This past weekend a friend of mine passed from this world to be with God. She wasn’t just a casual friend, she was a pediatric oncology parent, a kindred spirit, a lady who knew what I know: that childhood cancer is a life long journey. But she also knew one extra thing that I haven’t had to experience, what it feels like to have cancer.
Since 1987, I have met many parents who were told “your child has cancer.” And unfortunately some of these parents were also diagnosed with cancer. The number is to great for me to recollect in this moment of grief but, if I had to make a case for cancer and a genetic component I would be convinced.
I can still remember the day my friends daughter was diagnosed with cancer. Jason was one month into his own treatment for T-Cell Leukemia when we met this new family. We walked the corridors of the hospital together as our children were hooked up to IV pumps that delivered chemotherapy for the cure. This new family came to the first Christmas party in 1988 and we became comrades in our children’s battle for survival.
Today, I cry tears for my dear friend who fought her own lengthy and fierce fight with cancer. When you are crying and not quite sure how to fully express some of the moments you shared with other parents it’s handy to go back to old journal entries. Here are two entries I made in my book “Count It All Joy.”
Two small entries in my book are just a tiny tribute to this incredible woman and her family. But, my pain is so layered and complicated that I have lost my words. So this will have to suffice.
Rest in peace, my friend and rejoice in the glory of God. You were a gift to all who knew you.
from Count It All Joy:
Monday, April 14th, 1997
Today I awake with pain in my heart. I want to scream! Instead I hug my puppy, T.J. I then spend 30 minutes on personal hygiene. I try to look good on the outside, hoping I will feel better on the inside.
As hard as I try to feed, clothe and entertain my children…despite the many kind people who have shared their prayers and gifts with us, there remains a pain within me that I cannot escape. I will look for beauty, romance and JOY today.
I have the pleasure of driving Ashley and Michael to school. Ashley is 12 years old and is fighting her second battle with leukemia. She was two years old when she was first diagnosed. Last summer, after camp, she wasn’t feeling well, and the doctors found that the abnormal while blood cells had invaded her bone marrow once again. Ashley is very quiet and brave as she faces the challenges put before her. The least I can do is to drive her and her brother Michael to school when her parents need help. The two of them have been a wonderful gift to me with their teasing and joking natures.
Tuesday, May 6th 1997
This morning I shaved my head. Why I am not sure, but afterwards I felt very pleased. Both with the new look I created and with the freedom I felt in being allowed to shave my head. Through the shaving, the trimming and the cleaning, it suddenly occurred to me that fear is what causes my physical pain. For a few brief minutes I felt freedom, happiness and Joy.
In the small bathroom of white and soft pastels, there was my body in the skin nature gave me, hair falling to the floor. I had control of the razor. “Shaving and Freedom!” I said to myself.
This is for you Jason, Ashley, Gloria and all of my friends who are bald. Shaving and Freedom! I thought, “This is what cancer and the treatment does to you. You become bald, cells in your body change or are destroyed, you have no control and fear robs you of happiness.”