The tough and the beautiful about single parenting after cancer

The tough and the beautiful about single parenting after cancer

By Ryan Blenkiron

It’s been three years since treatment ended, decimating my stage IV diffuse large B cell lymphoma. Among other life-altering changes since diagnosis, I’m now a single mom of three — my kids are now aged five, seven and ten. It’s a challenge to be a single parent at all, but I’d venture a guess that it’s harder to be a cancer survivor at the same time. 

Here is how it’s harder for me:

  • “Fatigued” is still a daily state of being, and when I am fatigued, my patience takes a nosedive.

  • I am easily overwhelmed by loud noise and by processing more than one noise source at a time. 

  • My emotions about cancer and survivorship — and now divorce — remain fairly close to the surface, sometimes spilling out in front of my kids.

  • A few cognitive abilities continue to elude me; I especially find multitasking to be problematic.

  • There isn’t someone in my life to simply pick up the slack for me. Chores, transportation, bills, emotional wellbeing, education, safety — it’s all up to only me when the kids are in my custody (and sometimes even when they’re not).

  • I have had to “let go” of a lot of personal goals for my kids, like excelling in a sport or travelling to attractions.

  • With 50/50 custody, I am left exhausted and in need of recovery when the kids go to their coparent’s.

That’s certainly not a detailed list, but if you’re reading this, I am sure you can relate! However, no one wants to keep thinking about how it’s hard to single parent after cancer; it’s not a healthy place to mentally dwell. So, I am often reminding myself of the list of ways cancer has shaped my single parenting life for the better:

  • I have awoken to new and better priorities for my life, and I attempt at every turn to instill the awareness in my kids that life is precious and wonderful, and meant to be lived fully.

  • I can do hard things, and I have a long list of ways I’ve already done hard things. I’m surviving a lot of grief and pain, which has given me confidence. My kids see my confidence.

  • Being happier at my core is the best way I can support my children. They now have a role model that focuses on healthy mental and physical habits.

  • I have learned tools such as breathing, mindfulness, self-compassion, setting intentions, and reframing. When my children can’t seem to regulate their emotions, I can use these strategies to help them get through it.

  • With 50/50 custody, I get a nice span of rest and recovery and possibly time to soul search. My kids benefit when I am well rested, organized, and have a sense of purpose.

If you’re single-handedly parenting after cancer, I see you. It’s tough and it’s beautiful.


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