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My mom is a survivor

Children learn to cope while supporting their mothers during CANCER recovery

Published: Sunday, Oct. 23 2011 3:00 p.m. MDT

Giovanni Murillo and his brother Alexis benefitted from the cancer conference.

Brian Nicholson, El Observador de Utah

Panic and fear seized the children when they learned they could lose their mother, but they kept their feelings inside.

"I felt very sad because I thought I was going to be alone. I was afraid at night and prayed that my mother could recover soon," says Kyle Dunham, 10, recalling his feelings when he learned that his mother had breast cancer.

Those days were dark for the whole family, but there were even darker moments for the two children, who said that they spent many nights crying, hidden under their pillows so she could not hear them, when they were overcome by the thoughts and fears of losing her.

While their mother battled her disease both physically and emotionally, Kyle and Bryce fought with their feelings of frustration and rebellion. It was difficult to see her suffering because they admire and love her.

"I felt angry because my mother is a good person and I wondered why with her being so dear and not having harmed anyone, why she was suffering from this disease," Kyle said while Bryce wiped away a few tears and stared blankly forward.

Gradually, the children began to understand the disease. They started to understand their role in their mother's recovery and put all their efforts into helping her in this task.

"We learned we were not alone and that it was important that we understood our mother and all the help she needed," Bryce said.

For his part, Kyle mentioned that sometimes when he returned home from school, his mother was exhausted and needed to rest. He remembered taking her a cushion or pillow to make her comfortable, so she could lie down and sleep.

"I stayed with her in her room for a little while. I calmed her by rubbing her feet or by massaging her until she fell asleep. Then I left quietly so I would not wake her up."

Kyle and Bryce were not the only children suffering for their mother.

Nancy and Erik Ayala also encountered the challenge of having a mother with breast cancer.

Nancy, 7, and Erik, 13, were facing the stressful possibility of losing their mother without the support of their father, who had left the family.

Nancy, now 11, remembered the chilling feeling that passed through her the day her mother took a shower and her hair started falling out.

"One day she had hair, and the next day she did not. It made me sick, and I cried because I did not want to lose my mom," Nancy said.

"I thought I would lose her as fast as she lost her hair. I did not want to lose her."

It was not easy for the Ayala children to adapt themselves to their mother's illness. Today, they live with the memories of fear and the hopes of a future free of cancer.

During the time that Pascualina Dunham fought breast cancer, Kyle and Bryce attended the support group "Cancer Wellness House Club" in Salt Lake City.

"They taught us about cancer," Bryce said. "How it affects our bodies and ways we can use to combat it, along with many other useful ways to help our mom."

The children learned to express their feelings. They met with counselors to help them understand their feelings. They learned that although the illness could be fatal, if it is treated properly, it could also be cured. And they understood that they were not the only ones who were dealing with that challenge.

Cancer Wellness House is a nonprofit organization that provides emotional and social support programs for children, teens, young adults and their families who face the challenge of having a loved one with cancer.

For more information about its programs, visit www.cancer-wellness.org or call 801-236-2294.

Email: cskinner@desnews.com

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