The Lactation Pharmacist guest post in honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Leslie Southard, PharmD, BCACP, CLC is a community pharmacist turned lactation activist on a mission to “provide up-to-date, evidence-based information regarding medications and lactation so individuals are able to make educated decisions regarding their health while reaching their lactating goals, and so healthcare providers can make the best recommendations for their lactating patients,” as she describes in her The Lactation Pharmacist bio.

Last year, Southard published Stop Using the Words “Just” and “Only”, a piece describing part of her journey navigating childhood cancer.

In honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, Southard’s work and her family’s journey fighting cancer, we’re republishing that piece here on Our Milky Way.

You can find more at The Lactation Pharmacist blog here.

Stop Using the Words “Just” and “Only”

LESLIE SOUTHARD

As a newly inducted member of a group no one wants to be apart of – the Cancer Mom group – I’ve had a lot of emotions. Our world changed with one touch, and then one doctor’s appointment, and then a series of tests that led to the ultimate diagnosis: cancer. I’ve never experienced so many emotions in such a short period of time and forced to keep going with the rest of my life. This has led to a lot of thinking and working through what I’m feeling, because you can’t earn a living to support your family if you’re an emotional blob that breaks down every 5 minutes.

Multiple people recently told me “it’s just/only hair, it’ll grow back” when I told them that my daughter’s hair was falling out. This made my blood boil, and it took me a while to figure out why. Here’s the deal – it’s NOT “just” hair. If it was, we’d all be able to just up and shave our heads without any concern. My daughter’s hair represents so much in this cancer journey. We lost our lives as we knew them as soon as the doctor’s appointments and tests started. My daughter is losing a chunk of her childhood – no, not just the part that involves treatment, but the years after for follow up. My husband and I were robbed of the “easy” parental concerns. Now, we’re on high alert any time she spikes a fever, stumbles, mentions something is cold when it’s not, doesn’t pee or poop as much as normal, complains about her stomach hurting, etc. Any of those issues could mean a call to the doctor, a trip to the emergency room, or a side effect of her chemotherapy. Cancer has given me a whole list of worries I never expected. This person had no way of knowing how I’d feel about such a seemingly harmless statement, but it’s important to know that it isn’t and won’t ever be “just” or “only” hair.

This has made me think of all the other times we use the words “just” or “only”. I “just” had a cesarean birth. I “only” lactated for 2 days. I “only” pumped 2 ounces. I “only” lost 2 pounds. It’s “just” a job.

STOP.

By using the words “just” and “only”, you are dismissing all the emotional turmoil something caused you, dismissing all the hard work you put into something, dismissing what the rest of that statement means to you. DROP the “just” and “only” words from your vocabulary. What you did, what has happened to you, what you’re going through MATTERS, and the words ”just” and “only” rob you of that importance.