Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What Good Can Come

recovering from biopsy #2, re-inflating "our" lungs

During treatment, I worried on a daily basis about how my then-3 year old would be forever scarred by my illness.  Initially, he struggled with separation anxiety, but was always eager to cheer me up with snuggles and silly faces, or cheer me on as he watched me sing through nightly injections ("Go Mommy, go!").  Each day I was unable to bathe him, or go through the bedtime routine, or drive him to preschool, I worried about how he was doing.  What was he going to take away from this?  Would I even be around to find out?

best snuggles ever
A wise friend related this concern to her own daughter, who had connected uniquely with her special needs cousin, able to communicate and relate to him in ways that others could not.  My friend told me that because of her nephew, her daughter had learned empathy, kindness, and concern for other human beings - qualities she may not have developed without firsthand experience.

This comforted me immensely.  I know Judah had always shown signs of being caring and compassionate, but he was only 3.  I loved to think of grown up Judah as a doctor with wonderful bedside manner.  Or a professor (as my mother-in-law likes to call him) who could truly relate to his students.
thank goodness for janet and lou's pool

Lucky for me, I didn't have to wait 30 years to find out who he would become.

This afternoon, he had an early dismissal from school (first year of kindergarten).  I arrived a few minutes early and hid behind a tree to watch him play on the playground.  My first prayer was answered - he wasn't all alone.  He was happily see-sawing with 2 girls and 3 boys - all of different colors.  The teacher in me was thrilled to say the least.  Relief and pride pumping through my veins, I walked over to the door where his class gets dismissed and noticed the mother of one of the other girls he'd been sitting next to on the see-saw.

Judah had informed us last week that he and this child were in love with each other, and with a smirk on his face, that they would be getting married one day.  I relayed this information to her mother, hoping she didn't feel he was too forward with his 5 year old love.

She smiled and nodded.  She said, "I have to tell you something." I got nervous.

"Last week, [my child] fell down while the class was going into the cafeteria before lunch.  She just tripped over her own feet and fell.  The next day, totally spontaneously, Judah came over to her and told her, 'You know, I fell down one time, too.  You don't have to feel bad.'  And I told her that he was a friend to hold onto for a long, long time."

I thanked her immensely for telling me this story;  I wanted to tell her how he learned to think about other people's feelings, but decided to hold off for now..

At this point, you can imagine there are tears running down both of our cheeks, both mothers thankful for our happy children, having found friendship in each other.

When I think about how cancer has affected my family, it tends to run on the negative side (that's putting it lightly).  And recent days especially, have been tough, not knowing what is to blame for our bad luck, or if/when my body will ever get past the trauma.  At this moment, for this very moment, I can say that one incredible thing came from the cancer mess.  I may be overstating, but who cares?  I'm giving myself permission:  my child knows how to think about other people's feelings, and is not afraid to show someone he cares.

This mama's heart is singing.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

World Lymphoma Day

Check your pits.  Have a sunshine day, sent straight from your favorite lymphoma-aware family.

PS.  It can't hurt to donate to LLS on a beautiful day like today!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Every Day is an Anniversary

visit philly
Since there are only 365 days in a year and momentous occasions happen frequently, every day seems to be an anniversary of some major life event.  From experience, I can say with certainty that in the life of a cancer patient, there are many, many anniversaries.  There are "cancerversaries" that mark the day of diagnosis, or the end of treatment (there's often a dispute about when to start counting..).  But less celebrated milestones happen in between and all around those dates.

I will always remember that Wednesday, September 8, 2010 was my chemo round 5.  There was a Stand Up 2 Cancer telethon on that Friday (9/10/10) that I desperately wanted to attend, but no dice.  We watched it from the happy chair.  I remember that September 30 was my 6th round of chemo.  It was a Thursday and I wore a purple wig.

When I make connections to my life two years ago, these are the days that pop up first.  Then I think about the day sevens that were all the low points in each round (both in terms of my blood counts and my physical state).  They were milestones, too.  

In honor and memory of all of the day sevens everywhere - all those people who dread them now, and all of those who will come to know them in the future - we are again participating in LLS's Light the Night Walk, October 27, 2012, in Philadelphia.

We did it! (though I would've preferred to have a scooter)
I hope you will participate as well, by donating whatever you can to our team's fund (click on the button in the top right corner of this blog).  It's a memorable experience, walking with crowds who have been where you've been, supported someone like you, or remember a patient with love.  Judah always looks forward to seeing the balloons all lit up, floating down West River Drive, as we walk across from Boat House Row, all aglow special for us.

Honored Survivor 2011
Team Mama Mia 2010
If you are interested in where your money will go, please visit our team page, which will give you lots of information about how LLS allocates funds.

Thank you.  
Team Mama Mia 2011

Thursday, September 6, 2012

'S Wonderful

Oh, happy day!  Here's a gratitude list.

1.  Judah got onto the bus without even turning around for a wave.

2. My oncologist told me I'm doing "so wonderful" and I shouldn't come back to see him for another 6 months.

3.  I got my work assignment for the majority of the year and it is 13 minutes from my home.

4.  Revenge was taken on 2 MEAN drivers on Broad Street this morning by tweeting their photos to the general public.


5.  My favorite nurse, Priscilla, gave me a painless blood draw.

6. Judah's kindergarten teacher emailed parents at his prep time to update us on the day.  Not quite as good as having a K-Cam (fly on the wall), but more than I expected!

7.  Speaking of flies, I assembled a fruit fly trap that works!  There were at least 50, now there are none.

8.  A delicious indian lentil stew that's cooking in the crock pot for dinner.

9.  95.7 fm played Parents Don't Understand on the radio this afternoon and I remembered 95.7% of the lyrics.

10.  Dan avoided a major migraine last night and is just feeling foggy today (instead of totally incapacitated).

11. Dr. Henry set me up to work with a research assistant to help survey my online support group, in the hopes of gathering data that may help other researchers find a common thread.  26 members have already taken the survey.

12.  Leaving my therapy session today was a waiting room full of people just as screwy as me.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Letting Go

smokey the chicken (only you can prevent scrambled eggs)

We are blessed.  Our child is a happy, healthy (whisper that, will you? don't want to tempt the evil spirits) five year old.  Our sparkly-blue-eyed, sun-kissed-beach-haired, gecko-watch-wearing, toy-rhino-toting child.  He reads, he writes, he's creative, funny, and knows more dinosaur species than I ever did.  He's now acquired a top 5 Phillies players list as well as a working list of birthday requests (for next year).  He loves Legos, all animals, playing games, doing underwater flips, and wowing you with his soccer skills, baseball abilities, and dance moves (of course only to be done while he sings).

And tomorrow, I must take him to kindergarten.

Alternatively, tomorrow, I also get to take him to kindergarten.

A simple matter of perspective, you see.  On my left shoulder, I have the gentle but appreciative voice, the one that reminds me that a few decades ago, I might not have been here for this important day.  This is the same voice that pipes up, recounting Mary Tyler Mom's story of daughter Donna (not a happy ending, but life-changing and worth a read during this, Childhood Cancer Awareness Month), who never got to go to kindergarten.

On my right shoulder, there is the nag.  She is a constant in my ear, bringing up all the worst case scenarios.  She is the future projector, glass half-empty kind of gal.  Basically, she sucks.  She tells me we might not get to do the first day of kindergarten again - this is a one shot deal - so I better not muck it up.

I can't freeze time anyway, so I have no choice but to go with it, let it carry me, a lunchbox, a backpack, and a little boy around the corner and down the street tomorrow morning.  I must beg it to help me not cry until he is inside the building.  I will have to focus on my own To Do list, getting prepared for my own fresh start this school year, and how freaking annoyed I was with the same kid home all rainy day today.  He needs school and I need him to have school; why is it so damn hard?

I am sending my very warmest hugs to all of the other parents in the same position, who are both dreading and longing for the start of school all at once.  This year, for the first time since forever, I'm not setting up my classroom, labeling folders and notebooks for my students, or passing out at 4:30 from the exhaustion of hauling book-filled milk crates out of storage.

This September is about new beginnings.

And away we go.