What I Learned From a Two-Year-Old: Lessons learned when Mom got cancer

I got to live with a two-year-old once. His name is Caleb, the son of my wife’s brother, Chris. The whole family stayed with us for a month while Chris, a medical student, rotated at our clinic.

Caleb was adorable and brought great joy to my wife Melanie. His big brown eyes and toothy smile had a way of lighting up the world around him.

But they don’t call it the terrible twos for nothing and Caleb had his moments. Most notable was the degree to which he was clingy to his mother. Even if she left the room for a moment, Caleb would begin to whimper or cry.

Well, one day, in an effort to help with Caleb’s attachment issues, Chris and his wife decided to go on a date with just the two of them. They slipped out without telling Caleb who was blissfully playing in the backyard watched by Melanie.

On my way inside the house I saw Chris and his wife backing out of the driveway. He waved and wished me good luck. He knew what was about to take place.

Stepping into the house, I heard the sounds of a gleeful 2-year-old playing outside. He didn’t know yet. But that would soon change.

Caleb ran into the house and into the guest room where his parents usually stayed. No parents there. He looked into our bedroom. He got the same result. Caleb began to whimper. He ran back outside and then back into the guest room. Still no Mommy or Daddy.

Now he was crying for Mommy and Daddy. You want to play, Caleb? You want to play? My wife asked to no avail. The boy wanted one thing and we didn’t have it.

Caleb now was at the front door turning the knob. You want to look for Mommy and Daddy? I asked. Okay, let’s go!

Melanie and I took Caleb outside and started walking toward the neighborhood playground. We pointed to various objects and asked Caleb to name the color. The distraction seemed to calm him down for a few minutes before he again erupted into tears.

On the playground his mood improved temporarily. He climbed up the stairs and went down the slides. His most enjoyable activity comprised of throwing wood chips up in the air that covered the ground.

As soon as we headed home the cries for mommy and daddy erupted again. When we returned to an empty house, Caleb collapsed to the floor crying.

The only thing that brought this boy comfort was the embrace of Mom and Dad after their short date.

Comparing Perspectives

In this experience I was struck by the difference in perspectives. To this2-year-oldd, his world was collapsing all around him. The source of his love, comfort, food and care were gone. He was crushed. His parents had abandoned him. And in Caleb’s mind he would be utterly alone forever.

Melanie and I had another perspective much less dramatic. Caleb’s parents would only be gone for an hour before returning home. He was not abandoned but needed to learn to be without his parents and trust the supervision of other loved ones. From our perspective, Caleb would be just fine.

When I Learned Mom Got Cancer

A few weeks ago I learned my Mom got cancer. Her PET/CT showed evidence of the cancer in her right shoulder, ribs and left heel. It hurt to walk. Just breathing caused her pain. I cried over the phone with Mom the moment she found out. We didn’t know how much time she had left.

The type of cancer was multiple myeloma. Her father had passed away three months after diagnosis at the age of 63. Three of Mom’s friends had died within the same year of being diagnosed with this cancer.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Mom was only 64 and I expected her to at least reach the same age as her own mother, 84. There was supposed to be at least 20 years left for her.

That would be enough time for her to see the birth of my son.

That would be enough time for her to see my sister get married.

That would be enough time for her to see her granddaughters Olivia and Zoey grow up.


Now cancer threatened all of it.


My world was collapsing. I was crushed. God had abandoned me. I was alone.

How I Have the Perspective of a Two-Year-Old

I’ve learned that my perspective is similar to that of a two year old. My view is so small, so limited, so self-centered.

God invites me to trust. And in doing so I take on his perspective. It’s a perspective I want.

It’s bigger.

It’s hopeful.

It’s eternal.

It’s meaningful.


How Much Time Left?

I took a last minute flight to Houston to be with my Mom during her doctor’s appointment. The doctors gave us hope. God gave us hope.

The doctors explained to us that though it was affecting her bones, this cancer was still in the early stages. And with current therapies the median survival was 7-10 years.

Maybe there was more time than I originally thought. I probably don’t have 20 more years left with Mom. But maybe we can get 10 more years.

Meanwhile, I’ll be treasuring the few moments I have left with my mom.

Meanwhile, I’m learning to take a bigger perspective.

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  • Reply Susan Stilwell September 8, 2017 at 9:17 pm

    God be with you, Melanie, and your Mom plus your whole family! He will be with you and carry you all through this time of difficulty, and like we all have a choice to learn, we can trust God more and more, and be better prepared for the trying times ahead! And thank God, the overall hope to keep before us…we have the Hope of Everlasting Life with our Lord and our loved ones to look forward to, if we remain faithful! May we each one give our hearts completely to Jesus, and be ready for that great day!!
    Love your moving and honest openness in this blog! God’s Blessings!!

  • Reply Dulce September 8, 2017 at 10:42 pm

    This article is full of meaning to me. I enjoyed reading through the story of Caleb’s predicament and am touched by the lesson you drew from it. God has given you the gift of insight to be able to see meaningful lessons in even the ordinary things of life. . God can use your Mom’s illness to paint a picture of His magnificent kindness and love. May He always be glorified!

  • Reply Jewel September 9, 2017 at 6:35 pm

    Gosh, I’m so sorry to hear about your Mom Andrew. I’ve also recently been dealing with a sick Mom. It’s heartbreaking. It feels like your world is falling apart. What a beautiful thought about perspective. It does make all the difference. Will keep your Mom and your family in my prayers. Miss you friend.

    • Reply Andrew Roquiz September 12, 2017 at 5:26 am

      Hi Friend, it’s been so long. I know our lives have been so busy going in different directions. Thank you for reaching out and praying for me during this time of need.

  • Reply Linda Okra September 14, 2017 at 4:08 pm

    Thanks for this article Andrew. I’ve been inspired to adjust my perspectives just like you have in such a difficult situation. My prayer is with you and the family. God has your mom.

  • Reply Ariel September 15, 2017 at 9:13 am

    Hi Roq.
    So sorry to hear about your mom, but reading this was encouraging.
    Perspective taking is crucial, and we must trust that God knows it all. In the interim, make every day count with your mom and leave nothing unsaid. Those are things that helped me with Dad’s cancer struggle, and that still gives me comfort now that he’s at rest.
    Hugs and prayers for your family and am here if you need to talk!

    • Reply Andrew Roquiz September 26, 2017 at 5:40 am

      Ariel, you’ve been such a reliable friend throughout the years. Appreciate your thoughts and prayers. And yes, I’d love to get your perspective one of these days.

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