Today, as I am writing my last blog in the “It’s not a tuumaah” series, thirty-six families around the United States are finding out one of their children has cancer. Seven of those children will not survive. Thirty six families will have stories just like ours to tell in five years. In the past five years I’ve read many other stories like ours. Oddly, or sadly, they are all similar to ours with lows and highs and fear and hope. I wonder about the other thirty-five families whose lives changed on September 7th, 2007. Did their children have brain tumors or leukemia or lymphoma? Did they have surgeries and chemo and spend 18 months of their lives bouncing around hospitals and doctors and therapy sessions? Do those moms have the same feelings I do?
Last summer Teagan’s beloved hamster, Danielle, died. I kind of knew this was coming as the once very active hamster was getting slower and less and less active. I probably should have told her that hamsters only live 2-3 years and since we got the hamster from our neighbor Bri about mid-way through the life span it wouldn’t live very long. The day she found Danielle she came running to me to tell me something was wrong with the hamster. And when Dave and I told her that Danielle was dead she burst into inconsolable tears. I was hugging her and through her sobs she said “If I was a better mommy this wouldn’t have happened.” Dave and I reassured her that she was a good hamster mommy and that she had done nothing wrong. Eventually she settled down and she and Dave buried Danielle in our yard in a shoebox. Later that night Dave found me sitting in the dark on the bathroom floor, crying. Those words, “If I were a better mommy this wouldn’t have happened,” kept replaying in my head. No matter how many health professionals or books or internet articles tell you that as a parent it’s not your fault and you did nothing wrong as a parent to cause your child’s cancer you can’t get that nagging feeling out of your head.
With the exception of the last 30 days, I don’t talk about what our family has been through in the past. Typically my days are packed with trying to manage sports schedules, school schedules, checkbooks and figuring out what to cook for dinner. Not unlike any other mom in America. Usually, on a daily basis, I don’t relive the myriad of emotions that having a 10-year-old cancer survivor invokes. There are triggers here and there that pop up but not every day. But they are still there and they don’t go away. And even though we’ve graduated to MRI’s and oncology checks every 6 months instead of 3 I still get anxious the day of the appointment. And then there’s the long-term effects and possibility of other health issues (in addition to the left-sided hemiparesis) to watch for and worry about.
But most of all there’s Teagan. She has survived the past five years with the grace and humility of someone twice her age. I’m more than likely one of the “glass half empty” type people and I have found myself following her positive lead more than once. That’s not to say she hasn’t gotten frustrated or angry or sad about having a brain tumor and all the treatments and not being able to use her left hand — she has. But she doesn’t focus on the bad feelings, and you only hear the bad feelings once in while and only when she’s really tired. What she focuses on is just being a kid. Playing video games and soccer and getting into water gun fights with all the kids in the neighborhood. Even now, as she’s reading over my shoulder she’s making jokes about brain tumors and doing some of her best voice impressions. Last week after she had surgery to try to help her left arm she was in the recovery room and had all of us laughing so hard we had tears coming to our eyes. She’s a nut. I truly see her doing stand up comedy one day. So you see how it’s hard to be the “glass half empty” person when she’s around?
Well the last 30 days has been my drop in the ocean. I know from some of the comments I’ve received that I have made a difference to some people and that makes me happy. But now I’m very pleased to be able to go back to blogging the sarcastic suburban soccer mom rants that have yet to make me famous. Thank you for reading and supporting Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Now bring on Pink October.