My Breast Cancer's Influence on My Daughter

My story began in July 2000, a few short months after the first photo ("Then") was taken of my daughter and me. She was only 10 years old when I was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer involving one of my lymph nodes. I picked up a pamphlet about how to tell your children you have cancer. The pamphlet, intended to encourage me, reported that children are very resilient to the news -- that is, except for adolescent girls. This was good news where my 4 year old son was concerned; not good news for my daughter. Knowing this was the case, I paid much closer attention to how I presented updates to her. We were not allowed to use the "C" word, until the day she insisted on going with me to help pick out my wig and the lady at the shop asked me what kind of cancer I had. It was harsh, but made me realize I could not shelter my daughter. Her personal make-up is so shaped by that period of her childhood, and shaped in a good way. In high school she helped organize and participated in cancer fund-raising events, graduated with honors, and received academic scholarships. "Then" was nearly 9 years ago and "now" my daughter is a freshman in college, majoring in psychology with hopes of one day working with children who are affected by serious illness or disorders that could affect them later in life. While we both worry about the possibility of breast cancer in her future, I try to focus on the positive and know that there are children out there who will one day benefit from the help of someone who had a very life-changing experience in her own childhood.
Bonnie Sohngen
Cincinnati, OH