One Minnesota mother is opening up about life as a “cancer mom.”
While many have called her “strong” and told her to “keep up the fight,” Christa Keehr wrote that life as one of the millions of parents of children with cancer is not always so courageous.
“We are tired. We are weak. We are terrified. We wear T-shirts with our kids names on them, and call them fighters and warriors,” Keehr wrote in an emotional post on Rochester MN Moms Blog.
“As cancer moms, we have to pump our children full of toxic medicine, catch their puke buckets, hold them down for pokes and dressing changes, and send them off to surgery, just to cry in the corner of the waiting room.”
Keehr’s 5-year-old daughter, Hannah, was diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroblastoma when she was just 2.
“[She] has been NED (No Evidence of Disease) for over a year,” Keehr tells PEOPLE of Hannah. “She has significant hearing loss from her treatment, so she rocks some hot pink hearing aids. She’s an amazing miracle girl.”
Although Hannah’s health struggles are in the past, Keehr wrote that “the rest of my life will be about childhood cancer.”
“This journey as a cancer mom will never be over. I will never finish the lap and walk away. It will never be completely in the past,” Keehr wrote in the post titled, I Am a Cancer Mom, But Please, Don’t Call Me Strong.
“Even if [Hannah] kicked every last neuroblastoma cell out of her body, my life will forever be centered around this beast that tried to kill my daughter.”
Keehr, who also has a 10-year-old son, Jacob, tells PEOPLE that she writes to process all of the difficult emotions that come with having a child who is sick.
“Some days I feel like I’m pretending when I’m being ‘strong’ as [Hannah’s] mom. It’s such an isolating place as a parent. Having a child with complex medical illness is so stressful and alienating.”
Still, Keehr wrote that there is a sense of unity among parents going through the same struggle.
“We see the reflection of pain behind each other’s smiles,” she wrote. “So, we aren’t strong. We are weathered. Beaten against the jagged, rocky edges of childhood cancer. We stand up each time, go at it again, because that is what we do.”