Mum Guilt vs. Cancer Mum Guilt by Danielle Hambridge

When I first saw 2 blue lines on the pregnancy test, I instantly started planning the future for our baby. It was my birthday, 12th September 2017, when I went to the shop and bought myself a bottle of red wine and a pregnancy test... it was going to be one or the other.

When I got home I unwrapped the test and poured the wine out before heading to the bathroom; I figured I wasn't lucky enough to find out I was pregnant on my actual birthday. But I was wrong, the lines showed up almost instantly and I sat, a nervous wreck, on the bathroom floor with my mind flitting from fear of my life never being the same again to pure euphoria.

Fast forward to November 2018 and I would find myself sitting on the bathroom floor again; a nervous wreck with that familiar sense of fear for my life never being the same but this time there was absolutely no euphoria. This time I was in the Conquest Hospital in Hastings laying on the floor in the toilet with my mums hand on my back having just heard that the lump I had found whilst getting ready to breast feed, was in fact HER2+ breast cancer that had spread to my liver and was now incurable. My daughter, the once 2 little lines on a pregnancy test, now a 6 month old beautiful baby girl called Joey, was sitting in the hospital café with my sister completely oblivious to anything other than noises, smiley faces and anything she could grab hold of.

As soon as I heard the words "I'm sorry Danielle, it isn't good news," my mind immediately went to my daughter. HOW could I have just had a baby at 29 with my childhood sweetheart, be planning my wedding and a life of growing our tribe, to have it all taken away at the flick of a switch?

For the next few months I suffered not only physically through cancer treatment which included 6 gruelling rounds of chemotherapy; but I suffered immensely with my mental health. Like most new mums/ mums in general I got 'mum guilt' about every little thing; wanting time away from my daughter, questioning whether or not I play with her enough, wondering if I was feeding her the right things, willing on bed time etc.

However, add to that the fatigue of cancer and chemo, the PTSD from my diagnosis and the depression of it all and the 'mum guilt' escalated to a whole new level; we'll call this 'cancer mum guilt.'

At my lowest, I told myself I wasn't good enough for my daughter and she didn't deserve this life. She deserved to have a normal, healthy mum and here she was at the risk of being the child of a dead mother by the age of 5 at the most.
I felt dreadful and I terrorised myself. I blamed myself and I beat myself up.
It took a very long time for me to realise and tell myself that none of this is my fault and there was nothing I could have done to prevent myself from getting cancer. I had no control over those mutating cells.

I had no control over being my daughters mother with an incurable disease.
What I did have control over was how I used my disease; what I did to show my daughter the lengths I would go to- to be here for her, if not physically, then through the legacy I decide to leave her.

I use my time now, when I'm not running around after her, to raise awareness of breast cancer in younger women on my social media platforms, I've raised tens of thousands of pounds for cancer charities and will continue on my oersinal quest to raise £100k for cancer research and breast cancer charities. I talk openly about my mental health and how cancer affects me and I try to remove the stigma around talking about disease and mental health. Everything I do is with her in mind; I want her to look back on this time and see how I stood up and fought back against the biggest trauma in our lives. I want her to be proud of me; that is all I want over everything else.

My daughter is 2 now and over the years our bond has gone from strength to strength and the 'cancer mum guilt' has subsided, although the 'mum guilt' we all endure is still very much there and presents new issues throughout every milestone. The newest for me being sending Joey to preschool and being questioned on whether or not she is potty trained (no Lucy... she's not yet actually and I'm not in any rush to get it done if it saves my carpets from the distinct scent of eau de urine.)

In terms of my future, I'm uncertain as to how long I will have the pleasure of being my daughter's mother. However, what I am sure of is that I want the time we have to be just that; a pleasure. I'm not willing to let cancer get another 'one up' on me by not allowing myself to enjoy motherhood. I now tell myself that I am doing the very best I can to be everything she needs, I am worthy of being her mummy and I am the mother she needs.

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