Friday, May 24, 2013

Only one problem, thank God

As I picked up my phone in the car yesterday, I saw the (212) area code, recognizing that Sloan Kettering was on the other end.  I answered, stomach dropping, and heard a familiar voice, Dr. Healey's nurse. The pathology was in, she said, and it was negative for malignancies.  She wanted to call me right away to put my mind at ease, which was an act of kindness that I will always remember with deep gratitude.

I could hardly speak, and only managed a tearful thumbs up to Lauren who sat next to me in a state of confusion, bordering on concern, as I blubbered incoherently.  Lauren has been with me before, when I fielded tough news.  She is an old soul, and mature far beyond her years. I am very grateful for the universal message that thumbs up provides, because I couldn't manage much else.

I immediately called Dan who was relieved beyond measure.  Then I called Brent, who gave an understated "woo-hoo" as though I said that we were having pizza for dinner. Really. He was more enthusiastic about hearing that I was taking Lauren for a date, than the fact that he didn't have cancer.  "You haven't had time together in a long time!  Enjoy!"

So, we went into the restaurant to have a date.  I was trying to see how she is doing with what Brent faces. I apparently will have to have another date with her, because while we had a joyful meal together, interrupted by many happy, relieved texts from friends and family, and my own emotional rollercoaster, I did not get a good gauge on where she is in all of this.

Lauren and Brent had cancer at the same time, which is long story for another post.  In short, she had a golf ball sized brain tumor removed here in Ohio only weeks before Brent had his entire right pelvis removed in New York. The abrupt change in his situation this week, including concern about his cancers return, and the likelihood of amputation, well, that is a bit much for any 10 year old to process. But, I wonder if she additionally worries about her own cancer status. It would be surprising if she didn't.

Brent is managing amazingly well with all that he faces.  He wants to focus on the good things the next few weeks will bring before surgery...the Kick-it for Cancer fundraising events that his school has every year to support pediatric cancer research, the end of school bonfire, his Make a Wish.  He says that he does not want to talk or think too much about surgery. I would worry about this, concerned that he is not preparing himself, but this is how he has always done things, focusing on the good that today offers and dealing with the difficulties when he must, regardless of the challenge: chemo, surgery, distant hospitalization...

In addition to checking in with Lauren and preparing Brent, we have the other kids to think about. Alex is a very physical, athletic kid.  He and Brent, only 2 years apart, have always been close.  They played soccer together and rough and tumbled outdoors their whole lives.  Over the last year and a half, Alex has struggled with the change in their relationship, in the ways that they can relate.  He wants to fix it, to fix Brent.  He wishes to return to how it was before cancer.  I wish I could do this as well, for both of my sons. 

Brent is happy for Alex and has a very generous spirit. I have never seen any jealousy or resentment from him about Alex's ability to continue along a path that isn't as physically restricted as his own. While Brent hasn't gone to but a couple of Alex's games, this is mostly because sitting so long is uncomfortable for him physically.  I think Brent will continue to adapt well emotionally, but this is going to be a very tough thing for Alex to come to terms with.  I recognize how strange that seems.

Olivia, well, I do not know what to do to prepare her. At 5, I think that this would best wait until we are much closer to surgery.  But I am at a loss at how to make all of this right for any of our kids when it is so difficult for us to wrap our own heads around.  I do not know exactly how to help them.  Even if there was a manual for raising kids, I doubt that there would be a chapter that covers this.

While I still feel the heavy weight of our limited orthopedic options for Brent, without the oncology bearing down on us, it doesn't seem quite so overwhelming.  It is unbelievably hard, but not soul crushing.  I will go with "not soul crushing," and be grateful.

Very, very grateful.

And try to find our way to the next step. As serious as the problem is, and as difficult the solutions, we know that we are blessed in a dozen different ways, starting with the clean pathology.

Brent had cried out in Dr. Healey's office that it wasn't fair, which really struck me.  This is a statement that he has made very, very rarely, in the course of this 21 month ordeal. (I believe only twice)  All of the chemo, all of the surgery, all of the rehab...and he has complained very little.  I think he recognizes that while it cancer is not fair, this is what is.  Fairness is immaterial, so why dwell on it?

So we try to focus on what we are given, rather than what we have lost.  What we are given, the things that we count among our blessings, might not occur to others.  It is probably a given that your children to not have cancer. I name this daily as a blessing, but likely take other things for granted.

We are all different.  We all have blessings, and challenges, each unique. I think that our happiness stems from where our focus lay. (lie? lays? lies?--I can never get that one right)  You understand what I am mean, crappy grammar aside. 

Not to be all rainbows and unicorns, but I am going to focus on what we have been given, as we move past the shock of all of this. Like Brent, I am not going to dwell on the immaterial, unchangeable facts, but pick a solution and march on.

That is my plan at least.

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