Cancer opened the door for me to grow so I could be the best mother for my son.

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Illustration by Brittany England

I always dreamed of being a parent, but I never imagined being a parent after cancer.

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 27, the future for me as a mother was uncertain.

After 3 years of hormone blocking therapy and 2 pregnancy losses, I brought my son into this world.

By that point, cancer had already changed my life in a million ways. One that I never imagined was how it would impact the way I behave as a mother and my approach to parenting. 

After you’ve gone through something as traumatic as cancer, everything else pales in comparison. You’ve experienced firsthand that worst case scenario that many only dream of.

So, when it came to parenting, my new lens with which I saw the world impacted my anxiety as a new mother and how I prioritize my own healing and self-care.

I worried less as a new mother

Motherhood is filled with unknowns and fears. Is your child sleeping enough? Are they sick? Are they eating enough? Are they breathing? Are they hurt? The list goes on.

We feel it’s our personal responsibility to prepare for and prevent any potential danger or misfortune.

Having walked through my own cancer experience, my lens shifted. I no longer believed that misfortune could be prevented through good actions.

Don’t get me wrong — I don’t mean this to be dismal. Instead, I mean it to be freeing.

Getting unexplained cancer at a young age when I was in the best shape of my life and doing all the “right” things for my health gave me the freedom to accept that shit just happens.

This mindset was freeing as a parent. It freed me from the tendency to worry about my son 24/7.

There’s nothing abnormal about that worry, and sometimes I felt guilty for not worrying, but cancer gave me that small gift of letting the worries go and knowing that all I can do is love and support him and that’s enough.

Not being able to breastfeed became a gift for my mind and body

When I was first diagnosed, I grieved the loss of my ability to breastfeed. It was yet another choice cancer had taken away from me.

However, as my delivery day approached, I found freedom in the lack of choice. The pressure on most mothers to breastfeed was one I got to skip.

Cancer took that choice from me, and while I still see breastfeeding as a beautiful bond between a mother and child, cancer gave me unexpected freedom.

Since I was unable to feed my son physically, it opened the door for my husband to have an equal and magical bond feeding our son.

It also took the pressure off of me to always be home or responsible for his feedings, and gave me a much-needed sense of freedom and healing as a new mother. This space was essential for my own physical and mental self-care.

It taught me to prioritize myself as an individual

I had always dreamed of being a mother, and for so long my life was only defined by my ability to be a parent.

Having to put parenthood on hold for many years due to my cancer treatment forced me to find other avenues of fulfillment in my life.

I built a business focused on inspiring other women to thrive through adversity, I expanded my work in health advocacy, I developed new friendships, and I began writing more.

Having gone through that experience forced me to broaden my purpose and life. Parenthood became one part of my life, but I refused to let it become everything.

After my son was born, these experiences helped me keep space for myself as a friend, a business owner, an advocate, and a wife — all while celebrating and embracing my new role of mother. 

Cancer taught me to brush off unsolicited parenting advice

Just like when living with cancer, everyone has an opinion about how you should be parenting your child.

Cancer was my practice run for toughening my skin and allowing that unsolicited advice to roll off of me and not shake my confidence in my decisions or my parenting ability.

I know I’m the best mama for my son and no comments can shake that.

Cancer may help you become a better parent

While my experiences of parenting after cancer are unique to me, I do think anyone parenting through or after cancer will be changed for the better.

Illness impacts the way you see the world, and your experiences can’t help but alter your decision-making.

In my opinion, cancer opened the door for me to grow into the woman I needed to be in order to be the best mother for my son. 

Anna Crollman is a style enthusiast, lifestyle blogger, and breast cancer thriver. She shares her story and a message of self-love and wellness through her blog and social media, inspiring women around the globe to thrive in the face of adversity with strength, self-confidence, and style.