Nov 12

In 2008 I was at a gathering event for young moms.  At the end of it, one stranger mom walked up to me and said, “Hi, I’m Nan, and I think we should be really, really good friends.”

I blinked, a little taken aback.  I also glowed with that “popular girl” feeling: she likes me, she likes me!  And I wondered what about me made her think that we should be friends.  I looked at her, and said, “Yes, lets like, totally be friends!”

And, from that point on, we were.  When we lived in the same town, we talked every day and saw each other several times a week.  Our children, weeks apart in age, were convinced that they were brother/sister more than friend/friend.  Her little dude solidified Maren’s fascination with trains, and the two of them developed their own language.  They would hug so enthusiastically that they would fall to the floor and keep right on hugging.  Since that time, Nan and I have both moved from the city where we met, but our friendship remains pick-up-where-we-left-off-every-time-awesome.

It’s the only friendship I’ve ever had where it was so obviously declared: “Yes, we should be friends.”  We can point to the moment our friendship began.

My cancer journey has brought me several new friends: I hang out with people in the Chemo Room who get it.    Some people in my life get it, but most try hard to imagine.  Cancer is something that’s hard to imagine unless you are doing it.  So, my new cancer friends, they are important to me.  A challenge I’ve faced is that my cancer friends (whom I love dearly) are quite a bit older than me.  My chemo BFF (besides my mom) is in her fifties.  Another is in her forties.  Another is in her eighties.  And I consider all of these women real life friends.  And, over the past eight months, I have often felt that I have more in common with these women than I do with my regular group of amazing thirty-something young mom girlfriends.  It is bizarre but true.

After chemo, I was the only one who was rushing off to pick up kids from daycare.  My chemo friends were planning weddings or college visits for their children.  I was strategizing to nap when my kids napped.  I rested on playground benches under a wide-brimmed hat; there was not a lot of couch time for me.  All of this was okay–good, even–because I wanted to be with my children; I wanted to be Normal Fun Mommy.  But it does stand out in stark contrast to what most people talk about when they experience chemo.

Last week I met a newly diagnosed woman in her late forties.  She told me that her kids were twelve, fifteen, and eighteen.  She confided that, while she had every reason to be optimistic regarding her treatment, she had peace because of this sentiment: she is happy her children are at their current ages.  She said, “They have my DNA all over them; they know what I expect of them, and I believe that my most intense parenting years are behind me.”  I envied her position; the confidence that they would be okay if anything happened to her.

Cancer is cruel and crappy and ugly.  I have to deal with that, and work through it.  As a young mom, I also have to curtail my five-year-old’s sass, and my one-year-old’s refusal to eat anything green.  The complexity of my problems do not juxtapose easily.  I am thankful that the mantra “little kids have little problems” seems to be holding true.  I know that as my kids age, their problems will be more complex.  And I just want to be there to help them through.  And it’s frustrating that I have to worry about this.  (Actually, I actively try not to worry/think about it, but you know what I mean.)  At the end of the day, I stop, I breathe, and I Do Today Well.

Still, I kind of wish I could meet a bald mom at the playground with her young kids.  I’d totally walk up to her and say, “Please, please, let me be your friend.”


  1. Hugging you and hoping that you meet that special woman and are able to be there for her. There must be young women who would so benefit from the experience you have had and are able to relate so succinctly; how does one find them seems to be the issue.

    I think it’s so neat that you are already thinking outside yourself and on to what you can do to help others thru their journeys.


  2. God has likely shared these challenges with you for a very important reason. And maybe it is for just that…for being a true friend with one or (many?) more young ladies, who will gain immensely from your experience and great and inspiring attitude. In the meantime, know you are wrapped in His (and our) Love. Sending a hug…

  3. At the Moffitt Cancer Center where I volunteer, I routinely see young 30 something moms in the infusion center, and I immediately suggest they read your blog. Maybe some do and already consider you their friend. It’s not exactly the kind of relationship you’re looking for, but I have a feeling reading your journey is precisely what they need.

    My personal experience with cancer is through the eyes of a caretaker (16 family members), helpful friend taking others to Chemo, and as a volunteer in the infusion department. I may not have actually walked in your shoes, but I do know the incredible hold of cancer and how it alters life for months, maybe years at a time. I have great repect for you in trying to keep life normal for your precious daughters and darling husband. You’re doing an amazing job 🙂

    It’s wonderful that your new-found friendships made in the infusion center transcends the age barrier; the knowlegde you’ll glean from each woman will be invaluable. Embrace that. And PLEASE continue to share it all with us!

  4. The love and sensitivity that you display continue to amaze me. You are truly gifted by God.

  5. Jen ~ I so understand, even though I don’t have cancer & never did ~ I am 61.5 & my husband Tom is 62 ~ Tom has Dementia/Alzhimers (sp?) ~ I am searching for another person my age that can relate ~ Tom’s Mom died of Dementia; however she was almost 92 ~ To share the everyday issues that come with someone that has this @ such a young age would be nice. I am going to call the local hospital to see if there is someone I can talk with ~ Maybe you can find someone through the hospitals & doctors you see. There was a young man on our street that had a bone marrow transplant for cancer & he is doing so well. He is 21 now & no children; however, I know he made connections with others. We aren’t the only ones & e need to find the other people out there that are looking for us 🙂 I think you are a Wonderful Mother & Woman with so much to give. You will find that Special Person to say “Please, please, let me be your friend.”
    Continued Prayers & Peace 🙂

  6. Sister from another Mister /

    I met a Nan…at my first appointment with the breast surgeon about my cancer. She is one of his nurses and the sweetest lady ever. She also makes these great pillows to use in the car under your seatbelt to cover surgical wounds for women. You feel like you are in good hands when someone has the name Nan so I can just imagine what a great friend she is.

  7. Marsha Vonderwish /

    Jen, I understand what you are feeling. I was 40 when I had my first battle with the big ‘C’. I also had 3 boys to finish rising. I was frightened for them and at the thought of not seeing them grow up to be men. I was not done here! But then God reminded me that HE has each of my days perfectly planned. And the flip side of that is HE has each of my sons days perfectly planned too. They would be cared for. I might not be happy with God’s plan but I could rest in His peace. That was 18 yrs. ago and I’m still here fighting to live each day that I am blessed with.
    Hugs and prayers I send to you!

  8. And you will!!! If need to. You are not alone, There Is Nothing New Under The Sun, Everthing Has Been Done Before. Keep trusting God!
    Stay encouraged!!!! He’ll make it alright. But you Gotta Stay Strong!!!
    Love, Genora

  9. Stacy Sanders /

    I totally understand where you are coming from. I am at the 5 year mark this month. I found my breast cancer on my 31st birthday. At the time, I had a daughter that was 2 1/2 months shy of her second birthday. There was absolutely no one in the chemo room that was my age. And I still have no friends my age that get it. It was definitely a struggle to “Do Today Well” when you still had to be a mom to a young child. But you can do it!!!!

  10. Well, then, you and I should be friends — I’m in your “bald before I’m 40” club!!! And, if you say ‘no’, its too bad because I already count you as my distant-electronic-she-doesn’t-even-know-who-I-am-friend. I’ve been reading you since the start of your journey and there just aren’t that many young moms fighting this battle. The two friends I made (who were my age) passed away in May and October, respectively, and I struggle now not having anyone to share with, gripe with, celebrate with… so, I feel like I get to do that with you through your posts!
    Carry on, brave girl! Fight like a girl and continue being an example to others…

  11. I wish I could run into you at the park! We have spoken on the phone. I’m a mom of triplets who will be 5 in January and I was diagnosed in March. I just started radiation yesterday and I totally understand how our issues (as moms of younger children) are different than those with older or grown children or no children at all. It is not to say that it is worse, but just different. I was blessed to attend a retreat last weekend with other young survivors and I can say that it helped to talk to women who had similar issues, concerns, struggles because of a similar family situation.
    I feel like I know you personally after following your blog for so long. It really would be awesome to live down the street from someone like you! xoxoxo

  12. Jen,

    We don’t know each other, but I have been following your blog. My name is Jen, too, and I am 31. I have three little boys. I was diagnosed in May while pregnant with our third. I had a 9cm tumor in my right breast. I delivered #3, and was in surgery for the port the next day. Six months later, I’ve been through adriamycin/cytoxin, then a double mastectomy (where they found many positive lymphnodes), then four treatments of Taxol. I’m now 12 radiation treatments (of 34) and have been declared NED.
    I also write a blog ( and I have read yours over the months and cried many tears because your words are so similar to mine.
    Want a friend in this journey? Please email me at I’d like to be your friend and sister in Christ.