Parenting with Cancer: 7 Unforgettable Life Lessons

Life isn’t easy. And parenting is so hard that we laugh, cry, caffeinate, and drink ourselves silly just to make it to snack time. But parenting with cancer … that’s asking too much! Maybe pneumonia….

tuned-in-parents-jill-barberMeet tuned in parent Jill Barber. This is how she looked when I met her in Los Angeles as a double-degree holding aspiring actress holding down two jobs while raising three kids. Our kids play together at birthday parties, everything is normal, until one day it’s not. Jill’s doctors find tumors in her left breast. They diagnose her with an aggressive form of breast cancer: Her2-Overexpress, with little chance of survival.

Jill is snatched from her working mom world and thrown into a surreal and painful world of chemotherapy, surgery, and uncertainty. She worries most about her family, especially her three little ones. She pushes herself to make life as normal as possible for them. She takes them to school functions; my family and I still see her and the kids at birthday parties; she goes to the gym, even date night with her husband.

Parenting with cancer is anything but easy. Witnessing Jill’s determination, strength, resiliency, even humor despite an agonizing, and sometimes impossible, predicament along her journey is truly encouraging. If you ever feel utterly overwhelmed — whether by illness, grief, fear, or unrelenting obstacles — the following life lessons inspired by Jill’s story will change you.

Parenting with Cancer: 7 Unforgettable Life Lessons


tuned-in-parents-jill-barber-son-hugging-head-with-new-hair-growth1. While kids can push a parent’s patience to the edge of a cliff, when it comes down to it, their love can inspire a parent to cheat death.

Truth. Sometimes life gives you challenges that are too much to bear, but when you’re not just living for yourself but for your children, as well, there’s virtually nothing you can’t overcome with their love strengthening you.

Photo to the left: Jill and her son—one of her three amazing children. They’ve been through so much. Help Jill and her family; please donate to Jill’s GoFundMe page.

2. Moms are the real-life inspiration for fictional superheroes.

Moms stopped sleeping back in 3500 B.C. Moms have astonishing cognitive abilities—solving 152 problems while juggling 12 hats at any given moment. Moms run corporations and governments while breastfeeding in high heels. Moms don’t take sick days. Moms, like Jill, kickbox and ride bumper cars with their kids between chemo treatments (true story).

tuned-in-parents-jill-barber-as-furiosa3. Give yourself time and space to vent and/or grieve, then channel your inner warrior.

When experiencing hardship, parents often have to keep it together in front of the kids while falling apart on the inside. But this predicament can delay healing. Instead, find a supportive space to let it out. When you do, you’ll be more open to tapping into your inner strength so you can fight on.

When Jill’s fabulous, fiery locks began to wither and fall out, she was devastated! She took the time to mourn the loss of her beautiful hair and what it meant, then shaved it off, declaring herself a warrior in a victorious photo she posted on Facebook. I called her “Imperator Furiosa,” from Charlize Theron’s character in “Mad Max: Fury Road.”

4. When life breaks you down, you can fall, you can break, but you do what you have to do to get back up … no matter how long it takes, no matter how many times you break.

5. When motivated, you get s*** done.

In her blog post entitled “In the Back of the Minivan,” Jill describes a hilarious and omg-if-that-happened-to-me-I’d-die experience during a recovery period after chemotherapy. She was feeling well enough to take one of her three children to a speech appointment and was surprised by an urgent chemo side-effect (a rather inconvenient one when you’re driving without access to a bathroom). Long story short — skip to number 6 if you’re squeamish — Jill pulled over, jumped in the back of the minivan (with her son watching from the car seat), Mom-MacGyvered contents from a diaper bag, apologized for possibly scarring him for life, and walked into his speech appointment on time with her head held high.

6. No more excuses. 

If Jill, mom of three, made it to the gym while undergoing cancer treatment, then none of us has any excuses anymore. Like NONE. Start small — like taking a walk with a friend, or walking around the park when the kids are playing — and just keep swimming moving. (Thanks a lot, Jill. I guess we’ll all be a lot healthier physically and emotionally now — or feel that much more guilty for not going and still blaming the kids.)

7. The power of strange kindness can be doubly wonderful.


When a stranger shows you kindness, it leaves an impression and inspires hope and the desire to pass on more kindness. Isn’t that a remarkable phenomenon?

I am elated to share that Jill recently underwent surgery and is now cancer-free! I have no doubt that her positive energy, determination, abundance of love from family, friends, and kind strangers, alike, had a hand in helping her beat the odds.

tuned-in-parents-jill-barber-and-family-cancer-survivorsJill does, however, have a lot more fighting ahead of her to remain cancer-free, including reconstruction surgeries, Herceptin treatments, and a multitude of doctors appointments, all while not being able to work but still trying to support her family.

Sow some good karma—donate to Jill’s GoFundMe page. Even if it’s just $1. And if you don’t have $1, share her story and tag someone. Jill’s story is inspiring others to acts of kindness! Even a mortgage lender has pledged 100% of its new loan proceeds to helping fight breast cancer—a mortgage lender! Spread kindness and inspiration here, and help Jill support her family of 5 while continuing the good fight. Thank you! You’re amazing!

About Elle C. Mayberry

Elle C. Mayberry is a mom and author, who just released a new children’s book with her young daughter. With a passion for parenting and degrees in psychology and “make it workology,” she created Tuned In Parents (TiP).

7 comments on “Parenting with Cancer: 7 Unforgettable Life Lessons

  1. Pingback: Shine Blog Hop #120 - A Touch of Grace

  2. Wow, what an inspiration Jill is. I can’t believe she still made it to the gym while undergoing chemo. Thanks for sharing her remarkable story and putting things in perspective for the rest of us.

    Thanks for sharing with Small Victories Sunday Linkup and I hope you link up with our Pretty Pinterest Party that starts tomorrow too. Pinning to our linkup board and hope you found some great posts to visit this week!
    Tanya @ Mom’s Small Victories recently posted…Life After Coffee by Virginia Franken Review & GIVEAWAY: A Hilarious Must-Read for Stressed Out MomsMy Profile

    • Thank you for your encouraging comments and for sharing Jill’s inspiring story on Twitter, Tanya.
      We look forward to connecting further with you and more moms here and your linkups. 🙂

  3. Jill is uniquely remarkable, that’s for sure. But her struggle shows us that when we experience life’s most challenging hardships–operative word being when, not if–we learn deeper truths about our inner strengths.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge