My sweet baby girl woke up from her nap today with a fever. She came running into my office carrying her soft blankie (as she calls it) and Boss, her favorite stuffed doggy from Aunt Misty. She slowly opened the door and peeked her little round face in while giving me her best… “can I get up now” look. She slept for a good 2 hours and 45 minutes today, so I said, “you can come in sweetie”. Her eyes lit up and her cautious little face turned into a big smile as she ran over to me. She quickly climbed up onto my lap and then turned on the her innocent inquisitive charm, as she does every single day. She has a way of being playfully manipulative with her innocent curiosity, in an attempt to shift my “work focus” over to her, by making very funny and overly expressive faces and asking very detailed questions about every photo or graphic she sees on my monitors. She is always very strategic with her questions because she wants to buy as much time as she can, but the secret is on her. This one-on-one snuggle time at my desk with my sweet girl, is one of my favorite parts of the day, and I want to drag it out as much as she does on most days. After a year of living with the fear that cancer could take me away from my little girl and that she could actually be forced to grow up without a mommy, I have learned to appreciate and love even the littlest of moments…. and this daily moment is one of them.
She didn’t seem sick, but I could feel that she had a fever right away and she did seem overly snugly and needy today. After a few moments to snuggle, I grabbed the thermometer to check her temp. and sure enough… 103.1. After I was diagnosed with breast cancer this past year, we used the termed “sick” quite loosely with Corryn in an attempt to explain what was happening to me in terms that she could understand in her two-year old mind, but over the past few months we have realized just how confusing this has become for her because the term “sick” has been applied to her as she has had the flu and a few colds herself. She pays attention to every detail like her mommy, so after I grabbed the thermometer, she right away said… “Mommy, am I sick?” I replied with “I think you might be getting sick sweetie, but you’re ok. You just have a fever and then I said “Mommy’s going to give you some medicine to make you all better.” It has been a good 8 hours now, but I still cannot get her response out of my mind.
She looked up at me with her big, brown, glossy eyes and said “mommy, are you sick too?” I smiled and said “nope…. Not yet, and I hope you don’t get me mommy sick”. As I pulled her in for a hug and brushed her hair out of her eyes so that I could kiss her on the forehead, she quickly threw herself back and with her oh so very expressive and serious face, said; “But mommy you are sick! You have cancer remember? You don’t have any hair.” She has been focused on the word “cancer” a lot lately because I have been trying to explain the difference between being sick, and being sick because you have cancer, to her. After taking a minute to explain this a little further, I reminded her that mommy’s cancer is gone and that Mommy is getting better. She seemed to be making complete sense of all of this, but just when I least expected it, she paused for a moment and then looked up at me with her sweet and innocent little face and for the second time in the past year said…. “Mommy, when I get big and I get cancer like you, is my hair going to fall out like your hair did?”
Hearing these words broke my heart the first time she said them a few months back, but it hit me even harder today for some reason. Although I do feel a lot of guilt for all that I wasn’t able to experience with her over the past year, and for what my cancer has taken from her, I have tried really hard to focus the positive things that she may be gaining because of what she has witnessed this past year. We do our very best to shield her from the very real pain, fear and sadness that comes from this very scary situation, but there are days when it is really hard to hide all of what it happening to me and to us. She is a a very smart little girl so she is learning to put two and two together. The truth is that she picks up on far more then we think she does. A lot of people say that she will not remember this, and for the most part this is true, but I also know that you can have memories of things that were traumatic for you even from the age of two, because my very first memory is from when I was two and a half. The same age that Corryn was, when I received my diagnosis last year. But I still try to focus on the fact that although she has witnessed a lot of things that no little girl should ever have to witness, she has also gained empathy and understanding at a very young age. I try to tell myself that watching her first female role model get up and fight with everything she had in her every single day, could actually help mold her into a better person someday, but most of all, I hold on to the hope that all of the sad, confusing and scary memories that she may have of watching her mommy and daddy go through this hell, will someday inspire her to do something positive and great for the breast cancer cause. Who knows maybe she will be the oncologist that researches and rids the world of cancer all together so in there future, little girls like her will never have to watch their mommies suffer and fight for their life in the way that she has, when they should be learning their ABC’s and playing at the park.
As much as I hate to admit it, thoughts like this take over my mind more often then I would like. The truth is, I do usually try to replace all of my “this isn’t fair” thoughts that are born out frustration for my sweet girl, with positive thoughts of a her gained knowledge, empathy and understanding. It does help bring me peace most of the time, but tonight I just have to be honest and blunt. This isn’t fair for any of us, but this really isn’t fair for Corryn or for any of the children that are affected by cancer. I really HATE that Corryn has had to see the things that she has had to see, I really HATE that she has been robbed of a carefree start to her life and most of all, I really hate that she not only thinks that something as awful as a battle with cancer is normal, but that she also believes that cancer is someday going to happen to her.
After this past year, I truly believe that the only thing harder then facing something as awful as a cancer yourself, would be to helplessly watch your child face something as awful as cancer. I try my hardest to push thoughts like these out of my mind, but the fact that I have four friends, who have children who have, or are facing cancer; makes this very real for me and as much as I don’t want to admit this; it does bother me to know that because of me, my daughter does have an increased statistical cancer risk. No parent ever wants to see their child face a struggle of any kind, but as a parent who knows the real “hell” that comes with a cancer diagnosis and treatment from experience, this thought is even harder to come to terms with.
I very rarely let myself go here, but I am going to give myself a break from my usual “positive and optimistic” mindset and actual allow myself to feel a little bit of the anger and frustration that comes from knowing that cancer has affected so many people that I know and love, and that it is affecting my sweet baby girl despite all of my efforts to shield her for it, and then… I will take deep breath and I will remind myself that both Corryn and I are ok. I will snap out of it and put the positive hat back on. I will remind myself that do we have a lot to be thankful for this year. I will remind myself that I have made it through what I hope are my hardest days, and most of all, I will remind myself that someday all of this will be just a distant memory for Corryn, for Jordan, and for me as well as a reminder of just how precious life is.