Elisha’s favorite impersonation of me lately is “I was robbed!”
She always said she’d finish high school early and apply to college right away. And it’s not that I didn’t believe her, I just somehow thought it wouldn’t come so quickly.
Yes, I know every mom I know has said “it goes fast” at least once. But I signed up for 157,680 hours. I was supposed to get a full 18 years of Elisha.
She’s leaving before her birthday, and that’s why I felt robbed, even though I really am proud of her and the incredible young woman she’s become.
It’s hard to let go.
Yes, I’m a dramatic, intense, attached mom. But we all have these moments, right? Please tell me I’m not the only one.
And yet, for a protective mom, that mom who is always investing in our family health and our family safety, I can be so unaware.
Elisha has spent the past three months cooking virtual dinners and teaching families to eat healthier and she’s been really focused on upgrading her nutrition knowledge and habits, too.
She’s bringing her own cookware to her dorm and she even chatted with the campus grocery store to make sure they have vegan protein options.
I’m not going to say I’m surprised she’s so determined and so focused on her health, but I will tell you I was in tears when I found out “her WHY.”
A few weeks ago, I was telling her just how proud I am of her and recounting all of her achievements just this past year: graduating high school, her amazing ACT scores, editing and illustrating a bestselling award-winning book, finishing the manuscript for her own book, getting her driver’s license, getting into her dream college with scholarships in place, and so much more.
Then she started talking about her health and I lost it when she said:
“Knowing you had cancer is always in the back of my mind and I know I am at a higher risk.”
Ufff… the tears.
Then and now.
Can you believe I never thought of it that way?
Cancer was hard, and yet it’s something God helped me conquer. It’s a story I tell in the past tense and I see it as a victory.
I didn’t even want to think about the possibility that any of my children could go through that much fear, pain, and struggle. And yet… it can happen to anyone.
I haven’t been robbed.
This conversation put so much into perspective for me. My children teach me so much!
While my separation anxiety is real and valid, and I am going to miss having my girl at home, I am reassured because she wants and knows how to take care of herself.
There are so many parents who have really been robbed because diseases like cancer have taken their children.
Elisha and I have been talking about going for a health check before she’s college bound in a few weeks, and we decided to ask her doctor about the HPV vaccine, even though she’s outside the preferred range of 9 – 12-years-old. Late is better than never.
Not too long ago, I found out that each year, more than 35,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with a cancer caused by HPV (human papillomavirus).
You’ve probably heard of HPV before, but did you know that many HPV infections don’t go away and can cause cancer?
HPV related cancers
The HPV vaccine can prevent more than 90% of HPV cancers!
- Cervical cancer
- Cancer inside the vagina (vaginal cancer) or outside the vagina (vulvar cancer)
- Cancer of the penis (penile cancer)
- Cancer of the anus (anal cancer) or rectum (rectal cancer)
- Cancer of the throat (oropharyngeal cancer), including the base of the tongue and tonsils
HPV is a group of more than 150 viruses called Human Papillomavirus. HPV spreads through intimate skin-to-skin contact, commonly through vaginal, oral, or anal sex.
HPV is so common in the United States that about 8 out of 10 people have it, and the scariest part is that HPV may not cause symptoms and can be spread and contracted without knowing.
Most HPV infections go away on their own, but some can cause cancer or other health problems, like genital warts.
Why worry about HPV?
I want to protect my children against everything and I especially want to protect my children from cancer, but I guess I thought they were too young.
Why would I worry about things like HPV when they aren’t sexually active and they don’t plan to be until marriage? They also plan to be monogamous after marriage.
I believe them.
And yet, it’s like when Elisha went out on the road, driving on her own. She reassured me she would be a careful, responsible driver, and I knew with every fiber of my being that she would be.
“But there are so many crazy drivers out there, mi hija.”
Safety isn’t a guarantee when there are others involved.
I remember how nervous I was when I was tested for sexually transmitted infections after I was kidnapped and assaulted at only 19 years old.
Or how heartbroken I was when I was tested again last year when I was pregnant with Elydia, even when I was married and monogamous.
Thankfully, the HPV vaccine is very effective at preventing cancer and many other health problems caused by the virus.
I am encouraging my daughters to get it so they are protected before they are exposed to a disease.
What Doctors Recommend
Doctors recommend that preteen and teen boys and girls ages 9 through 12 get 2 doses of the HPV vaccine, while teens and young adults ages 13 through 26 need 3 doses.
Some adults older than age 26 may benefit from getting the HPV vaccine, but it is not recommended for everyone, so talking to a doctor first is a wise choice, especially if you are pregnant or have any allergies.
Overall, the HPV vaccine works best when given between the ages of 9 and 12, but many preteens do not receive the two shots.
The State Of Texas
In Texas, where we live, the vaccination rate is surprisingly low among children ages 13 to 17. Only 43.5% of kids in Texas receive the vaccine, ranking 39th out of 50 states!
But now that we know that the HPV vaccine prevents cancer, we can turn this around.
I always get educated about vaccinations before considering them, so I was happy to learn that the HPV vaccine has been researched for over 12 years, with ongoing monitoring to ensure it’s safe and effective, and that it provides long-lasting protection in preventing six types of cancer.
You can find the facts on this website, and I definitely recommend asking your child’s doctor about the HPV vaccine.
The benefits of HPV vaccination far outweigh any potential side effects: fever, headache, nausea, dizziness or fainting, and pain, redness or swelling in the arm where the shot was given.
Yeah, those don’t sound fun, but I’m a cancer survivor, and though going through cancer taught me a lot, I would have preferred to learn those lessons by experiencing those mild side effects.
Making the Choice
I am choosing to protect my children from cancer, and getting vaccinated against HPV now is the best way to prevent HPV cancers later.
I’m not making this decision out of fear. I really don’t know whether there will be a possibility that my children will or won’t be at risk. I don’t know everything, but I want to do everything to protect my children from cancer.
My conversation with Elisha was very powerful. I am grateful that she is paving the path for her sisters in so many ways.
She is a pioneer and a leader, and I want to support her in staying healthy so she can change the world with her gifts and her power.
How do you protect your children from cancer? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
© Elayna Fernández ~ The Positive MOM
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