This stay has gone well for us. Izzy triumphed through chemo this round though she now has C DIFF, a bacteria infection in her GI tract. We didn’t get out of here today as we had hoped but we will still have a good two weeks at home before surgery if we leave soon. We’ll have to come back a few times for scans but I’ll take it. Until she got placed in isolation yesterday because of the infection we were spending large portions of our days down in the playroom. Here is a small glimpse of what you’d see down there if you could go.
She reached across the table for the bottles of sand, studying each color closely before choosing. So far in her bottle of sand there were beautiful thick and thin layers of pink, green and blue. Purple. The next layer would be purple because the next layer of Izzy’s bottle was purple. The two girls were copying each other from one project to the next in the playroom. There wasn’t much room around the table with the two girls, their IV poles with chemo running and the other mother and I. But they didn’t mind. They were squeezed in, elbow to elbow, to the mostly boy dominated playroom thankful to have found a companion interested in something other than Legos.
She was around Izzy’s age. She’d just celebrated her fifth birthday in the hospital during her last stay. We had first met her the night before her birthday in this same playroom. She had sat on her mom’s lap with her head fallen on her shoulder, tears streaming down her face. All she wanted was to go home and be with her dog on her birthday. A perfectly reasonable and heart breaking request.
Each time they poured more sand in they watched in awe as it ran through tiny funnels into their butterfly shaped bottles.The girls continued to create jars of sand each paying close attention to what the other did but not speaking. I watched the girls thinking back to the first time I had talked to her mother that first night. We had sat at that same brightly colored table with shiny chrome legs chatting about our stories. It’s interesting here, the fine line between idle chitchat and the most intimate details of your life. We talked of how it all began, her story strikingly similar to our own. It was then I found out the girls shared the same diagnosis. Stage IV Neuroblastoma. She told me they were only a month or so ahead of us in treatment. We knew we would be crossing paths a lot in the year or so to come. But we also knew the inevitable, statistically one of our daughters would not survive. Fortunately I know we can both put our hope in something other than statistics. But it’s still hard not to think about it whenever I see the two of them together.
At another table there’s a boy around ten building with Legos with his brother. He angers easily getting bored with one game and wanting to move on to another. At first glance his emotions seem out of proportion for his age. But he and his father have been there three and a half months straight and he’s in a wheel chair his legs too weak from the cancer that’s in his bones. Can you imagine how irritated you would be?
Over by the toy kitchen there’s a little fifteen month playing with pots and pans on the floor. Within five minutes he starts to wander out into the hall and his mom jumps up, just steps behind him. Between naps he runs from one end of the hall to the next looking for anything new to get his hands on. He grins from ear to ear like any other toddler anytime he catches you looking at him. You can see his eyes light up even behind his tiny protective mask. His family comes for thirty five days at a time and then goes home for ten and comes back to do it all over again. His parents are believers and his mother is one of the only parents I’ve really been able to relate to. They have two other children, three and five that are two hours away.
And then sitting alone in the corner in hospital clothes is the child that has won my heart completely. Three years old he sits playing video games his feet swinging from the oversized chair. With fair skin and remnants of blonde hair he watches the screen intently laughing when the Lego Batman guys fall apart. But there’s no parent nearby to laugh with him. Ever. He is living here during his treatment, alone. He, too, has the same diagnosis as Izzy, but for reasons I can’t imagine he never gets to go home, whatever home looks like. He started treatment right before us and in all this time I’ve only seen a visitor here once for a little over an hour. Who is this child suffering all alone? I know his name but nothing more. His birthday is coming up just around the corner. I asked him yesterday what he wanted and with bright eyes he told me a semi truck. He always lists a couple other things too, but at the top of the list is always simply a semi truck. They do a fabulous job around here with inpatient birthdays and I’ m sure his will be no exception. And believe me, one way or another that child will have a semi truck on his birthday. But I wonder if anyone will come to see him or stay over. If for a moment someone would come and fill the silence in his room.
These are a handful of the children that sleep right down the halls from us each night. And in the midst of your prayers for Izzy, I would ask you to pray for God’s presence on this floor completely. These are five stories of the countless here on any given day. All of them are desperate for the love of God to carry them through this season. Some more so than others. We all walk around tired, scared and shell shocked at times seldom prepared for what the day has given us. My prayer is that this season would be a radical season of hope around here like no one has ever seen. Today I have hope for that. I have hope for the love of God to come here in such a passionate and contagious way that it shatters fear. It shatters hopelessness and it shatters whatever other kinds of nonsense the enemy has intended to bring with pediatric cancer. And thanks for praying for joy for me by the way. I think I got it and a whole lot of other good stuff too.