In the summer of 2017, the Clinton family received their youngest daughter Breslyn’s diagnosis of brain cancer. “For me it was like the end of the world. I was so terrified and devastated. Nothing seemed normal or real. I literally fell on the floor. It was like I opened a door and walked into a horror movie and the door closed behind me. Nothing would ever be the same after that point,” Kendra said.
The diagnosis started a long treatment plan consisting first of a craniotomy, months in the hospital following her surgery due to many complications, and 60 rounds of weekly chemotherapy. “Everything about treatments and surgeries was difficult. Seeing my daughter in pain and reaching out for me to help her, and not being able to do anything was the worst feeling in the world.”
They were unable to remove Breslyn’s entire tumor due to the locations. “We are still followed closely with blood tests and regular MRI. She also suffers from the mental and physical side effects from her condition and the treatments. Mentally it has been tough. She has anxiety and panic attacks. She has become quite withdrawn and very attached to me. It is sad to see how much this is affecting her.”
However, the power of community has helped the Clintons heal through their journey. Facebook groups for parents of children with brain tumors became a safe haven for the Clintons to vent frustrations, ask questions, and share concerns. Of course, Rett’s Roost is a part of their community too. When asked about a favorite memory from a retreat, Kendra said, “My favorite memory from Rett’s Roost was watching the kids write and perform a song about their experience with cancer. It was so profound and beautiful. The way that kids simplistically describe a very complex situation was powerful.”
Kendra’s advice for families and friends when someone receives a cancer diagnosis?
Step up. They may not know what they need so they may not be able to ask so just do something. Whether it be a phone call, walking their dogs, taking the siblings out for the day, making a meal, a card….just something. More than likely they feel alone and scared. Show them that they are not alone.
For families who have a child with a cancer dx:
Try to focus on the positive. Focus on making the best and finding joy and laughter throughout the day. Also it’s ok to cry in front of your kids. My daughter says she was very confused because I chose to shelter her from as much as I could but kids are smarter than we give them credit for.”