Becoming an Empty Nester With Blood Cancer

Recently, my son graduated from high school. My baby, the youngest of my three children, will leave for college in a few months. I will be staying behind, contemplating my empty nest.

Focusing on others, not myself

Since my blood cancer diagnosis in 2018, I have never lived alone, except for a few stretches during the pandemic. And although I’m still planning on manifesting a life partner, I have not been looking. Instead, I have been soaking in as much time with my son as possible before he heads off to college in the fall.

Even though it has been a while since I had a whole house of kids, I’m sure I will notice the quiet and empty, too-clean bedrooms a bit more during the day. Text messages will replace those how-was-your-day conversations over dinner. FaceTime will have to substitute for real time.

Changing life, changing roles

I won’t be entirely alone, because I still have my labradoodle, Ziggy. But oh, how I will miss the day-to-day parenting. From a young age, I knew I wanted the title of Mom. I stayed home with the kids (and even homeschooled) for many years. I have spent nearly half of my life with kids in my home. It's hard to recall what I did with my days before babies came crying and cooing into my world.

Then after my diagnosis 5 years ago, roles shifted a bit as I leaned on them a little more for help. My middle daughter became my caregiver the summer of my stem cell transplant, right before she left for college. Since she’s been gone, my son has helped with everything from cleaning and driving to mowing and shoveling.

I am not the active, working mom they knew before, but I have still been able to take on the lion’s share of mom duties that I did before my diagnosis.

From caring for kids to caring for myself

When I was a young parent, I always wondered how it would be when all 3 of my children flew the coop.  It seemed like such a long way off. Now, it feels like just yesterday when I was knee-deep in diapers, longing for just a wink of time alone to explore hobbies and friendships and enjoy precious alone time.

The scenery looks different than I imagined it. I didn’t think I would be facing an empty nest alone and with blood cancer.

The busyness of having kids at home has been a helpful distraction these past 5 years. But now my focus will have to shift from caring for my kids to caring for myself. I will have time for doing things that I enjoy. More time for writing, drawing, and painting. More opportunities to connect with myself, others, and God. More time to contemplate what it is I really want out of this lifetime.

Feeling grateful

I’m so appreciative of all the time I have had with my children. I have seen all of them graduate from high school, two graduate from college, and one get married.

A blood cancer diagnosis hasn’t made life any easier, but it certainly has helped me appreciate the things that matter. And even though I’ll be living alone, hours away from my kids, I will not waste a single day feeling lonely. I have my dog, friends, and family, alone time – and FaceTime.

I will always be Mom. And although I’ll be less involved in their day-to-day lives, I now get to sit back, just a little, and watch how all the time and love I invested helps shape their lives. And hopefully, by having more time to take care of myself, I'll be around longer to take care of them.

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