Interviewed by Chris Jones
Fredericksburg mother of two, Meghan Hook, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019. With no family history, it came as a complete shock. As we observe Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we spoke to Meghan about the lessons she learned about the value of family as she battled cancer.
Fredericksburg Parent: Let’s start with your doctor’s visit. Was it a regular checkup or one where you had concern that something may be wrong?
Meghan Hook: I found my lump and I went to the doctor and they very quickly got me in to get scans done. And it was about a week-and-a-half between me going to my doctor and being diagnosed.
FP: How did your diagnosis hit you? Were you shocked? Did you have a family history?
MH: Complete shock. I had no idea that something like this could happen. I had no family history. I’m the first on both sides of my family to have been diagnosed with breast cancer.
FP: So, let’s talk about your parenting. How were you as a parent to your girls’ pre-cancer?
MH: I’ve been fully involved. I’ve got my two girls. They’ve gone to daycare, but we do stuff on the weekends, and it’s like a little camaraderie between me and my daughter’s here.
FP: And what did your girls understand about the process you were going through? How did you walk them through it?
MH: I was very open with them about each step. I didn’t shield them from the side effects that I could have. They are the ones who shaved my head—well, they helped shave my head. My sister shaved it, but they helped cut my hair the day I shaved my head. I had them fully involved in that. There were some books; there’s a book called “Cancer Party” that was recommended to me and it lays it out for the kids in a pretty simple way. But the biggest thing was not shielding them and being very open with them about what was going on.
FP: Fast forward to now. How long have you been a cancer survivor?
MH: I was diagnosed last August (2019), and I had a double mastectomy [this August]. So, I would say officially I’m cancer-free as of August 12.
FP: What advice do you have for moms who are about to walk in your shoes—dealing with possibly the beginning of treatment and parenting and raising a family through it? What are some things they should look out for? What should they expect? What should they let go of and just be OK with?
MH: The biggest thing is giving yourself grace. Allow yourself to feel if you’re scared. Allow people to help you. If you have bad days, allow yourself to have bad days and just know that it does get better and just be patient with yourself. You’re going to feel sick. You’re going to feel tired. You’re not going to want to do stuff. Allow yourself to feel that. Don’t feel bad if you need to take care of yourself and focus on yourself for a little while.
FP: What have you learned about yourself through your breast cancer journey?
MH: I am so much stronger than I ever thought, between going through this and my divorce at the same time. I never would have thought that I would have been able to go through cancer, multiple surgeries, chemo, eventually radiation, still work full time, parent my kids and homeschool them for a while in the spring during everything and still survive. So, I’m just so much stronger than I thought I was.
FP: Wow. That is impressive.
MH: Yeah, it’s been a heck of a year-and-a-half.
FP: What’s the value of support to a person going through breast cancer?
MH: The biggest thing for me was knowing that I wasn’t alone. Nobody that I was around personally could understand exactly what I was going through because nobody else had really experienced it. But I knew if I needed to cry on somebody’s shoulder, I had a bunch of people I could call just to complain if I was feeling crappy one day. If I needed a little bit of pepping up one day, or if I needed to say to somebody, “Can you come watch my kids for a little while so I could take a nap” I had support. It just allowed me to focus on me and know I wasn’t alone in the whole thing.