Madison Lyublanovits (M.N.L.) is 10 years old and a 5th grade student. She has published 2 books. Her debut title is a heartfelt story of a young girl who finds out her mom has breast cancer. Her second book gives kids tips on how to be successful attending classes online. She has been a dancer since the age of 3 and started competing 3 years ago. When she is not dancing, you can find Madison singing her heart out to her favorite Billie Eilish or Ariana Grande songs, learning to play the violin, and creating cool artwork.

When I was about 5 years old, my parents started teaching me about how important it was to be brave. It didn’t matter if it was because I was getting ready for kindergarten, getting a shot at the doctor’s office, or because I was afraid of the dark. They would always tell me to say a quick prayer and do my best. My mom would always tell me “You’ve got this!” any time I got scared, and because of that encouragement, I believed I could do and handle anything.

But in May 2019, things changed when I found out my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. She didn’t know it, but I was hiding on the stairs when she was talking with my dad about it. She was crying and very sad, but I stayed quiet and didn’t say anything because I wasn’t supposed to know yet. I didn’t know what to do or how to help. My parents never talked about cancer, and I didn’t know anyone in my family who had it, but I knew it was bad.

A few weeks later, my mom took me on a walk and explained everything to me. It was a lot to take in, but it helped me understand things a little better. “Chemotherapy” and “radiation” were big and scary words for me, but I knew my mom needed me to be a big girl. She said we both needed to be brave, and I told her, “Okay, Mommy. I will help you!”

The whole time my mom was in treatment, I was scared because she just wasn’t the same. She tried her best to be there for me and keep things normal, but she lost all of her hair, and I could also see how tired she was. I got so angry sometimes because it just wasn’t fair. My mom is so sweet, and she is always helping other people. So why did she have to get cancer?

What being brave means to me

One day, my mom sat me down and told me she understood that I was sad and angry, but I needed to do my best to be brave. She asked me to really think about what being brave meant to me and how I could think positive thoughts to help me feel better during difficult times.

To me, being brave means:

  • B: Be positive. It doesn’t matter what you are going through; find a good moment during each day and celebrate it.

  • R: Remember the good times. Sometimes bad times are just bad, so it’s helpful to think about good memories to help get you through the day.

  • A: Stay active. Don’t sit and dwell on things. Whether it’s playing your favorite sport or video game, doing puzzles, or reading a book, do something that makes you happy.

  • V: Be visible. I know it’s easy to want to be by yourself when you’re sad or upset, but this is the most important time to surround yourself with family and friends who can be there to support you.

  • E: Energy is everything. My mom always tells me that having positive energy is important. It can help you feel better and creates a positive environment for others who are around you.

Being brave was how I was able to get through my mom having cancer. I kept reminding myself to be B.R.A.V.E, even on days when I didn’t want to. It was really tough, and of course some days were better than others. But we got through it together as a family. I did the best I could to be there for my mom and help by encouraging her, telling her how much I loved her, celebrating when she finished certain parts of her treatment, and learning to do some things for myself so she didn’t have to do them for me.

Today, I am happy to say that my mom is cancer-free. However, that doesn’t mean that we get to walk away like nothing ever happened. She still has to get monthly shots to reduce the chances of her cancer returning and has to get mammograms twice a year. She explains to me often how important it will be for me as I grow into a woman to get screened for breast cancer because she had it. I do understand that I am at a higher risk. It’s a little scary to think about it, but this information is very important to me because I will have to be mindful and make smart decisions when it comes to how I stay healthy and the type of lifestyle I choose to lead.

How I’m trying to help other kids cope with a parent’s cancer diagnosis

One thing that is important to both me and my mom is educating other kids on how to deal with a parent’s cancer diagnosis. We couldn’t find any books during my mom’s diagnosis written by a child on how to cope with and understand what was going to happen, so I wrote a book called, Okay Mommy, I Will Help You: Oh No! My Mom Has Breast Cancer! I am also starting a program called Savvie Supports as a way for other kids to ask questions and communicate with me. One thing I really wished I had during my mom’s cancer experience was someone who understood what I was going through. I wanted to talk to my friends, but I didn’t think they’d understand because they weren’t in the same situation as me. I am hoping that through my program, I can provide a safe space for kids to just talk about what they are feeling when they have a parent or close loved one going through cancer.

I want to leave you with this short but helpful affirmation that helped me when my mom had cancer: “I can get through anything.” It may not always seem that way, but I know I can.

The author has no relationships relevant to this content to disclose.

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