Mom Teaches Daughter To Swear At Brain Tumor To Help Her Cope With Cancer

Mason Joseph Zimmer
mom and young daughter showing big beaming smiles in selfie
instagram | @heatherostermandavis

One mom has been helping her daughter deal with her childhood cancer with the unusual method of teaching her to swear at her brain tumor.

When someone is diagnosed with cancer, it can have a devastating effect on their whole family and that's particularly true when the patient is a child.

But through that devastation often comes a feeling of working as a united front. Whatever challenges the disease brings, the family will face it together and will often show their solidarity in powerful ways.

In some cases, that support gives kids the strength they need need to make it through a scary chapter in their lives. And in other cases, it can make a sense of purpose shine through an otherwise hopeless situation.

But while the togetherness we see in the case of one New York family is no exception to this phenomenon, the way they're supporting each other seems just as cathartic as it is unorthodox.

After experiencing some sudden vision loss, eight-year-old Nora Osterman-Davis was diagnosed with optic pathway glioma.

young girl smiles in pink hat and shirt with heart shapes in front of table with glass of water
instagram | @heatherostermandavis

As her mother Heather explained in an article for Insider, this meant that her vision loss was caused by brain tumor that would turn out to be cancerous.

From there, she would embark on a two-year clinical trial that saw her undergo daily oral chemotherapy and a series of ongoing tests that monitor both the tumor and any potential effects on her organs, particularly her heart.

At the same time, she has to live by a strict skin-care routine to avoid developing infections as a result of her medication.

Understandably, Heather said that these struggles have left her usually happy and kind-hearted daughter "frequently overcome by sadness and anxiety."

mom and young daughter showing big beaming smiles in selfie
instagram | @heatherostermandavis

This led Osterman-Davis's family to address her emotional needs with therapy, support groups, and a modified educational plan they worked out with her school, but it didn't stop there.

According to Heather, her family also helped her imagine her tumor shrinking, remained attentive to and considerate of her feelings, screamed into pillows with her, and even wrote songs for what she described as "Tumor the Musical." 

But while the family was certainly being supportive, Heather couldn't help feeling that something was missing.

And she would eventually find out what that was one night before bedtime when Osterman-Davis asked her, "Can I say a really bad word to my tumor?" 

young girl in pink hat and dress excitedly points to waist-high wall with number eight graffiti
instagram | @heatherostermandavis

Her mother then learned that the word she wanted to use was the harder version of "crappy." In response, she said that this would be permitted with the understanding that Osterman-Davis was only allowed to swear at home.

To help her daughter along with this idea, Heather said, "Get out of here you [expletive], stinking tumor!" The child's eyes lit up and she replied with, "Get out of my head you [expletive], poop-face tumor" before cracking a hard-won smile.

Although the family didn't want to give the impression that they now curse a blue streak all day every day, it has become something of a nighttime ritual as that's when Osterman-Davis' anxiety is at its worst.

young girl putting arm around her older brother in front of brownstone stairs
instagram | @heatherostermandavis

And not only has she graduated to harder curse words since this initial experiment, but she's also included her 11-year-old brother Owen in this practice.

Sadly, Owen is no stranger to life-threatening trauma himself as Heather detailed a severe seizure he experienced when his sister was still a baby in an Al-Jazeera article.

But now, he and his family one-up each other with creative curses until they're all bursting with laughter.

Apparently, one of his greatest hits was, "You [expletive] stinking tumor, if you don't leave my sister alone, I'm gonna flame you into another dimension, you effing flutterbutt."

Although Heather wouldn't recommend this strategy for households where expletive-laden shouting matches are common or in cases where children identify their tumor as a part of them, she believes that Osterman-Davis has needed to express her anger on her own terms.

coffee mug embossed with angry curse words directed at a brain tumor
instagram | @heatherostermandavis

So as you might expect, she was deeply delighted to receive this mug as a Christmas present last year.

As Osterman-Davis has described her family's unconventional ritual, "It's fun and it makes me happier when I'm feeling sad. I want my tumor to know I'm a rock star and I'm going to keep cursing until it gets out."

h/t: Insider