While there are many physical challenges that come with raising a child when you are living with GIST, Dana Pearson puts her energy into conquering the mental ones.
The 45-year-old Chesterfield, Va., mother of three boys copes by “trying to stay positive.”
She keeps a saying she likes nearby: “Don’t borrow trouble from tomorrow, because today has enough.”
Diagnosed with GIST in February 2012, she is well aware of “the mental toll” living with cancer has brought her. She says staying positive is her biggest challenge as a mother.
A few of the thoughts that reoccur: “How long will Gleevec continue to work on me? Will the other line of defenses work? The thought of leaving my sons and husband brings me to tears!!! Thinking of how my seven-year-old will cope with my death.”
While her older sons, Josh, 24, and C.J., 19, understand what she is going through and help support her, one of the biggest challenges she had was how to tell her younger son about the cancer.
“We talked to a child psychologist and agreed that he doesn’t need to know a lot of information until we really know something definite about what’s going to happen.” He understands that his mother has a rare disease, but isn’t burdened by the details or the severity of it.
Dana says exercise helps her stay ahead of both the physical and mental challenges.
“I exercise five days a week, both walking and cycling,” she says. While she gets some fatigue occasionally, she feels fortunate that it hasn’t stopped her from staying active.
Skin issues like rashes don’t get in the way of motherhood, she said. “We’re all in different stages of GIST, everyone’s different.”
Her husband, Carl, is supportive and goes to all her doctor appointments and scans with her.
She has also found support in The Life Raft Group. “I’m so glad I got connected and educated about the illness,” she said. “It’s made a big difference. I’m more prepared for whatever the disease is going to bring me.”
Building a support system is crucial to mothers with GIST, she said. “I hope that everyone facing GIST has a support system. Otherwise you can feel very frustrated.”
While her oldest son will miss her Mother’s Day celebration this year because he is stationed in the army in Oklahoma, she planned to “go out for a nice dinner” with the rest of her family.
“Cancer has definitely given me a renewed love of life. I appreciate all the little things that before I hadn’t taken the time to notice. I live each day to the fullest. Who knows a bus may run over me before the GIST gets me.”