A few weeks ago, my daughter Isabelle asked, “What time do I need to be home tonight?” I stopped unloading the dishwasher and looked up. She held her car keys in one hand and her wallet in the other.

The bright blue eyes of my six-year-old stared back at me. I silently begged the universe to protect the last bits of youthful innocence hiding behind her newly gained wisdom.

Soon she’ll be a freshman in college with no curfew. She won’t need permission to go places or remember to text me when she gets there. I won’t know who she’s…


A few weeks ago, my daughter Isabelle asked, “What time do I need to be home tonight?” I stopped unloading the dishwasher and looked up. She held her car keys in one hand and her wallet in the other.

The bright blue eyes of my six-year-old stared back at me. I silently begged the universe to protect the last bits of youthful innocence hiding behind her newly gained wisdom.

Soon she’ll be a freshman in college with no curfew. She won’t need permission to go places or remember to text me when she gets there. I won’t know who she’s…


My fifteen year old had a rare form of cancer when she was four. The treatment caused stage three kidney disease. I don’t think about her kidneys often. They don’t affect her daily life. She’s in good physical health, not just for a kid who had cancer, but for a fifteen-year-old. She takes a dose of calcium daily and occasionally needs her blood pressure monitored. But she’s athletic and able to keep up with her friends on the soccer and lacrosse field. She’s rarely sick during the school year.

I don’t focus on the parts of Emily’s body that are…


The Terrible Beauty of Alcohol During a Crisis

There are kitchenettes on the oncology floor at Children’s Hospital in Boston. They’re stocked with mini cereal boxes, hoodsies, applesauce, juice, bread, and packets of peanut butter and jelly. Often parents have quick conversations about counts and cancer and the leftover McDonald’s in the refrigerator that we all share. I can’t remember the names of these parents but I always remember what kind of cancer their kid has. To me, they’re brain tumor mom, Wilms sarcoma dad, and leukemia mom who refers to her daughter’s cancer as “the garden variety.” I Google what that means because I’m not sure.

One…


For the past ten years, we’ve had a saying. “It isn’t cancer.” We don’t say it often. It’s reserved for serious things that need a little perspective. We said it a few months ago when Isabelle got into a car accident a week after getting her license and the damage was more than the car was worth (she and the other person were ok). We said it a few years ago when our goldendoodle, Obi, was attacked by a pack of coyotes and needed to be stitched up from head to paws. And I said it a few weeks ago…

Amy McHugh

Mom to teenagers who spends her time writing, teaching, and eating papaya. A champion of kids with chronic or critical illness and the moms who love them.

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