A Cancer Heart-to-Heart with My 7-Year-Old

10 Aug

It was 8:00 a.m. on a Tuesday morning. Everett was showering in the bathroom. I laid in bed, trying to get the ambition to get up and going. I could hear Abby talking to herself in her room and Jackson had already come in several times to talk to me. I rolled over and picked up my phone.

When I looked at the calendar to see what we had the rest of the week, I sat straight up in bed. Jackson had a GI appointment in 30 minutes…in Suffolk.

I jumped out of bed, got myself dressed, the kids dressed and we were heading out of the driveway at 8:07. Everyone had a banana and something to drink for the car. I floored it for the interstate.

Believe it or not, we got off the exit for CHKD Harborview right at 8:30. My directions on my phone said we were only a few minutes away from the doctor’s office. I was feeling pretty dang proud of myself.

But then…the directions took us to a field. What the?

So I made a u-turn and tried to call the office. I got put on hold. Hung up, called again…put on hold again. So we drove and looked. Found the big CHKD letters and knew we’d found the place. Got Jackson and Abby out of the car to realize…we were at CHKD Therapy Services. We went in anyway and the receptionist pointed us in the right direction.

Back in the car. We were now 15 minutes late.

We hightailed it out of that parking lot to the correct CHKD Suffolk location. Parked. Got out of the car again and made out way into the office.

Found out the GI doctor wasn’t there…because our appointment…was for 8:30 a.m. the following day. I can’t make this stuff up.

We didn’t even get back to the car before the pregnancy hormones kicked in and I started crying. Strapped Abby in and cried. Turned the car on and cried. Sat in the driver’s seat and sniffed and looked through my purse for a clean napkin and cried. I decided to just take a moment and call Everett to vent. But he didn’t answer; he was in court.

I don’t cry often because once I do, I can’t stop. It’s my cross to bear. I decided to take a deep breath and check Facebook to see if that would distract me and dry me up.

And then I saw one of our little Neuroblastoma friends had just passed away. My heart completely broke in that half-empty parking lot in Suffolk. No matter how much I try to compartmentalize heartache and survivor’s guilt, some news just brings me right back into the heart-wrenching ups and downs of the cancer world.

So I put my sunglasses over my puffy eyes and sniffed my way to the Starbucks drive thru. I got the kids something to drink and a real breakfast.

Abby happily drank her milk and started in on a donut. But Jackson…my ever-perceptive child…couldn’t eat or drink. He wasn’t used to me crying and was worried. He kept asking me why I was so upset and if there was anything he could do to make it better.

Instead of keeping him at arm’s distance, I decided to tell him more about cancer. He doesn’t remember it (after all, he finished treatment when he was 2) and we still select how much detail to go into. Usually I focus on what cancer is and tell him stories about his bravery and why the medicine made his hair fall out and his hearing worse. We talk about his scars. On this particular day, I decided it was time to share more.

I explained how not everyone survives cancer. Even when kids or adults fight really hard, sometimes the medicine just doesn’t work. I shared how even as his Mommy, there are some things I don’t have an explanation for. And sometimes really, really sad things happen.

I also chose to tell him that’s why, as survivors (and as a cancer mom, yes, I feel like a survivor), we have a responsibility to make sure our lives count for something. It’s why we have compassion for all people that are sick. Because once you go through something that changes your life, it’s important to acknowledge the difference. Don’t forget it. Don’t sweep it under the rug.

And use what you’ve learned to help others instead of letting the pain silence you.

Eventually, we headed back home. As we drove across the bridge, we prayed aloud for our friend. Afterwards, Jackson felt like eating some of his breakfast. I took a few sips of my decaf and my eyes dried up.

Abby declared she was done with her donut.

Even though he’s only seven, Jackson gives me so much to think about.

Taken later that morning…when only Target will do to fix a bad morning. Love them both.

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