Let’s try this again. My first stab at this entry went out before I was ready and then I deleted it in a panic. I can’t remember where I started before but it went something like this…
There’s a mom I’ve met on the transplant floor whose been like a breath of fresh air to me. Everyday we pass each other in the hall, drink our coffee and talk about the hell we’re enduring. I’m thankful that our journeys have intersected here. She has a ten year old son who got his transplant back in August. In December they found out he had developed a new type of cancer post-transplant. The journey before them is now unknown. They walk forward one day at a time and wait.
She told me they have this one picture of their son before transplant and when they see it her husband always says he wishes he could go back to that moment, pick up their son in his arms and just run. Perhaps that sounds cruel or unloving, but it makes perfect sense to me. I remember feeling that when Izzy was first diagnosed. I wanted to run away with her as far as I could and hide her from this nightmare. And I feel it again after every round of chemo once she starts feeling better. Because just as she feels strong enough to start running again and to start eating it’s time to knock her down again. That’s what sounds cruel to me. And it never gets any easier. She walked into the hospital with me to transplant like she has for every round of chemo. But I’ll wheel her out in a wheel chair just like I have almost every time.
There are three pictures in the frame at the top. The first was taken the week after Izzy started treatment. The second was taken last week and I’ll get to the third later. What you’ll notice in the first, what I notice, is that she doesn’t look sick yet. For most of our children, the cancer didn’t make them half as sick as the treatment. It’s the treatment that destroys them piece by piece as it tries to knock out the cancer. Their tiny organs are subject to horrendous levels of toxicity. It’s such a sick irony to think that treatment is ‘making them better.’ But that’s not really what it is. Treatment is giving them a chance at life. But without the grace of God miraculously intervening, they will pay severe consequences for that chance. How’s that for ‘medicine’?
I don’t have to look at these two pictures of Izzy to feel the weight of it. I walk with it everyday. Every time I look at her I am reminded of what she’s lost. But I’ve invited you on this journey with us and I wanted you to see for yourself. This is what cancer and it’s treatment does. You can say, it isn’t winning or it hasn’t won or whatever you want. But here she is. The girl on the left has made frequent trips to hell and now she is the girl on the right. Carter told me last night sometimes he doesn’t even remember having a sister. They have both been stolen from and and that is an injustice like no other.
My friend’s son woke up one day this week with his neck swollen out as big as his face. They sent him to ICU because of the pressure on his airway. He’s fine now, just a reaction to chemo they think. They won’t know for sure until they try it again in two weeks. That’s how it works with poison. You wait and see what happens. Every time.
So here’s what I finally realized after all this time. What we need, what Izzy and all of these kids need as much as healing from cancer is healing and protection from treatment. I don’t want Izzy to walk away from cancer only to have to pay the price of overcoming it. That would mean that the enemy wins in the end and you can’t believe I’m gonna settle for that. Absolutely not. He is stepping on grounds he does not belong and I will fight on every front.
So what I’m choosing to focus on now is the third picture. Right now there is a picture of a bloom on a rose bush, but I will replace it someday with a picture of Izzy post-treatment. We found out the cancer had returned on June 25th. My birthday was the next day and a friend gave me this mini rose bush to plant in the yard as a symbol of the many birthdays I would have to share with Izzy. So no, I don’t have the post-treatment picture of Izzy yet, but I think this one represents it well. You can look at whichever picture you prefer, but I have to keep focusing on this picture to keep fighting. Because these first two make me want to pick her up into my arms and just run.