Sara Chivers, a mom of two, has done one of the most difficult things a parent could imagine doing —writing a letter of advice to her sons, who she will most likely never see grow up.
In March, having beaten cancer eight years ago, 34-year-old Chivers was told that it had returned.
“I always knew the cancer was lying dormant, but I didn’t want to put my life on hold in fear of its return. It was an MRI in March this year that revealed three new tumors and my worst fears were realized: inoperable, incurable, terminal.” she tells Babble.
But it was about to become even worse.
As she underwent surgery to shrink one of three aggressive tumors growing on her brain, the health of her 18-month-old son Alfie started to deteriorate. He was rushed to the hospital, where a scan revealed that he also had brain cancer. Chivers is now doing all she can to save her son’s life while creating as many memories with her family as she can, before her time runs out.
Chivers decided to write a letter to her sons, which she also sent to the New Daily in Australia. Since then, it has been making its rounds on the web. She explains her reasoning for the letter to Babble, saying:
“The most heartbreaking thing about my terminal diagnosis is that I won’t get to see my sons grow up and mother them like I had always dreamed. My letter is a way to honor my impact on their lives and leave behind a legacy for them. My intention of sharing it was to create awareness of the devastating impacts that this brutal disease can have on families.”
In the emotional letter, Chivers explains to Alfie and 3-year-old Hugh, what kind of woman she is.
‘You will have to hear from others the little things that made me me: my perfume of choice is Michael Kors, my favorite meal is spaghetti bolognese, winter is my preferred season. I wish I was a better cook,” she writes. “Don’t be afraid of expressing your emotions. I will never tire of hearing ‘I love you’ from Leigh, you boys, my family, friends … Pay attention to study but know there is so much more to school life than textbooks. Play team sports. Try a musical instrument. Learn a language.”
It is no surprise that Chivers found it difficult to condense all she wanted to say in one letter. “How can I encapsulate a lifetime of memories, stories, wishes, and advice that I won’t be there to share?” she says.
It is impossible not to be moved by Chivers and her family’s bravery. It made me stop and think of all the life lessons we impart to our children as they grow up. If we had to boil it all down to one letter — what would it say? What are the most important things in life to learn? Suddenly fretting over keeping bedrooms tidy and faces clean feels wildly insignificant.
Reading over this brave mom’s letter for the umpteenth time, I realized the overarching message is that the most important aspects of life are family, love, and being brave. As I tried to list all the things I would say to my own children, I noticed every point was already listed in Chivers’ beautiful letter. The topics she covers are universal — it’s a message that would resonate with every parent.
Whilst she notes the importance of good table manners, she reminds her kids to not to be scared of failing.
“Never fear failure — you will learn more from mistakes than successes. There’s never anything more certain than change so embrace it. Don’t be afraid to try new things,” she writes.
She even addresses the topic of falling in love. A feat that most parents struggle with, but she has articulated beautifully:
“Love hard. As they say, it is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all. That’s how I feel about you both. Heartbroken doesn’t come close to describing the pain I feel at not being in your lives in the future, but I would never change or forego the time we have spent together and the immense joy you have brought me. You are without a doubt my proudest accomplishments,” Chivers writes.
For me, the most moving part of this letter is when she writes about her husband. She tells her sons, “Be kind to your dad. It won’t be easy for him raising you alone, but every decision he makes will be with your best interests at heart. He is my companion, my rock, my everything. It was always him. Always will be.”
Do you have chills? Because I do.
Sara Chivers courage is beyond admirable — facing tragic circumstances for both herself and her son. But how on earth does she cope? She explains:
“I am inspired and motivated by my husband Leigh, 3-year-old Hugh, and of course, Alfie. They give me the strength to overcome the tough periods and brave another day. We also have a village of friends and family supporting us which we would be lost without.”
Whilst Sara’s chances of surviving are slim, she is determined that her son won’t become a statistic. The toddler has had three surgeries to remove fluid from his brain, giving him a chance at beating cancer.
She tells Babble, “It’s been an incredibly tough road for Alfie and he has a long journey ahead — we are all in awe of his bravery and courage in the face of such adversity. He is a superhero in the true sense of the word.”
Stay strong, Sara. Continue lighting up your boys’ lives.