It’s hard being a single parent, especially if you are far removed from the support of family, friends, and the biological partner who helped to create your little bundle(s) of joy.
As custodial single moms and single dads, we worry about things twice as much since we’re carrying the load of two parents: who will take care of the kids if they get sick, how will I support the family if I lose my job, what about the times when I can’t be there to see one of the highlights of childhood? Sadly, many of us also carry a bigger fear…who will take care of my children when I’m gone. Many of us deal with an issue that was recently thought to only impact the elderly – Cancer.
According to a 2010 ABC News article titled “Parents With Cancer: Millions of Patients Juggle Chemotherapy and Childrearing”,
“…new research shows that 18 percent of newly diagnosed cancer patients are parents to one or more minor children. Of these patients, nearly a third of them are caring for children under the age of six.”
The article quotes figures without any mention of single family homes. The numbers are still heartbreaking.
“Researchers estimated that 562,000 children are living with a parent who is in the early — and most intense — phases of cancer treatment.”
Just this morning, while watching Sunday Morning on CBS, I caught a feel good piece (something that you don’t usually find in the news these days).
If the video doesn’t work, here’s the link to the news piece.
Trisha Somers, a mother of an 8 year old son, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. It is unlikely that she will survive to see her son’s 9th birthday. The single mom has no family and the biological father is out of the picture. She struggled with the fear of her son’s care after she passes on.
Enter Trisha Seaman, a nurse working at the hospital where Trisha Somers was recovering after a recent surgery. After meeting Nurse Seaman only once, Ms. Somers had a question for her upon their second encounter, “Will you raise my son after I’m gone?”
Think about the desperation and terror behind that request. I can only imagine that Ms. Somers had no one else she could turn to except a nice, compassionate stranger who’s job it was to take her blood pressure and check her vital statistics.
Here’s where you should break out the box of Kleenex.
After consulting her husband and 4 kids, Trisha Seaman told Ms. Somers that not only would they raise her son, but that they would take Ms. Somers and her son into their home immediately. Currently all 8 people reside in the Seaman home and the arrangement is working out wonderfully according to the interviews in the article.
How many of us would open our homes to strangers and agree to take on an additional (unrelated) child for a decade or more? Maybe it’s something to consider based on the number of kids who might end up in foster care.
In my own experience, I’ve personally known or heard about (once removed) four single moms who received cancer diagnoses. Two have passed, thankfully holding on to life long enough for their children to reach the age of adulthood (even if just barely). One has two children in their teens, and the last has a child just on the verge of turning 13. Out of those four examples, two of the moms struggled without traditional support systems of close friends and family.
It’s easy to think this type of situation would never happen to us, but cancer is funny that way. Cancer doesn’t care who you are, what type of plans you have for the future, or who is relying on you at any given moment. Cancer is the great equalizer.
For myself, I’m somewhat lucky. Son #1 turned 20 this year and he would be able to keep the other kids in line. I’ve got an insurance policy in place that would pay all of the bills until the last kid was out of college. And not to burden Son #1 with all of the responsibility, I looked around and already approached two people I thought would chip in if something ever happened to me. These two would help Son #1 with the everyday grind of surrogate parenthood. I’ve had the hard talk with my kids. They know what to do and where to turn if I was taken out by an accident tomorrow.
And I am prepared to step forward if the roles are reversed.
Take a moment and have that age-appropriate discussion with your kids and line up your own support. Then put your mind at rest with one less thing to worry about.
Trisha Somers, you have found an angel. Tricia Seaman, you and your family are role models for us all.