A Daughter’s Perspective: Growing Closer Through Cancer

By Guest Writer - May 13, 2023

Grace Halula, 17
Daughter of Patti Halula

From the outside, it seems like I grew up with a normal childhood. In actuality, things felt a lot different in life as I was growing up with a mother who has cancer.

My mother never really had to break the news to me. It was just something that was talked about since the first time I could comprehend words. In my earliest years, my mom’s cancer wasn’t active. My developmental years were relatively easy. When I was 6, her condition started to worsen. I would ask to play outside and the answer turned from yes to no. What was commonly spoken about in my household had become actually quite serious.

From that time on, I took everything with my mother seriously and carefully. At least, I tried to as best as a child could. I would always feel anxious every time my mom said she had doctor’s visit or when the call came at school telling me my mom would be late to pick me up.

Patti and Grace Halula
Patti Halula, left, says there is no rule book when it comes to raising children, especially when you have cancer.

I often wore a locket with her photo in it and I would wear it each day she had an appointment.

As I grew older, my mom and I grew closer as I fully grasped the situation. There would be times where my mom wouldn’t be there for major events and memories, like my first marching band performance or first band competition. It would be a little sad for me. I lived with the anxiety that something would happen to her and I was going to miss out on those moments with my mom. It made it better knowing that I would still get to see her and tell her everything once I made it home.

I grew even less dependent on her as I started driving and spending more of my time with friends. Growing apart felt a bit more guilt-filled as I would run out the door at the last second and forget that locket. I would always be able to come home and talk about her day and appointments though. I never really grew farther away from her due to my understanding and appreciation of the time we have together.

Though it’s a dreadful thing to consider — having to tell a child or family member about cancer — I am thankful she told me. It has given me the opportunity to be a lot closer with my mother and really value all the time we spend together, whether it’s typical mother-daughter arguments, the emotional moments or all the happy ones. Every moment with her is one I will never take for granted.

Living with my mother and her condition definitely affected my childhood experience, but I still had my childhood with my mom, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.


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