*Of course, no one can fight cancer alone. Or should. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t sometimes feel alone. Even if you aren’t the one who has the cancer.
I still remember walking with my son on his way to the OR. Trying not to fall to pieces. Wanting to believe that the neurosurgeon I had hardly met more than 24 hours before would fix my son. That his hands would be steady as he worked to remove the tumor that was slowly taking over my son’s brain. That the tumor really was “just” benign as he had thought.
Oh, how I wanted someone to promise me that my son would be okay.
The constant plea in my head… just please let my son be okay. Just please let him live.
Oh, dear God… my son was going to have brain surgery. My two-year old son. Brain surgery.
Then the bright white room, people moving about as if on a mission, my eyes locked onto my son.
Me wondering, “What the hell?” and “What did we do wrong?” Only to realize that they are trying to verify that they have the correct patient and the correct procedure. I try to regain what little composure I have left. I can’t lose it completely in front of my son.
Then the anesthesiologist telling me to kiss my son as it’s time for me to go.
My son is howling as if betrayed. “How dare you leave me with these people?” scream his eyes. Then the medicine starts to take an effect and the life seems to fade from those same eyes as his body goes limp.
I walk out of the OR. Without my son.
I had never been more terrified in my life.
That was four years ago.
In the last few days, I’ve been teaching that son to Rollerblade. The one who before the diagnosis had problems with balance and motor skills. Now on rollerblades.
It’s one of the most beautiful things ever.
But he didn’t make it to this point alone. Nor did I.
Nearly a year after our son’s surgery, my husband learned of a program called Hero Beads offered by a local childhood cancer support group called Capital Candlelighters (soon to be renamed Badger Cancer Support Network). This string of beads documents the diagnoses, treatments, milestones, etc. along a child’s journey.
It’s almost indescribable seeing your child’s medical history as a string of beads. And regardless of outcome, there are always too many beads.
And while I treasure those beads, Capital Candlelighters offers kids and their families so many more concrete means of support. From financial aid to support groups to sharing information… anything that they can do to make the hell that is childhood cancer easier for children and their families.
Over time my family has begun to participate in events either sponsored by or to benefit Capital Candlelighters. We recently walked in our second Suzy’s Run. It’s a highly emotional experience. Seeing the families and kids who are still fighting or have beaten cancer. Seeing the families whose kids have lost.
So it’s time for me to do more, to give back. Because doing good feels good. But I’m not done yet.
“…because kids can’t fight cancer alone!” (Capital Candlelighters motto)
(I’ll be damned if I don’t tear up every time I read that motto.)