Caretaker Perspective: Kaitlyn Kosten

In honor of Mother’s Day, we would like to feature a caretaker perspective, written by the 15 year-old daughter of a patient, Tricia Kosten. Kaitlyn Kosten is a freshman at North Forsyth High School, enjoys the drumline in the marching band and hopes to pursue a career in engineering. We hope you enjoy this amazing piece as much as we have.

There is a moment in everyone’s life when the impossible happens. There is a moment in everyone’s life when the option of turning back is no longer available, when the world pauses and suddenly everything is unreal, yet the pain of reality is nearly unbearable. For me, this moment was while I gathered with my sisters and brother to discover the horrific news: my own mom was diagnosed with cancer. When you hear “cancer story,” it might convey bittersweet images of survivors or unlock the gates to countless stories told again and again from those who have been crowned a victor of this wearisome battle. This story, however, is different. It is not told from a survivor, or even written about a survivor, but from the perspective of a young girl who was witness from the sidelines of the battle. It will not center around the heart wrenching tragedies that come as a side effect of cancer. No, this story focuses on what I like to call “caretaker perks.”

When a family member is diagnosed, it feels as if the world has stopped. The painful realization that the cancer has only shattered the world of those who know your family is soon dumped on you like a chilly bucket of ice when the grocery cashier greets you like she does every week, and everybody seems to step forward while you step back, again and again. Soon enough, you learn that to feel “normal” once more, you have to immerse yourself in what you love. For me, this took the form of music and running. As odd as the two may sound, they became a sort of therapy for me, and grew to be a constant reminder that, as Beau Taplin said, “She was unstoppable. Not because she did not have failures or doubts, but because she continued on despite them.”

If a family member has the misfortune of being diagnosed, the family itself is convinced that they alone are the main support system, and while this may be true, the family needs a support system itself. They need a place to draw their strength from, someone to listen and provide guidance, I relied heavily on friends, as most people in this situation do. Our bonds were strengthened, and I felt a renewed trust and loyalty that was displayed by my closest friends. Such a miserable situation fortified my second family, the family who chose to stay close by my side.

Life itself is not a gift, as some like to insist, for we do not get to keep it. It is not rightfully ours, for what have we done to deserve it? No, life is simply a loan, and one day, it will be taken back from us. What we accomplish in the few years allotted is our decision, a decision we must make every day, every hour, every second we awake to this demanding yet hopeful world. This experience showed me that at any second, everything we hold near and dear can be snapped away, before we have time to say goodbye. I must not take for granted the time I am permitted; instead, I must live instead of simply existing. I must learn and watch and grow, so that one day, when it comes time to recall my life, I will know that I have given it everything I have, every talent, every smile, and every laugh.

These “caretaker perks” are only a few bonuses among many, simple lessons that, when applied, hold the power to change everything. When someone in a family is diagnosed, the family is on the sidelines cheering them on, but they are fighting their own battle with the same enemy. Cancer affects the whole family, and everyone must fight. In the end, the survivors stand with pride, but their caretakers are never far behind them, for we, too, are victorious.