Cooper DeWitt in hospital

Jenni DeWitt's husband, Justin, with their two sons during youngest son, Cooper's, cancer treatment.

Vaccines are a hard topic for me. It’s strange because I understand when parents choose not to vaccinate their kids. That choice is coming from a place of deep love and a desire to protect their kids from harm.

I get that.

But I can’t help but look at the choice of whether or not to vaccinate from a cancer mom’s perspective. When my 2-year-old son was on cancer treatment, the doctors told us the chemotherapy could wipe out the vaccinations he got as a baby.

We had to wait until cancer treatment was over and he was healthy enough to get the shots again. During that time, his body was weak from the cancer treatment and I felt like he was totally unprotected from the diseases that tormented our grandparents’ generation.

His only buffer was the people around him — his brother, parents and caretakers — who had the vaccinations they needed to help keep the diseases away as much as possible.

Every time I hear of a new measles outbreak, I think of the cancer moms and dads who are in the thick of treatment right now. Those parents who don’t have the choice to protect their child with vaccinations at the moment. And I feel the fear and anxiety that must bring.

Their option to vaccinate has temporarily been taken away. Their child’s body is weak and vulnerable. They are depending on the choices of others to help save their child. It’s a scary place to be in.

Parenting is tough. We’re all doing the best we can with what we have. In the end, our deepest desire is to protect our kids — whether they’re on cancer treatment or not.

Sometimes parents choose not to vaccinate their children because they are afraid. They are uncertain what the truth is and what is actually best for their child. I get it. I’ve made more than my fair share of parenting decisions from a place of fear and uncertainty in my life.

When we try to research online, the internet is happy to dish out both truth and fear on a regular basis. Some of it is factual and some of it isn’t. 

So while Facebook and the rest of the internet try to crack down on blatant lies and mistruths being spread about many topics, maybe the best we can do is find a doctor we trust, talk openly and truthfully with them about our fears, and then make the best choice we can.

Whatever we choose — vaccinating or not — I hope our decision is based on truth and not fear.


Jenni DeWitt is married and has two sons, the youngest of whom battled childhood leukemia — and won. Jenni writes weekly for She is the author of “Forty Days” and “Why Won’t God Talk to Me?” You can read more about Jenni here.

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