As Mother’s Day nears, our hearts go out to every mom who has been told her baby has cancer. We asked five of our Rally Kid Moms – Jen, Courtney, Shauna, Josie and Tami – to share what motherhood looks like to them since facing the childhood cancer beast. Each has a different story but the same passion whether their child gained their angel wings, they are in the throes of fighting childhood cancer or their child is currently beating the odds.

Forty-six kids are diagnosed with cancer each school day. Not only does this mean that 46 moms hear that their baby has cancer, but it means that they quickly learn the hard facts of childhood cancer:

  • Cancer is the #1 disease killer of kids in America.
  • Kids get different kinds of cancer than adults do.
  • Less than 4% of the federal funding for cancer research funds research about childhood cancers.
  • The average age of death for a child with cancer is eight.

The stats alone are compelling enough to join the fight against childhood cancer. The stories of our Rally Kid Moms will inspire you to join the fight today and donate to Rally in honor of these courageous women. They are so strong for their children, and together, we can be strong for them and make a difference by raising money to fund the most-promising childhood cancer research across the globe.

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Rally Kid Kristen with her mom Jen. Kristen is beating blood cancer.

Jen, Mom of Rally Kid Kristen:

What does Mother’s Day mean to you having gone through childhood cancer?

Mother’s Day is special for every mom, but it becomes a day you never take for granted when you’ve had a child battle cancer. The life you had before hearing the words, “Your child has cancer,” seems to be a thing of the past. Nothing else matters anymore besides caring for that child and trying to provide the most normal childhood you can for their siblings. Then (if you’re lucky) some years later life begins to feel better. You never stop praying for the moms you’ve met whose babies now live on in Heaven. You wonder how come it’s taking so long to find a cure for every child, and then you see over and over how uninvolved the federal government and big name groups that fund research for adult cancers are. To tell you the truth it hurts your heart, and you feel like you have to do more to help.

What words of advice do you have for moms of children currently fighting cancer?

My advice to moms with children currently fighting cancer would be to do what my husband told me to do in 2007 – “Take one day at a time.” We looked for joy and things to be grateful for every day and focused on those. Even if it was something as small as not being in the hospital or that the sun was shining. Keeping your spirits up is absolutely necessary to remain positive for your child. If you need to scream, pillows work well. Crying in the laundry room or shower is therapeutic, too, but dust yourself off and go back to him or her with that tender smile they love to see.

What is something you have achieved as a mom since your child finished fighting cancer that makes you proud?

The thing I am the most proud of that our family has achieved together since 2007 when Kristen was diagnosed with leukemia is the love we show to other families who have children facing cancer. All four of us have been there for others in our own ways. We would give anything to make it stop. We will continue asking people to donate to life-saving research for children until there is no such thing as cancer in kids. I just hope and pray that day is soon.

Rally Kid Brecklynn with her mom Courtney. Brecklynn is currently fighting solid tumor cancer.

Courtney, Mom of Rally Kid Brecklynn:

What does Mother’s Day mean to you while you’re going through childhood cancer?

Going through childhood cancer makes you appreciate each moment with your children more than ever. My whole life I knew I wanted to be a mom and knew I would love it, but I had no idea just how much love my heart could hold. Brecklynn made me a mommy, which is truly the best job in the world. Before the cancer I loved being a mommy, and after cancer, I have realized just how precious life is. Every day is such a gift because no one is promised tomorrow. Mother’s Day means God has blessed me with another day to raise two precious little girls.

What keeps you strong for your child?

My faith in God is definitely the main way I have been able to keep going through this incredibly difficult journey. Seeing the amount of strength Brecklynn has shown really keeps me going because if she is the one actually going through all the pain and treatment, then I can be strong enough to hold her hand through it all. Also, the tremendous amount of love and support we have received from our family and community, since the beginning, has really kept us strong and pushing through the difficult times. We feel the love and the prayers, and that makes a difference.

Rally Kid Hailey with her mom Shauna.

Rally Kid Hailey with her mom Shauna. Hailey bravely fought brain cancer before losing her battle in 2010.

Shauna, Mom of Rally Kid Hailey:

What is your favorite Mother’s Day memory?

Mother’s Day 2008 – the year Hailey was born. All four of my kids were together, healthy and with me. I do not have any other Mother’s Day memories like that. Hailey was either sick or in the hospital in 2009 and 2010, so I am so thankful I have that one with all four of my babies.

It is hard to imagine how painful it is to “celebrate” Mother’s Day when your child has earned her angel wings. Our hearts break just thinking about it. What is the best piece of advice you have for mothers who are experiencing their first Mother’s Day with an angel?

My advice is to take some time alone with your thoughts. Look at a photo album, a video, anything that reminds you of your child, and just “be.” Allow the memories to flood your mind, and allow those emotions to overwhelm you for a while. Cry, yell, scream, tell your child you miss them and love them and will never forget them. You need that. You need to allow yourself time to remember your child and to grieve. Don’t fight back tears or emotions. It will hurt. The pain is always there, but we push it down most days so we can “live.” Don’t push it down this time – just let it out. Feel the pain, the sadness, the confusion. And in that moment, talk to your child.

Friends and family may feel like they need to walk on eggshells around you when it comes to Mother’s Day. What advice do you have for them when it comes to how they treat you or what they say to you on Mother’s Day after losing your child?

My advice is to talk about Hailey. I LOVE remembering her, talking about her and sharing stories about her. Don’t avoid the subject. She was and is my child and will always be with me. Talking about her helps me remember how amazing she was and reminds me that she is with me always.

Rally Kid Asher with his mom Josie. Asher is currently fighting eye cancer.

Josie, Mom of Rally Kid Asher:

What does Mother’s Day mean to you while you’re going through childhood cancer?

In my opinion, every day is Mother’s Day when you have a child with cancer because every day you have with your children is a blessing and a gift. Even the bad days when you, as a mother, don’t think you can take one more minute, and just want to pull your hair out, those days are still gifts. They are gifts because you still have your children by your side. You still have a child to hold, to wipe their tears and runny noses, to rock to sleep at night, to tell “no” to a millions times, and to tickle and hear the sweet sound of their silly giggles. These are things that so many of us take for granted when we have healthy children because that can all change in a matter of minutes. You never think your child will become a statistic, but cancer doesn’t discriminate no matter who your child is. Honestly, Mother’s Day really isn’t about me anymore. It’s about my children, cherishing every little moment with them, keeping them safe, fighting for a cure with my son and praying that the healthy two never have to be without their brother. Its celebrating the fact that I was chosen to be their mom.

What keeps you strong for your child?

This is a question that I get asked all of the time. People are always telling me how strong I am, or saying, “I don’t see how you do it,” or “There is no way I would be functioning as well as you are.” But, the honest truth is, that I’m really not. I am not made of iron and steel. I don’t always have an optimistic attitude, and my chin is not always up. I am human, and I cry. I cry a lot. I have my good days, and I have my not-so-good days. As an already anxious person, even prior to having my three children under nine years old, one who has been battling cancer since he was four months old (he is now three), my anxiety these days is off the charts. Cancer diagnoses are life altering, especially when it involves one of your babies. So, I’m not all sunshine and rainbows these days, and I will be the first to come out and say it. But, I will say that it is my children who are my strength. My nine- and five-year-old daughters and three-year-old son with cancer have more strength than a million men combined. Especially my Asher. He has proven and taught my husband and me so much in his three years of life. He is the epitome of strength, as most kids who face this disease are. They are my inspiration to remain strong and not give up on this fight until a cure has been found.

Rally Kid Audrey with her mom Tami. Audrey is beating solid tumor cancer.

Tami, Mom of Rally Kid Audrey:

What does Mother’s Day mean to you having gone through childhood cancer?

Having battled our way through childhood cancer, Mother’s Day has new meaning. Audrey’s oncologist confirmed she had cancer when she was six months old. I cried and couldn’t help but think I finally had my perfect little family, and now cancer was trying to steal it from me. I wondered if the previous Mother’s Day just two months before would be our last one as a family of five. Oh how I wanted to travel back to that carefree day, but I could not. Cancer was our new reality, and at stage 3, I knew we were in for the fight of our lives.

My mind can never go back to how it was BC (before cancer). And at this point, I don’t want it to. Childhood cancer has given me a fresh new look at parenting. I don’t have time to sweat the small stuff with my children. Our days are numbered, and I want to get the most out of every day. Thank you, cancer, for teaching me how to live in the moment and with an abundance of gratitude, as though every day is Mother’s Day.

What is something you have achieved as a mom since your child finished fighting cancer that makes you proud?

As a mom, the greatest achievement I have made is discovering the truth about childhood cancer, but with this newfound knowledge comes a dose of pain. For now I know the financial constraints to finding better treatments and ultimately cures. Children’s cancer isn’t profitable. It’s rare, and yet it’s the leading cause of death by disease in children. How can it be rare and yet take the lives of so many children each year?

It’s hard to believe that many children’s chemotherapies are older than I am. It’s hard to believe I’ve attended 22 childhood cancer funerals in six and a half years. There are so many truths that are hard to believe, and yet, they’re true.

My daughter’s fight has ended, but I choose to stay and fight for the other families left in cancer’s wake. I’m proud to make my voice heard at the Georgia Capitol. I’m proud to attend rallies for children. I’m proud to stand up and fight for those too weak and beaten down by cancer to do it themselves. For with great knowledge comes an even greater responsibility to the truth.

We wish all mothers a Happy Mother’s Day, and we Rally On for all moms who have fought and are fighting childhood cancer. You inspire us.

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