“I have spent the greater part of the past (seven) months living on an Oncology floor. We live in a world of darkness here where there is little room for light to shine. Hope is something to fight for, faith is a constant choice and peace seems like a thing of the distant past. There are questions that will never get answered and a sadness that floats through the hall like the crisp autumn breeze. You can feel it against your skin as you pass someone in the hall. ”
That is an excerpt from an entry I wrote back in October and nothing I have written since comes close to illustrating what it’s like here. I have been trying to write a new post for three days but I just can’t find the words to say this time. Last night I found myself ending every paragraph with the sentence, “What kind of crazy hell do I live in?” I find myself tired and warn down after the news we received last week.
I came back from this weekend home to a fresh, recognizable Izzy. Before, she was retaining over 4lbs of fluid, her face lost somewhere within it all. Now there is definition in her eyelids, where before they were too swollen to blink, letting tears run out the outer creases. She’s smiling now and talking too. She actually started smiling on Friday but now her smile looks more like her own and it brings me such joy to see the smile that I both remember and have longed to see. It took four weeks but she has finally turned the corner.
But there is a little boy at home that waits for her. A little boy that just found out a few weeks ago when our neighbor died that people can die from cancer. Of course he asked if Izzy, his best friend and partner in the exploration of life thus far, would die. It was a conversation I had wanted to have with him but hadn’t known how to approach. We talked for a while about how there are different kinds of cancer and how it affects each person differently. And we talked about how Izzy’s cancer is actually gone now but we need to keep praying that it doesn’t come back. Then came the opportunity to talk about why it is so important that Izzy spends so much time in the hospital. Because cancer is such a very serious thing and it takes a long time to get rid of it. But now he knows the truth. A truth I tried to protect him from for a year but I knew couldn’t keep secret forever. The secret, of course, is that cancer is such a very serious thing.
All of our lives are different now and Carter’s is no exception. In kindergarten he is learning to read and write but in our own home he is learning powerful lessons on the harsh reality of life. Lessons most of us cringe at while learning in adolescence and adulthood. But none of us have any say on when they come. They just appear, like the early morning fog, clouding our view of what was so clear the night before. Making what once was clear, blurry and what once was light, heavy.
It was no secret to Carter that I felt a heaviness this weekend. No secret to him or anyone else I encountered. On the night before I came back to the hospital, as we lay in bed, he reminded me that I forgot to pray. I prayed for God to get us through this difficult time and for Him to continue to heal Izzy. Then he told me I forgot to pray for him not to have nightmares. He is my timid child and finds comfort in God as Protector. I asked God to cover him with peace that night and to protect him from any nightmares, secretly wondering what horrors had been plaguing him in his sleep. We lay in silence for a while when he suddenly reached his hand over and put it on my face. “I will always protect you, Mama.” He could not see the tears that filled my eyes or know how desperately I longed to feel protected too. But for him to offer me the thing he was in desperate need of himself, was so selfless and heroic. “You are so amazing,” I told him. “It’s my job to protect you, buddy. It’s just your job to be a little boy.”
Hope is something to fight for, faith is a constant choice and peace is a thing of the past. But moments like that make me want to fight, they make me want to choose, so that peace can once again be a part of the daily lives of both of my children.