I Wasn't Much of an Activist - Until My Son Was Diagnosed With a Pediatric Tumor

Sarah Muoio
·4 mins read

I find it absolutely amazing how much you change as a person when you hold your child for the first time. In an instant, so many parts of who you thought you were are different. One of the biggest worries I had while pregnant was whether I could be the mom my son would need. As someone who is very passive, my "yes mentality" had such a damaging impact on my own mental health. The last thing I wanted to do was be the cause of anguish for my child if I couldn't speak up for what I knew was right for them as they grew.

The age-old analogy that compares human mothers to bear mothers is pretty spot on. I learned that the first time I had to fight for my child. I often say that had I needed to advocate for myself in the same way I did for my son, it wouldn't have happened. If I were in the same circumstances as he was the first time I fiercely stood my ground for him, I wouldn't be alive today. But there I was, knowing deep in my gut that something was wrong with my child, and refusing to stand down until I knew he was adequately treated.

We had been in and out of pediatricians' offices, walk-in clinics, and pediatric emergency rooms for days. Most of the doctors had dismissed my concerns, calling them the first-time mom jitters. "It was just a virus," they said as I begged them to look into my son's condition further. Five days later, he was hooked up to machines that kept him alive, preparing for surgery to remove the life-threatening pediatric brain tumor that had caused his illness.

Related: 13-Year-Old Trans Activist Rebekah Bruesehoff: "My Gender Is the Least Exciting Thing About Me"

Rebekah Bruesehoff on What It's Like to Be a Trans Activist
Rebekah Bruesehoff on What It's Like to Be a Trans Activist

It wasn't the first-time mom jitters that left me demanding a closer look. It was a mother's instinct, something I've always heard about but couldn't imagine would be correct. It was that instinct that threw my passive mindset out the window and helped me fight for my son - a fight that would save his life. I've advocated for him every step of the way ever since. Mostly because I had a quick glimpse of the horror that could have ensued if I didn't. But more so because I realized that standing back, when I knew something was wrong, would have made me a problem for my child.

I advocated for my child's care when he needed it most, and have continued to be an activist for him and other children ever since. What started as a mother standing up for what her child deserves - in the doctor's office, in the hospital room, in the educational setting - has turned into a passionate calling to incite change for others. I raise awareness for pediatric brain tumors, childhood cancer, epilepsy, and pediatric strokes. I fight for better treatment options, for advanced research, for funding for a cure. I fight so that no parent, no family, no child has to go through what mine did.

I have dedicated my life to sharing our story, starting a conversation, and politely (but fiercely) demanding change. I advocate for the change necessary to cure some of the most horrible childhood illnesses. Before I had my son, I would never consider myself an activist. If someone asked me to stand beside them to fight for a cause, I would have done so very quietly, if at all. Today, I am proud that my little boy lit a fire in me. He sparked a shift in me that helped me work to change the world for kids like him.

I was no sort of activist until I had kids. When you see your child go through something so traumatic, you come out different. The positive impact of this experience has helped me find my voice. And if I can change the outcome for some other kid, even if it's just one, I'll know that our struggles came with a purpose. That will always be my inspiration to continue to work as an activist. Through my motherhood experience, I've learned that it's the activists, those who speak up for what's right, that have a platform to change the world. As a mom, I have no deeper passion than to be the change for families who suit up their little warriors to battle childhood illness.

More From

  • Many NCAA Sports Are Canceled This Fall - Here's What We Know So Far

    Image Source: Getty / South_agency Conferences around the country are opting out of fall sports altogether, with many hoping to postpone play until the spring of 2021. This goes for the Big Ten, Mid-American Conference (MAC), and Pac-12 (the Pac-12 has specifically postponed all sports through the end of 2020, affecting some winter sports as well).

  • A Clueless Reboot Is in the Works, and It's Finally Giving Dionne Davenport Her Chance to Shine

    The premiere sassy Black friend is getting her own series and I have several questions. Variety broke the news that NBC's Peacock has officially nabbed an in-development reboot of Clueless that centers on Dionne Davenport rather than the well-loved Cher Horowitz.

  • The Steps You Need to Take to Volunteer as a Poll Worker

    This year is more important than ever for younger people to get out and work the polls. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, fewer people are committing to working polling places come election time.

  • 10 Arm-Sculpting Exercises to Build Some Muscle - All You Need Is a Set of Dumbbells

    Working out your arms can make you feel powerful, period. However, one of the biggest fitness myths is that lifting weights will get you bulky. Maybe you do want to bulk up - and that's great! - but we're here to tell you this would take a long time to happen, and nutrition would play a huge role (you'd need to eat in a caloric surplus). So don't let the fear of bulking stop you from picking up those weights. Ahead, we've provided a list of sample arm-sculpting exercises. Grab a set of dumbbells, and take your pick! This is not an arm workout, but you can pick a few to add to your next upper-body session. If you're searching for a full upper-body workout, check out some of these at-home videos, or keep scrolling for a Class FitSugar session all about the upper body. - Additional reporting by Sam Brodsky Related: Sculpt and Strengthen Your Arms With This 3-Week Challenge