As you may have noticed the gaps between my entries are getting wider. It’s not that there isn’t anything to say, it’s just that sometimes I feel like my heart is a broken record. In the beginning there were so many emotions I was feeling, they were all so new and fresh. But now that the dust has settled it’s like it trapped down a part of me. It’s harder now to reach out from beneath it and articulate.
So, we did get finally get discharged last Thursday after eighteen days. We’ve been home for a week and are headed back again today for the fourth round of chemo. During the final stretch of the eighteen days Izzy had a CT-scan to look at her tummy since she was having such trouble keeping things down. The scan didn’t reveal a ton of information about why she was still throwing up but it did show that her primary tumor had shrunk considerably. The doctor was thrilled with the news, as were others in the room when he delivered the news. I felt little emotion at all. There was a part of my mind telling me I should be happy. Telling me that this was great news, that it meant things were working. But it did nothing for my heart. It didn’t take away what’s ahead for us. I didn’t mean we don’t have to live in a hospital, that she doesn’t have to endure hell and that Carter and I don’t have to be separated. It’s just hope that it will all be worth it in the end.
Izzy had an amazing week at home. She had an unbelievable amount of energy and played just as much this past seven days as any other four year old I’m sure. It’s almost like her body was making up for lost time. And she had a lot of requests too. She wanted to plant flowers. Check. Go to the Children’s Museum. Check. Go to the Zoo. Check. Go to the make-up store. Check. Bake cookies. Check. On top of all that she was outside constantly running, playing, swinging, riding her bike. If it weren’t for her little bald head you would never have known she was different from any of the other kids on our street
Our time at home was picture perfect at it’s best and a gut wrenching Lifetime movie at it’s worst. The most difficult time was oddly the first hour we were back. We had made it back just minutes before Carter needed to be picked put from school. I had talked to him briefly the night before and told him I would get to pick him up and I could hear the excitement in his voice for the first time in weeks. Carter isn’t really into the phone. He never wants to talk to me, or anyone else for that matter
We do get to FaceTime every night thanks to the generous donations of IPads from a loving community, but otherwise I would have no contact with him. I was so excited as I drove alone to his school to pick him up. There had been a delay at the hospital that morning because Izzy needed platelets and they were out of her type. For hours I had sat in her room imagining this moment. I had wondered if he was sitting in school imagining it too.
I pulled into the parking lot with eagerness and drove around the corner to the pickup line. As each car moved forward picking up his or her child I could hardly stand it any longer. Finally I saw him. He walked out of the building, backpack hoisted over one shoulder by a little tail strap like he does, beaming from ear to ear as he saw the Jeep. He walked proudly towards it waving at every kid he saw along the way. But as soon as he reached out to open the door something instantly changed. He opened the door all by himself, climbed up into the Jeep and got himself all buckled in. In the past I always had to help him get buckled in and he always wanted me to but I guess these were the types of things you learned to do on your own when you didn’t have a mom around. I looked at him and told him how glad I was to see him and he smiled warmly but he said nothing, just opened his lunch box and got out his crackers. Then I pulled out a fresh bottle of water I had brought and handed it back to him but he told me he had his own in his thermos from lunch. I thought he would have milk in his lunch box, but he told me he doesn’t do it that way anymore. Daddy packs water.
I could feel the tears beginning to well up underneath my sunglasses. I continued to talk on the way home but he said almost nothing. I knew what this was. I had seen it with my kids before when they were around family they hadn’t seen in a while. He was warming up. It was taking him time to warm up to me. I had been away for too long. I wanted desperately to tell him I would never leave again. To tell him that it was all over and things would go back to the way they were before, but of course I knew it wasn’t true. I had no idea how long I would be gone the next time. Or the next one.
As soon as we pulled in the driveway he jumped out of the car and ran inside leaving me behind. It was about an hour until he warmed up. About an hour until we hugged and snuggled and all felt right in the world
I suppose that’s just a stage of parenting that happens naturally, but it’s one I wasn’t even close to being prepared for. You want to know that your kids can survive without you. That they can exist independent of you and still thrive. It’s kind of the whole point. You raise them the whole time with that purpose in mind. Praise God I was the only one crying behind my sunglasses this morning when he jumped out of the car and ran into the school. When I told him I didn’t know when I’d be back. But it still stings to see the one who used to need you so much grow up, a little faster than he should have too.
And the reality is it probably hurts a little more because of the uncertainty I’m walking in everyday with my other child. It just seems so unfair to feel like I’m losing one of them while I’m fighting for the other. I know that’s not the truth, but that’s how it feels.
Well, here we are. On our way back to Cincinnati yet again. I’m praying for a shorter stay this time, less than a week would be nice. Afterwards we’ll do another scan and the first week in October we’re scheduled to have the tumor removed. And I’m hopeful I will feel joy in that. That’s my prayer this week anyways. That I can feel joy again when I should. If the cancer is reacting to the treatment I want to be able to celebrate that. I want to break through the dust and celebrate the victories. The ones happening day by day and the many more ahead.