6 Cancer Moms Reflect on Mother’s Day

by Erinn Jessop, St. Baldrick's Foundation
May 13, 2018

At St. Baldrick’s, funding childhood cancer research is our mission. But for six of our staff, the goal is deeply personal — because their children were diagnosed with cancer. Read on for thoughts from these moms on what Mother’s Day means to them, what they’ve learned about motherhood through the good times and bad, and how childhood cancer has changed their lives forever.

St. Baldrick’s staff members and cancer moms from left to right: Robyn with her son Keaton, Nancy with her son, Scott, and Vanessa with her daughter, Aubrey.


Danielle and Mason

Danielle holds her son Mason, who was diagnosed with medulloblastoma in 2006. A force to be reckoned with, the little boy faced his cancer with stalwart determination and his signature stubbornness. Mason died in 2007.

Mother’s Day is always bittersweet for me. I will always be a mom to three boys. I just do not have one here with me because cancer took Mason’s life from us. Mother’s Day reminds me of Mason’s laughter, competitive nature, his love for his brother and the family we had. I am Mason’s mom. Cancer made me do things to my son I never imagined I would have to do to my child to get him to survive. Cancer taught me how to be a fierce advocate for my child. Cancer made me live my worst moments as a mom and some of the best. Cancer taught me I had to take care of and protect all my kids, not just the one who was sick. Cancer broke my heart. But being a mom to Mason, Mateo, and Marcus puts my heart back together every day.


Kelly, Jackson and Oliver

Kelly with sons Jackson (left) and Oliver (right, center). Jackson was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive childhood cancer in his kidneys, called a rhabdoid tumor of the kidney, at just 15 months old.

On Mother’s Day 2004, I was nine months pregnant with Jackson and so excited to meet him. I was in a joy-filled frenzy trying to get everything checked off my to-do list before his arrival. I wanted his life to be perfect. For the first 15 months it was. And then suddenly, it wasn’t. Jackson’s cancer diagnosis came out of nowhere. It engulfed our family, rocked my core and changed everything. Timelines shifted, dreams were tossed, priorities were rearranged, and the sense of security I had disappeared. Through his treatment and the aftermath, we have rebuilt our lives and redefined what is important.  Gratitude has become our family’s compass and strengthened our ability to get through tough things. I’ve learned to find the silver linings in almost everything. This includes parenting a teen! I can let go of the things that don’t matter and see the things that do. That is a gift that undoubtedly makes me a better mom.  I feel so fortunate to be able to celebrate Mother’s Day 2018 (and his upcoming 14th birthday) with him and his brother. 


David and Daisy

Susan’s kids David and Daisy smile together. David was diagnosed with neuroblastoma when he was just 8 years old. A curious and passionate kid, he had a flair for fashion and a love for science. Before he died, he asked his family to fight for a cure for childhood cancer.

As a mom, I’ve always seen my role as helping my babes go confidently into the world. But when my son, David, was diagnosed with cancer, it was a punch in the gut of realizing that they are not safe. Most importantly – I could not protect them. Life was filled with fear and insecurities and worry. For the first time in my life I started to worry about germs, infection, death. Once cancer arrived, my confidence as a mom was shattered and I wondered what I did wrong. What did I miss? How did I let this happen to my precious son? I will always mourn our David and wonder what life would be like today – and sometimes on Mother’s Day I get reflective on those hard questions. But lately, I find myself talking to David for counsel about his little sister, Daisy, or his dad or grandparents and I know he graces my life every day. It is an incredible gift to be a parent and even in the more trying parental moments, I remind myself of this and believe this. Mother’s Day is a day that allows me to focus on how special and abundantly full my life is because I was gifted the opportunity to have children. Nurturing the next generation is the greatest job and one that I would pick first every time if given the option!


Nancy and Scott

Nancy stands with her son, Scott, on Capitol Hill during Childhood Cancer Action Days. Scott was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia when he was 3 years old. He’s now in remission and enjoys speaking up on behalf of kids with cancer.

I was devastated when my 3-year old son, Scott, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). When we were told that his treatment would last approximately three years, I immediately wondered, “Do most kids even make it through that many years of chemotherapy?” Being the mom to a child with cancer changed my perspective as a parent by allowing me to realize what’s most important in life. I learned to treasure the time and conversations that we shared each day and to cherish every laugh, memory, and silly or insightful question that my kids asked. We didn’t have a normal life by most standards, but we learned to make the best of every day, because we realized that we may never get these moments back again. As we approach Mother’s Day, I realize how lucky I am that Scott just celebrated his 3-year off treatment anniversary and is now thriving as he continues to take his childhood back from cancer. He has been given a second chance at life at such a young age, and I don’t take it for granted – to me, every day since his diagnosis is Mother’s Day and I’m so grateful for each one.


Vanessa and her family

Vanessa smiles with Aubrey (left photo), who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2013. Vanessa says the experience has brought the whole family (right photo) closer together. The 7-year-old loves to play with her brother, Aiden (right photo, far left) and is now in remission.

With Aubrey’s five-year remission anniversary coming up and it being so close to Mother’s Day, I reminded of how blessed we have been. No words can ever express what those words can mean or do to a momma’s heart when you hear the doctor say your child has cancer, but I know that through Aubrey’s fight it has bonded our family, strengthened our faith, established a relationship between the four of us that is filled with love, honesty, courage, and perseverance. These are all characteristics that as moms we strive to instill in our kids. Cancer had us building a foundation as a family so that no matter the outcome or what future obstacles came our way, we could get through it together.


Robyn and Keaton

(Left photo) Robyn’s son, Keaton, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma in 1997. The little boy adored Michael Jordan and would wear his jersey with a superhero cape to treatment. He passed after a fierce battle with the disease. (Right photo) Robyn with her son Kyle and daughter, Kiana — Keaton’s siblings.

As my 20th Mother’s Day without Keaton approaches, I’m flooded with so many bittersweet memories. Keaton is the oldest of my three and despite the acute awareness he’s not physically with us, he will always be part of the joy and laughter we share together as a family.  To me, Mother’s Day means LOVE. Keaton taught me about the immense power of love and how that love can sustain and empower you, despite tragedy. Witnessing Keaton’s battle with cancer has impacted my life in more ways than I can even convey. His resilience through all he had to endure helped me fight cancer the only way I’ve known how to throughout the years.  I’m grateful that I am mom to Kyle and Kiana and realize how blessed I am to have their love. Cancer can never take away love.

Together we can take childhood — and motherhood — back from cancer.

Celebrate Mother’s Day by funding lifesaving childhood cancer research.

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