Monday, August 29, 2016

What's worse than being told you have cancer?

My son Cris and family. Cris is holding Lilli. This is before "The Day" 

What could be worse? When your 2 1/2 year old granddaughter has cancer. Yes, that is worse. Much worse.

Words are too small and too insignificant to tell how powerless and ineffectual I felt when I got the news.
 "Lilli has leukemia."
"What? How is that possible?"
"She is going for a biopsy but it is just a formality. They are sure she has it. She is going into surgery in a couple of hours."

And thus began the saddest week of my life. I have had sad weeks. I mean, I am 60 years old and have lots of sad weeks. Parents have gotten sick and died. We had a miscarriage early in our marriage. friends have died, jobs have been lost or quit--we lived in my sister's basement when our 5th child was born (that is a story for another day) but nothing compares to finding out that your little Sunshine--only 2.5 years old-has cancer.

As pitiful as it was to see Lilli poked and prodded and filled with IV's and made to take bitter steroids 2X a day--it was sweet to see her smile shyly as we suggested she take a ride in a little plastic car so she could patrol the hospital corridors. There are lows and highs and perhaps the lows make the highs that much better.

It was sweet when she came home. But it will be a long road to a cure. Her prognosis is great, but there will be lots of transfusions, lots of clinic visits, lots of chemo treatments. She will probably lose her curly hair and have to wear a little face mask if she leaves her home for the next 8 months. And for 2-3 years she will have to be monitored for fever, rashes--any sign of even a minor infection. And of course, have more chemo. It seems there is always more chemo. (I mean, how can a little 31# body process all those medicines and treatments? It is a mystery and I am glad there are pediatric oncologists. Two weeks ago I never even heard the term, now I know a couple of them by name.)

I am sure there will be trips to the ER. I am sure there will be long nights of crying as the medicines rush through her body trying to kill any remaining leukemia cells. I am sure my son and his wife will have many sleepless nights and many thousands of  tears (shed and unshed) before this is all over.

And as their mom, how can I comfort them? How can I tell them it will be all right. I am good at laundry and food, good at babysitting and encouragement--but that all seems so insignificant in the face of cancer.

How can this happen to a sweet little girl just starting out in this world? We know it happens all the time. The Children's Hospitals are full of equally sweet and innocent children with all sorts of maladies. We know that, sort of. Back somewhere in our mind we know that.

 But,  not in my family.

 But it is.

God knows. He knew before and he knows now and he knows the outcome. He sees the sadness and walks with us. He sustains us, fortifies us and binds our family together so we can face what this old world dishes out. We can do this--but...

 I wish it was me. I wish it was me. I wish it was me.

Life can be so darn hard.

Jill