Before our baby was born, my husband and I both read books on "what to expect." However, nothing we read could have prepared us for what actually happened, both when our baby was born and in the days that followed.
The first episode, "Joanna's Story," of the 10-part CafeMom Studios mini-documentary series, "It's Cancer, Baby" focuses on this time period: the days leading up to the birth of our daughter, and the days after, in which I received my cancer diagnosis.
When CafeMom asked us to open our lives and our home to cameras in order to tell our story, I did not know what to expect. But I wanted to talk about what was happening to us for two reasons. First, I thought it would be a wonderful and unique opportunity to preserve on film what our lives were like as I was going through treatment in Maggie's infancy. I felt that this was something she could watch when she was older, as she'll never remember any of this.
I also thought it would perhaps be helpful for others going through cancer treatment -- directly or indirectly with a loved one -- to see that it was possible to go on living life during treatment. Even to thrive.
It wasn't always pretty. I was honestly too zapped of energy to control how I looked, how my house looked, how my child looked. If someone had wanted to film me in my day-to-day life five years ago, I imagine I would have spent days preparing the house -- down to the cupboards and contents of the refrigerator -- for public viewing. As for my own appearance -- I would have gotten up in the wee hours to prepare hair (assuming I had some), makeup, and wardrobe. I would have done everything I could do to attempt to control how I was perceived, and to try to project my best possible self.
Well, the reality was, I simply didn't have the time for any of that. So what you see in the series is as real as it gets. Oftentimes I'm wearing no makeup. I'm usually wearing my comfy "mom" yoga wear ... sometimes even with spit-up down the front. You see the inside of our disorganized refrigerator and our house with toys strewn about ... probably what you'd see inside the home of any new parents, whether or not one happened to be going through cancer treatment.
There was also nothing I could do to hide the side effects of chemotherapy on my physical appearance. The puffy steroid face, the bloating, the loss of hair and eyelashes. However, this is what cancer treatment looks like. And I'm one of the lucky ones.
It's early yet, and, just like all of you, I've only seen the first episode. I'm going to have to wait like everyone else to see the series unfold. But I have no regrets at this point. This is our life; this is our journey. And I hope you'll come along with us.
Want to watch more of Joanna Montgomery's journey? Subscribe to the CafeMom Studios YouTube Channel and you won't miss a thing.
Image via Brooke Kelly Photography