Name: Mia Blitstein
Children’s names and ages: Judah, age 3 at time of diagnosis
Location: just outside of Philadelphia, PA
Diagnosis: Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma (Primary Mediastinal Large B-Cell)
Treatments: R-CHOP x6, Conformal 3D radiation x20
Current status: IN REMISSION (since March 2011)
Twitter handle: mamamia428
Parenting with Cancer? What’s the first thing you thought of when you were diagnosed?
Mia: A mass? What’s a mass? What does that mean? I really, honestly, did not understand what my doctor was saying. I remember just feeling like I wanted to vomit.
PWC: How did you tell the kids you had cancer? If you didn’t tell them, why not?
Mia: Our then-3 year old was very perceptive and bright. He knew something was up when my parents came over for dinner and we were all sort of like zombies. We told him that I had a boo-boo on the inside (look for my upcoming children’s book) and that the doctors were going to give me yucky medicine to help the boo boo go away. That’s as much as he needed to know. Even now, he asks questions (he’s almost 5), but never grasped the gravity of the situation, thank goodness.
PWC: What’s the best thing someone did for you or your family to help during cancer?
Mia: FOOD! My mom set up a website on LotsaHelpingHands.com and we were fed for 5 and ½ months straight! Then again during radiation, the calendar was full in a New York minute. It was so amazing to feel genuine love through nourishment. Also, some friends sent a cleaning lady. Swoon. Other friends chipped in and bought me the most amazing chair of my dreams, we call it the Happy Chair. An incredible organization called For Pete’s Sake Cancer Respite sent us to Disney World! I could go on and on about all of the wonderful things people did to show they cared, and to cheer me up. Unlucky to get the cancer but very blessed to know how loved I am.
PWC: What’s the best thing someone said to you when you had cancer?
Mia: Outsider: This sucks! Doctor: I have good news.
PWC: What piece of advice would you give a parent who was just diagnosed?
Mia: Take a deep breath and make sure your children know you love them. Don’t give them any more information than they need to know on an age appropriate basis, but don’t lie to them – they will make up their own explanations. Also, ask for help. Tell people how to help you best. They will come through and you will feel the love from everywhere.
PWC: Wig, headscarf or bare-naked head?
Mia: Bare-naked head, unless it was too cold. I used bandannas if going out and I had a super soft Life is Good hat that I loved wearing in the summer. My son knew that wearing a wig or a scarf meant I was going somewhere. Except for the first time we played pirates with headscarves, he didn’t like it. Wigs were too itchy and gave me a headache.
PWC: What’s been the hardest part about having cancer/cancer treatments?
Mia: For me, the hardest part has been how derailed I feel like my life has been. We had plans and cancer has forced us to adjust. It has made me realize how little control I have over my life and that rude awakening has been challenging to accept.
PWC: What has helped your kids through this tough time?
Mia: Maintaining some sense of normalcy. Modeling expression and articulation of feelings. Giving him egg cartons to stomp on when he’s angry. Allowing him space and opportunity to reflect on his feelings, and giving him a chance to be a part of my treatment and recovery. He wanted to be in the action – and he helped me get my nightly injections by cheering for me.
PWC: What keeps you awake at night?
Mia: Will I ever be able to get pregnant again? Am I brave enough to risk it? Are my doctors right when they say I’m fine? Are the scans missing something? Will I live to see my son’s milestones? Will we have enough money for me to not work full time and continue to heal and recover? What am I making for dinner tomorrow night? Why didn’t I get in bed earlier? Why is my heart racing? Oops, I forgot to meditate tonight.
PWC: What’s your favorite place to go for emotional support on your darkest days?
Mia: Well, I am blessed to have a very supportive husband (and parents living close-by) who welcomes me with open arms. Also, I have finally found an amazing therapist. I get bi-weekly acupuncture treatments and massages to support my physical health, which often helps my emotional health. (PS. A tiny crumb of Ativan is essential for getting through the pre-scan/waiting for results days.)