The ultimate rockstar
Today I chose to write a blog post out of the norm, for a cause that is now near & dear to my heart. I promise to return to my usual ranting & complaining next week 🙂
When cancer doesn’t affect your immediate world you don’t give it much awareness. You glance at commercials on TV featuring brave kids with their bald heads and for a moment feel bad, and then move on with whatever catches your attention next. “Would you like to donate a dollar to help end childhood cancer?” “No thanks” I’d respond, quickly swiping my credit card before I could be asked again. I would grab my purchase and head to the exit, semi annoyed that my transaction took two seconds longer than it should have.
And then suddenly, cancer is a part of your world. It appears, punching you in the stomach in a hospital waiting room. It makes you curl up on the floor, makes your eyes burn from crying, it makes you wonder how on earth life can be so unfair. You wake up the next morning with swollen eyes wondering if it was all a horrible dream.
Cancer became a very real part of my world this past winter when my niece was suddenly diagnosed with Medulloblastoma, a malignant brain tumor most often found in children. The last time I saw Emma prior to the C word we spent a Sunday skiing and ended the day sitting in the lodge sipping hot chocolate and chatting. As she jumped in her parent’s car I gave her a quick hug and a kiss and told her I’d see her soon. Never in a million years did I think that it would be in a bed in Children’s Hospital.
In what was a matter of days from our ski trip Emma went from a bouncy chatterbox to a zombie like body in a bed. I watched her slowly recover from a lengthy brain surgery, wishing there was a way that I could take some of the pain. I searched for signs that the Emma I knew and loved was still there among all of the tubes and bandages and hospital gowns. Until this moment I only knew cancer in adults, who were closer to death than birth. What does it do to a kid? How does it change who they are? Who they are going to be?
After recovering from her surgery Emma spent the majority of this past year in doctors offices & hospital rooms, sleeping, resting, fighting. She’s endured rounds of radiation and chemotherapy leaving her body weak and exhausted. While most kids her age are focused on learning to read and money from the tooth fairy, Emma’s life has revolved around cell counts and blood transfusions. All of it making you wonder why on earth these things happen.
The answer of course, is that no one knows why. There’s no answer as to why kids get sick and why horrible, mean people live on forever and ever perfectly healthy. That’s the shitty part- there is no reason. And while there’s no answer as to why it happens- there is an answer to what happens after. What happens is love. What happens is strength. Your family bond becomes tighter, stronger… a shield against evil. You learn to make hugs last harder and longer, to give more kisses, to say “I Love You” like a broken record. You learn the kindness of friends, and even complete strangers. You learn that suddenly you start to see good in places you never thought to look before. And you learn to find positives in the littlest things. Like days when it’s perfectly acceptable to sit and eat french fries covered in cheese sauce. Or when all the other kids are running around a playground, and you’re just sitting on a blanket together, talking. I guarantee you haven’t had a deep life conversation like the one’s I’ve had with this kid. These are the moments that matter. These are the moments that remind me that the Emma I know and love is still there, even among all the chaos and pain in her body.
This spring we got some absolutely wonderful news- Emma’s scans came back “NED”, no evidence of disease. The three most wonderful words you could ever hear. We heard them again at the end of the summer. And while Emma is nearing the end of her treatments, there is no crystal ball into the future. So we channel our most positive thoughts, we pray, and we enjoy every single day.
September (as it is now ending) is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. And with that, I’ve been asked to donate to childhood cancer several times this month. Now I stop what I’m doing and say “Absolutely”. And I tell the story of Emma, because I am the proudest aunt there ever was. Childhood Cancer awareness doesn’t just get a month of my life. I will think about it every single day for the rest of my life.
I chose to write this post today instead of one about myself for a reason. There isn’t a stronger person that I know. There isn’t anyone I respect more, look up to more, admire more. Whenever something seems hard or challenging to me, I think about all that Emma has endured in the last year. She is strong and brave and wiser than any kid I know. She is without a doubt, my little rockstar.