As most of you know, the motivating forces behind Consano are almost five and almost seven years old (or four-and-three-quarters and six-and-three-quarters, as they will tell you). I created Consano with the hope that my two daughters won’t have to worry about breast cancer. I hope that we get to that point. But what I’m learning along the way is how much they teach me each day, and what they are learning by being a part of this “family business” that we’ve created.
One of my first thoughts upon hearing that I had breast cancer was, “how is this going to impact my daughters.” Clearly, by supporting medical research, I’m trying to address the long-term implication for them – a higher risk of developing breast cancer. Throughout my treatment process, we encouraged them to ask questions. About anything. Nothing was off the table, and we tried to explain things to them in an age-appropriate way, letting them lead us with their questions. It’s always difficult to know what children are taking in and how they are processing things, but through their actions I have seen the amount of empathy that both of my girls carry as a result of watching me go through this.
Not long after I finished my chemotherapy, Clara came up to me and said that she had an idea. As an anesthesiologist, Scott helps pediatric cancer patients going through radiation treatments. Clara knew about this, and often asked questions about whether the kids are going to get better, if they are sad and was generally interested in hearing about what Scott did to help. On this particular afternoon, her idea was simple, but so reflective of her growing empathy. Clara decided that she wanted to put together a goody-bag for one of the kids Scott was helping to take care of, a little girl who also happened to be six-years-old. Clara and I went to the store together, she picked out some little toys and arts and craft supplies that the girl could use while she was in the hospital. When we got home, she decorated the bag and filled it up. I had to hold back tears when she handed the bag to Scott to take to work and said, “I hope this makes her feel a little bit better.”
Both girls have been very involved with Consano from the beginning. While going from stay-at-home mom, to mom going through cancer treatments, to work-outside-the-house mom has been a learning process for all of us, the girls understand that what I’m doing now will hopefully help people. And they are excited to be a part of it. When I’m asked what my proudest Consano moment has been, that’s an easy one to answer. I was on the computer one Saturday (a very common occurrence in our house these days), and Clara came up to me holding a dollar bill from her piggy bank. “Mom, I want to donate this to Consano, to a project that helps kids.” I cannot describe the love and pride that I felt at that moment.
There are also perks to helping with the family business. Last week, when I headed up to the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute to deliver a gift check to Dr. Charles Keller, several exciting things happened. The girls got to ride the tram up the hill to OHSU, a treat in and of itself. Dr. Keller met us at the top and took us to his lab, where the girls got to look through the microscope at cells, view 3-D CT pictures of various animals (and learned that bat wings are similar in structure to human fingers!) and ask questions to a renowned childhood cancer researcher. Did they have any idea how cool this experience is? Probably not, but I sure did (and in true mom “paparazzo” fashion, snapped a bunch of pictures to capture the moment).
It is so exciting for me to watch Clara and Audrey grow into their own people, little citizens of this world. I do not take for granted the fact that I’m here to witness their growth. That is such a gift. And to have them involved in the family business is an added bonus. They remind me each day to enjoy the small moments, to show kindness to others, to always continue learning and, perhaps most importantly, to have fun.