Wednesday, May 17, 2006

"What Cancer Means to Me"

"How has cancer affected you or your loved ones?"

How much time do you have?

There's a lot of cancer in my family. My dad has had "cancer of the chest wall" and more recently, malignant melanoma. But he's been lucky -- it's always been completely treatable with surgery. He's never had chemo nor radiation. All of us have had the "easy" type of skin cancer, necessitating only removal. I had a pre-cancerous tumor removed along with 2/3 of my thyroid. But one grandmother and one grandfather died of cancer. To a certain extent, I always felt I had a bit of a time-bomb inside.

Thanks to all those "made for TV dramas" or "very special episodes" of sitcoms, I had worried about having a child with cancer, the way I think most parents have.

Never, though, had I ever thought of having a baby with cancer. I mean, that's ridiculous, right?

Just 7 months old, Little Warrior had a bit of a bulge in her abdomen. We went to playgroup and I mentioned the appointment we had later that day. "I washed my hair, just in case we have to go to the hospital," I joked about being overdramatic.

Ha-ha on you, Mom. It would be 2 1/2 weeks before we returned home.

But you do what you have to do. "First you cry," as the book says. And you learn about cancer. And you learn about integrating cancer with normal life. You try to make sure your other three children aren't too traumatized. Cancer becomes normal.

The other day, my 10 year old was chatting with me and with a young friend of his, whose mother just had a baby. "Well, The Boy can tell you all about having a baby in the house, he's well-experienced," I said. The Boy got a thoughtful look. "You know, I've kinda forgotten what it's like to have the excitement of a baby. When I think about Little Warrior now, I just think about her cancer."


I could write for 10 hours a day, 7 days a week, for the next 20 years and probably not be able to cover how cancer has affected me and my loved ones.

If I were the one going through cancer, assuming I survived, I most certainly would be the kind of person who refers to her cancer as a "gift." Something that makes your priorities more clear, your days sweeter. That's just the kind of person I am.

But this is my child ... my baby. There have been gifts along the way, and I think we should glean whatever wisdom we can from the experience. But I will never, ever, call her cancer a gift. I will never believe that it happened for a reason.

But she is a gift. As are all my children, as is my husband.

A week from today, she will be one year old.

1 comment:

Anne said...

Made me cry LE.

Great post..