When your child has cancer, you always have that “feeling”. Even when things are going well and she’s running and playing and sleeping and eating like any other two year old. Even when the sun is shining and you’ve had a great day at work. When your kids are in a good mood, bills are paid with a little left-over, dinner is in the crockpot ready to go, and you have this “I’m actually pretty organized and have it together today” feeling…it’s still there…just lingering in the back of your mind like an annoying little twitch that won’t go away.
You learn pretty quickly to get used to it.
But sometimes it comes over you like a wave of panic…like when reading about another child with cancer who’s gotten sick or relapsed or God-forbid lost their battle.
And then…once in awhile…without warning…it hits you like a ton of bricks. When after SO long doing SO well, its your own kid that gets sick. And no matter how many times the nurses and oncologists and research you’ve done all says it just a virus…you can’t help but be overtaken by worry that something else is going on.
The events of the past week and a half have been that ton of bricks for me. I’ve been consumed by constant thoughts of what’s going on in her little body and what I can be doing to help her fight back…even when that entails making my already-sick child even more upset. If it means braving the cold to take her to the clinic four different days in the course of a week to check her counts…or forcing syringes of bone broth and beet juice and coconut water while she cries…or crawling into a detox bath with her for 20 minutes twice a day, all the while listening to her screaming that she’s ready to get out…or agitating her and making her throw a fit just so she’ll run around the house and get her body and hopefully her bowels moving…it’s just what I had to do.
It’s exhausting. Mentally, physically, and most-definitely emotionally.
Sometimes I wonder if that exhausting fear will ever go away. Even after treatment is over and she’s deemed officially a “survivor”. Even when our visits to the clinic are just for yearly check-ups. Even when I’m braiding her long – what looks like it will be – blonde hair…or going to her school conferences…or helping her shop for her prom dress…or watching her walk down the aisle someday. Will I ever, ever, EVER be able to shake the feeling that something horrible could be going on?
I wish I could answer that.
People often say, “I don’t know how you do it”. The truth is…I don’t either. But the reality is…I don’t have a choice. And although I do my best to keep a positive attitude and not let the fear take over…I’d be lying it I said it wasn’t really, REALLY hard sometimes. There are days when my heart literally feels broken. When I can barely see through the constant tears welled up in my eyes. When the fear takes over, the tunnel gets darker, and the light seems further and further away.
I know that fear is not of God but it is real life and it is a struggle. I’ve had to make peace with that weakness…that fear…that hole in what should be complete and utter trust that He has a plan for a hope and a future both for my daughter and for me (Jeremiah 29:11). But I believe He knows my heart…and my struggles…and that I do my best to stay faithful in the midst of this storm.
And regardless of how hard this is on me…and my husband…and our other children…Dani is, of course, bearing the brunt if it all. The littlest and most helpless of the clan is the one leading us all in bravery, strength, and helping us all to put things in perspective. A reminder from a dear friend this week…He uses the weak to lead the strong (1 Corinthians 1:27). Dani couldn’t embody that any better.
So to work through MY fear, MY weakness, MY anxiety through all this, I do my best to forget about the stuff that doesn’t matter and draw my strength from her. I take it one day, one hour…sometimes 15 minutes at a time. I take a deep breath, say a prayer, fill another syringe, get another bath ready, remind myself that I don’t have a choice, and just keep on moving forward.
While that fear will likely always be there…I know that hope is there too. And I won’t give up on that. Hope for a day when we don’t have to check her chemo calendar before scheduling a vacation. Hope for a time when my kitchen counter isn’t covered with medications and supplements. Hope for conversations that don’t start with “when this is all over with”.
She’s a fighter, this little girl of mine. In the truest, most humbling sense of the word. And the craziest part it, she has no idea. But mark my words…someday she will. I’ll make sure of it.