‘Follow me mom. I’ll protect you.’ I realized this wasn’t just an iPad game. This wasn’t just another screen time activity.’: Boy finds comfort ‘healing’ mom with breast cancer in Roblox game

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“I’m a playful mom.

Most days you can find me outside with my boys. In all seasons – skiing, paddle boarding, biking. A huge piece of my identity is wrapped up in an active lifestyle. My ability to engage physically with two energetic boys has been a source of motherhood pride.

Mom takes selfie with her son, both in winter gear ready to go skiing
Courtesy of Stephanie Kennelly

Then came the breast cancer diagnosis. Needless to say, this put a screeching halt on these pastimes.

In December 2020, I had a double mastectomy followed by three months of chemotherapy. My once energetic self was reduced to a homebound, shuffling shell.

Woman battling breast cancer takes a selfie during chemotherapy
Courtesy of Stephanie Kennelly

My five-year-old son understood my physical limitations. Although I was devastated, he seemed content to swap our sledding outings for couch cuddle sessions.

Mom battling breast cancer takes a selfie with her five-year-old son while they cuddle on the couch
Courtesy of Stephanie Kennelly

One day he asked, ‘Let’s play iPad together.’ At first I shrugged it off saying, ‘Yeah, that’s not really a Mommy thing’ or ‘That’s why you have a brother.’ Until I realized, iPad games were one of the few activities we could do together, cuddled on the couch.

So, I downloaded the apps, made the avatars, and got ready for what would be known as ‘class.’ He declared, ‘I’m going to teach you Mom. I’ll teach you how to be strong.’

Class always begins the same. I watch his iPad. He runs his avatar. I ‘ooo and ahh.’ His level. His ability. His strength.

Then, he takes my iPad. He runs my avatar. Showing me my level. My ability. My strength.

Finally, our avatars run together. ‘Follow me mom. I’ll protect you.’

Mom battling breast cancer plays Roblox with her son on the couch
Courtesy of Stephanie Kennelly

Recently, I had a realization. This isn’t just an iPad game. This isn’t just another screen time activity. This is play therapy.

In our world, cancer reigns supreme. I have surgeries and chemotherapy. I feel weak and sick. And he feels powerless.

In Roblox world, he has the power. He understands the rules and excels at the game. He can protect me.

As we navigate the game he proclaims, ‘I’ll heal you’ and ‘You’re back at full health!’

I watch as my avatar’s health bar slowly fills. I watch his face light up with the satisfaction of his accomplishment. And strangely, I feel a sense of ease as well.

Mom snaps photo of hers and her sons' avatars on an iPad game
Courtesy of Stephanie Kennelly

Cancer is big. And scary. There are so many unknowns and no guarantees. Navigating a virtual world is contained. And safe. There are agreed upon rules and predictable outcomes.

Never did I think an iPad game for children would have such an impact on my cancer journey. On my mental health. On my emotional wellbeing. For a moment, I saw myself as fully healed. I saw myself at full health. For a moment, I was able to transcend my state of shuffling from couch to bed, into a world where I could run and jump.

So, there we sat. On the couch holding our iPads. Tapping our screens and breathing together. And we both rediscovered our strength.”

Woman battling breast cancer takes a beautiful black and white photo, showing off her strength
Courtesy of Stephanie Kennelly
Boy mom takes a selfie with her two sons while they all enjoy some sun in their driveway
Courtesy of Stephanie Kennelly

This story was submitted toLove What Mattersby Stephanie Kennelly. You can follow her journey on  Instagram. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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