Marlena's Story

“I was only a few chemo treatments in when my youngest child learned I had cancer. It wasn’t like we hid it from him. We said, “Mamma is sick. She’s taking medication that will make her sick and she’ll lose her hair”. I was very open about what the side effects might be and we talked about what could be done to help. But one day he overheard a friend asking about my cancer and he froze. I felt like I had shattered his world. There was also a conversation I had with my oldest son where I ended up crying. I felt horrible that I let my fear show through. The last thing I ever want as a mom is for my children have to worry or to be scared. I felt like instead of protecting them from fear, I was causing it. For me, the hardest part of cancer is not the ‘fear of dying’ part, but fear of all the hurt that will be left behind. The moment I found out I had cancer, my mind went straight to calculating how old my kids will be if I die. Five years from now? Twenty years from now? What will the impact be on them? I remember friends who lost their parents at a young age (or any age really) talking about how much they wished their mom or dad was still here. As a woman in my 30s with children, I didn’t really have anyone to connect with who could understand how I felt. When I found out about Pink Pearl through Wellwood, I decided to apply to participate in an overnight retreat—one of the best things I have done! Prior to the retreat weekend, I was paired up with a roommate. We got together beforehand and really connected. The organization did a fantastic job of matching us up. I made a ‘breastie’ for life. The overnight retreat weekend provided me with more opportunities to share my story. I truly felt like people understood. The other moms with cancer knew exactly the heartache I felt and offered some great advice. Pink Pearl also had resources for children available for participants to take home. I left the retreat weekend filled with hope. This Mother’s Day, my hope for my children is that as they watch and help me go through treatment, the experience will help them grow into even more empathetic humans.” – Marlena Sokolowska, Program Participant