Voices Podcast – Episode #5: Balancing Motherhood and Breast Cancer

How I told my children I had cancer
Gabby and her children

It was a warm day in November 2013 when Gabby Spear found out she had breast cancer. But even in the midst of the difficult news, her responsibilities as a mom, wife, professional, and community member remained; she knew she still had to pick up her two daughters and make it to temple service later that night.

“That was the first time I realized that life doesn’t stop because of a cancer diagnosis,” says Spear, whose daughters were 6 and 3 at the time.

Colleen Sullivan
Breast cancer patient and mom, Colleen Sullivan

Like Spear, fellow breast cancer patient Colleen Sullivan also had to balance cancer treatment with her roles at home and at work. And it was her kids – both at home and at the school where she teaches – that kept her resolute throughout her chemotherapy, surgery and radiation.

“I was going to do whatever it took to be here as long as I can,” says Sullivan, whose three daughters were 10, 9 and 4 when she was diagnosed.

And while most cancer patients must learn how to communicate diagnosis and treatment to their children, Spear and Sullivan have the additional task of explaining a hereditary cancer risk that may affect their daughters in the future. Both women have the BRCA1 gene mutation that, if inherited, can significantly increase risk developing of breast and ovarian cancer.

In this latest Voices podcast, Spear and Sullivan discuss the ups and downs of balancing motherhood and breast cancer, how they communicated their diagnosis, and how their roles changed throughout the course of treatment. You can listen to the podcast episode below or click “download” to listen later. Subscribe options are also available via iTunes, Android, the Stitcher app, TuneIn app, and RSS.

The Voices podcast series features stories from cancer patients who share their experiences coping with their life-changing diagnoses and treatment. Season 1 of Voices features breast cancer patients. Visit the Voices page for more episodes and Dana-Farber’s podcast page for more information on other cancer podcast series.