The Elephant in the Room is Cancer. Tea is the Relief Conversation Provides.

Broken But Not Defeated

by Sarah BartoszCaregiverJanuary 2, 2020View more posts from Sarah Bartosz

Dear Cancer,

Why did you break my ankle? Yeah, I see you pointing your finger at other possible sources for my injury. Perhaps you think the UNO cards I slipped on as I was rushing into my son’s bedroom are the logical culprit. I hear your snarky remarks, “maybe if you made your son clean his room this wouldn’t have happened.” I can anticipate your deflection of liability. But cancer, there is no denying it, this is all your fault. You see, I was rushing into that room to comfort a little boy who was struggling. A little boy who was broken.

Yes, UNO cards make for a good story, one that allows friends and acquaintances to roll their eyes and tell me to slow down. A story that is easier to comprehend and brush off than a story about a little boy whose life was irreparably changed by cancer. You see, those UNO cards were his solace the night before when a simple game in bed gave him a bit of comfort to go to sleep and relax from deep anxiety, rooted by the impact of losing a brother he never met and a father he dearly misses. Cancer, you took them from our lives, so. . .you are responsible for breaking me.

My ankle is not the only causality of your assaults. You have broken so much more since you made your unwelcome appearance in the life of my family. You broke my heart when you attacked my sweet 4-year-old boy. Every day for nearly seven years as he battled your onslaught, my heart shattered just a little bit more. And on the day you took him from us, I knew the damage you caused could never be repaired. Yet you persisted with your attack, breaking my heart yet again as I watched my husband endure the debilitating side-effects of his own battle when he was a young college co-ed. And again, when you took him from me, you crushed my spirit.

You have broken my little family’s sense of normalcy, and every day we work to claw our way out of the devastation you left in your wake. You are responsible for crushing my daughter. Daily, she mourns the loss of her twin brother, the boy that will always be her best friend. All she really wants is to celebrate milestones with him as her dad cheers them on. You fractured the life of my younger son as he clings to the memories of a dad with whom he wants to play UNO and struggles to understand the loss of a brother who died before he was born. Every step our family takes from this point forward reminds us that these moments were supposed to be celebrated as a family of five, not a family of three.

No matter how hard we try to put you in the past, with hopes of never saying your name again, you are still here cancer. We don’t want to give you the power to break us, but on days when one misplaced step on an UNO card creates a ripple of pain, we are reminded that every part of our lives is a long-term side-effect of your invasive tenacity.

The interesting thing about broken bones is that as the injury heals, the site of the damage is flooded with calcium that fortifies it. It adds strength to the bone and aids in the rebuilding process. This is a beautiful picture of the fortification that families who endure your debilitating impacts often feel . . . this is something you cannot take away, cancer. You cannot confiscate the influence of people who have stood next to me in the darkest hours, holding me up, bolstering me, giving me strength. You cannot destroy the goodness of people who give to philanthropic efforts to stabilize the brokenness of others. You cannot crush the desire to give hope to other families.

Although I will never “move on” from the wounds you have created in my life, you cannot take away my ability to “move forward.” You cannot crush my memories of a beautiful little boy and an amazing man who will forever reside in my broken heart. Cancer, you cannot stop me from holding these things close while I pick-up my shattered spirit and move forward.

Cancer, you will never be able to rob me of the pride I feel when I see the strong, smart, compassionate, and brilliantly beautiful young woman my daughter has become in spite of how you wounded her when you took away her twin and her father. You will never rob my young son of his clever mind, infectious humor, inquisitive nature, and tender heart, even though you stole his daddy and leave him haunted with questions about his brother.

Cancer you may have broken bones, hearts, spirits, and normalcy; but, for me and my family, we will continue build our lives and move forward. Hear me loud and clear, cancer, for all the brokenness you have caused, you will never take away my fervent will to break you to the point you cannot be rebuilt. And when the final card is dealt, the fortification of humanity and hope will be the only winners.

Broken but not Defeated,



All of the posts written for Elephants and Tea are contributed by patients, survivors, caregivers and loved ones dealing with cancer.  If you have a story or experience you would like to share with the cancer community we would love to hear from you!  Please submit your idea at

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