AS FEATURED ON FIG-LANCASTER
One of the hardest things about my cancer diagnosis has been navigating this unknown world with a 4 year old. My daughter is smart and sensitive and intuitive beyond her years and my entire being wants nothing more than to wrap her in a cloak and shield her from all things cancer. But I can’t, I cannot shield her from it all because it is just too big. So I pick and choose, she knows I have a port in my chest and she knows that I get medicine through that port. She has seen me get shots in my stomach, despite my best attempts at hiding that. She has seen me crash on chemo weeks. The first two treatment weeks, were probably the nicest too me, yet they brought change into our home.
During that first chemo week, my little Bean would come flying into the house with her normal bubbling exuberance after school, and I would be sleeping…or so, so tired. My husband would shush her and heard her into her room or keep her downstairs and they would have tea parties and play house and when she asked for me I would overhear him telling her that I was sleeping or that they needed to play quietly and that broke my heart. Chemo week was going to bust up my life but I was not going to have it do the same to my sweet girl. I needed her life to stay normal, I needed her life to stay happy and worry free on both chemo weeks and non-chemo weeks.
I came up with a plan, I thought it was genius (although I rarely think my ideas are anything less…ask my poor husband). I enrolled my little Bean in every extracurricular I could think of. My husband and I have always talked about not over committing her. We both agree that kids should not have planned activities every minute, they should play with their friends and with themselves. They should get bored and learn to deal with it. Cancer changed that. I wanted her chemo weeks and non-chemo weeks to feel the same. I did not want her to have happy fun boisterous weeks, followed by a week of whispers and quiet play.
So, we added ballet,
we added gymnastics,
we added swim.
We made certain that she was out and about 3 days a week consistently. The problem is my plan is not working. My Bean is still so very aware of what is happening. She snuck into my room Monday night, gingerly lifting my chemo pump so as not to pull the line out of my port and she kissed my head, whispering “I love you mommy, get some rest so you feel better”. She knows. She does not want to go to her activities without mommy and has wholeheartedly put her foot down about not going to ballet.
So here I am, 4 chemo weeks to go, coming up with a new plan. I am not the mom that wants to teach her child to quit. I think that teaching children about commitment is so very important. You commit to something, you see it through to the end, end of story. However, she did not commit to ballet. She did not ask for ballet classes, I did. I committed her, I may have over committed her. So, do I let her quit rather than face the weekly tears as I try to convince her to go? I don’t want to ruin dance for her by fighting it out every week, for the next 6 months (which is how long I committed her to dance). Do I let her quit so that when we are on the other side of the cancer fence, she is open to trying it again?
Whether we quit dance or not, I am left with the bigger question of what I can do to shield my poor baby’s heart. I do not want her worrying about her mommy every week. I do not want her boisterous spirit quieted every 7 days. I want her to leap and shout and play, even when I can barely lift my head off the pillow. I want my daughter to look back on the next 9 weeks as a magical dance through the holidays, where cancer is not even a blip on her radar. But that’s the thing about cancer…it is a blip. It is a big Freakin blip and I just don’t know how to hide it.