Every afternoon at 3:40 Izzy and I pick Carter up from school and I am never really sure which one of us is more excited. Being able to take him to and from school is a privilege we both cherish. Once in the car he shows Izzy his work from the day and they talk about what it will be like when they go to school together. The moment we pull in our driveway they burst out of the car and into the house. For the next few hours they will play until Izzy tires or Carter gets hungry, which ever happens first. It is in these moments that I find myself forgetting the road we are actually on. For split seconds the nightmare we are still living seems a thing of the distant past. Then I remember it is not over and a panic washes over me.
In just three days Izzy and I will get in a car and drive to Cincinnati where she will be admitted for, God willing, just five days. I will take my daughter who has been running and playing carelessly in the yard and willingly hand her over for more treatment. Willingly submit her to pain, fevers and nausea, as if the four or five times a day she throws up now are not enough. I cannot find the words to express what that feels like. To look at her so joyful and seemingly carefree and know what is in store for her in the days ahead. Knowing all the while that she cannot comprehend what is about to happen or why it needs to.
There is a sadness that has come over me the past few days as I have begun to anticipate this next phase. I am not only sad because I do not know how Izzy will respond to treatment, I simply don’t want to see her in a hospital bed. Period. It is not in one’s maternal instincts. Actually, it contradicts them entirely. The very image says: ‘Something is wrong with you. So wrong, in fact, that I can’t fix it.’
As if all of that weren’t enough, I have to leave Carter. My precious Carter. I could write a parenting book on my experiences with him from birth through the pre-school years. From nearly losing him at birth to his developmental difficulties that no one could pin point. From spinal surgery to intravenous iron infusions at the same HEM/ONC clinic I would some day sit in with Izzy as they told me the horrid news.
I still remember one time when we were at the clinic with Carter when Izzy began having an episode of stomach pain. One of the nurses gave us a hot pack for her but suggested the ‘pain’ was a result of her watching Carter get so much attention over the years. I watched cancer families come in and out of clinic that day for chemo and labs, of course, never imagining that would be me soon. Never in a million years had I dreamed that the pain in Izzy’s belly was cancer. It is hard to believe we were right where Izzy needed to be but no one knew it.
I have veered off. Back to Carter. We have been through a lot together and so our bond runs deeps. It pains me greatly to know that I will be spending so much time away from him again. That often times I won’t be here at night to tuck him in or in the morning to be sure the first thing he gets when he gets out of bed is a hug. I’m not the only parent that must make these sacrifices. Every parent fighting for their child’s life is making a choice to be there. And in making the choice to be there they are making the choice to be away from something, or someone else. Such is life on this journey through cancer.
Still I know The Lord is faithful to walk this through with us. But I must keep my eyes on the cross every second of every hour of every day. The moment I look away I stumble, tripping on my own fear, anger or pride, which desperately wants to have control. Over the weeks at home I have grown quite comfortable relying on myself. This kind of living will never make it on a journey through this sort of hell. Surely I will perish if I am relying solely on my own abilities to get through. Daily I must surrender everything I have to focus on the cross. Through it He will provide the strength I need to carry on, the peace we all need for this transition and the healing we so desperately want to see forever and ever.