, you are an inspiration.
    So glad to hear that you are cancer free.
    Each day comes bearing it’s own gifts, untie the ribbons!
    All the best to you and your family,
    Cindy Taylor (Cory’s mom)

  4. Ellen (Sullivan) Steward

    Lyndsay – you are amazing and I am so glad to read that you are doing so well. I’m from Belmont originally and was aware of what you were going through – I am also a new mom to a 10 month old son. Continued good health and positive steps towards full recovery to you.

  5. Diane LaRochelle

    Lyndsay, You never cease to amaze me!! So many people have known since you were a little girl that you were a special person!! You have grown into an incredibly special adult, kind, compassionate, talented and strong, so very strong!! I am so impressed with your strength with everything you’ve gone through!! When your sweet little boy is old enough to hear the stories of what his family went through when he was brand new to this world, he will be beyond proud!!

  6. You are so incredibly brave and beautiful inside and put. Your son is so lucky to have you and we are all so blessed that you share your story so openly. Lots of love to your little family!!

  7. Lyndsay, Thank you for sharing your story and your thoughts. Your words of wisdom have given many young families dealing with cancer something important to reflect on, especially me. I really loved that you wrote “this journey is a part of our family history and it has shaped who we are.” I also have a young daughter at home who is too young to understand what Mommy is going through right now. I wasn’t sure if this was something I should continue to protect her from or be open and honest with her about. But, what you have written has given me the answer. You should be “beyond proud” of yourself for your strength and for being such an inspiration to your fellow cancer patients. Your future is bright because you have a special light inside of you that shines forth over everyone around you. I hope that you keep sharing that unique quality and continue to be a guiding light for all of us. Wishing you and your family all the best.

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