Friday, June 27, 2008
In the eye of the beholder
Gearing up for another round of Chemo has left me feeling as though I'm gearing up for another round of complete exhaustion. Being in a hospital for days and nights on end makes you come face to face with the reality that, yes, your child is sick. We went to a pizza party at the Target House (where we're living) last night and seeing all the cancer-stricken kids just filled me with anxiety. Chunks-a-lot has been so fortunate thus far to have not been physically affected by her cancer. She can walk, babble and carry on like a very normal one year old. She doesn't wear the consequences of her illness in an obvious external way like a lot of the kids here do. And while that should be encouraging, it actually makes me nervous. I guess I'm wondering if what I'm seeing in other children is the future that's in store for her. I think about how wonderful and amazing it is to watch your child blossom before your eyes; to be there, cheering them on as they reach every milestone and pass it with flying colors. And then I wonder how heart-wrenching it must be to have to watch your child regress. To go from walking to a wheelchair, from talking clearly to stumbling on every word, from functioning like a bright child to struggling to perform daily tasks. There's this part of me that only wants to remember Chunks-a-lot the way she is now. Happy, smiling, giggly and thriving daily. She is so full of joy and mischief and curiosity....it kills me to think that soon she might be only a shadow of who she is now. But then I see these parents with their kids, who are so obviously sick, and they don't seem to even realize how "sad" their situation seems from the outside looking in. They look at their kids like they're perfectly normal. And then it hit me--I'm already one of those parents. People pass me in the store and I can see it in their eyes, "Bless her heart.", but all I see when I look at my little angel is a precious, chunky baby. I don't even notice the two huge stitched up cuts on her head or the shunt that runs under her scalp. It's normal to me now because it's become a part of who she is to me. And I think that's how all parents are, regardless of how your child acts or looks, you only see the part of them that makes them special and makes them who they are to you. So as much as I'd like to only remember Chunks-a-lot for the way she is right now, so physically and mentally intact, what she'll go through and the external consequences it might have will only become a part of who she is. And whether you be watching your child progress from milestone to milestone or regress from functioning to struggling, they're still precious in your eyes. Even now, as I'm waiting for this second round of Chemo to begin, this "new" life is already starting to feel normal. And I'm sure people are out there thinking about us and cringing as our situation seems so dire. And as hard as it all may be, these are still memories that are making a history of who we are. My daughter may be sick, but I don't see that when I look at her. I see a child who is extremely brave and filled with more courage at the age of one than I have at 26. So as we're embarking on this next round of Chemo, I've realized that while her hair might fall out and others might see a sick child with a bald head, I'll still only see her fighting spirit and her sparkling eyes. For no matter how much her cancer takes away from who she is right now, it can never take away who she is to me. She's feisty, she's precious and she's the most beautiful child I've ever seen. And, sick or not, "Chunks-a-lot" is who she'll always be to me.