The Best Thing About Cancer

June 1, 2010

Tanner and Jake donating change to the Children's Hospital

We’ve been accompanied on our last two clinic visits by a small camera crew that is following Tanner for a fundraising video for the Children’s Hospital. This time, just Ms. Donna came with us, with her video camera, to chronicle Tanner getting her port accessed, receiving her chemo in the infusion room, and waiting in the pre-op area for her lumbar puncture. Last time, Tanner sat with Ms. Donna and her crew for about 10 or 15 minutes and answered questions about what it’s like to have leukemia. During these questions, Ms. Donna asked Tanner what was the worst thing about having cancer. Tanner answered, “Missing school and doing things with my friends.” Then, she asked a question I wasn’t sure a six-year-old could answer. She asked what was the best thing about having cancer. Tanner thought for a minute, puzzled by such a strange question, and replied, “There’s really nothing good about it.” I was really proud of her for not feeling pressured to come up with an “acceptable” answer and for just answering honestly.

But, the question stuck with me and I found myself wondering how I would answer it, if she had asked me. For a moment I felt just like Tanner… there’s nothing good about it. But, I thought a little more and suddenly it hit me… the best thing about having cancer is the unbelievable kindness of people. I literally never knew people could be so kind… really.

Take today for example. Tanner got an email from her “animal friends,” and squealed with delight. We even wrote an email back to the cat to tell him how to make his hurt ear feel better. Charlene has been sending photos and letters from cats, dogs, horses, goats, turkeys and even a bee for a solid year. She even made a book of the letters for Tanner to keep. Tanner still doesn’t know who they come from (shhhhh!) and it’s like magic to her.

Then, I got a call from a friend whose daughter is going to forgo birthday presents for donations to the Children’s Hospital. We’re trying to work out something cool where maybe the party attendees bring toys for the Childlife Center in the infusion room. Too cool.

Then, I got an email from one of Tanner’s Make-A-Wish volunteer coordinators. She is running a half-marathon for Team in Training to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and wanted to know if she could run in Tanner’s honor. She is the second of Tanner’s two Wish Coordinators to do this. As if they don’t do enough

Then, John came home from work and brought me a gift from my secret pal. This sweet woman has been sending me gifts for almost a year now, just every so often, to let me know that someone’s thinking about me. They are always such thoughtful things designed to make me feel pampered. Today, a bracelet with a little charm on it that says, “Mom” and a little heart for each of the kids. I love it, just like I’ve loved the flip flops, the key chain, the monogrammed bags, etc. The card said she has truly enjoyed being my secret pal… that’s the kind of person I’m talking about here. Wow.

This is just one day’s kindness. Other days, there are little gifts, cards of encouragement, supportive comments to the blog, babysitting, and countless other acts of generosity. There are also the quiet behind the scenes things like the great friends who make this blog possible by hosting it on their site and doing all the technical stuff I don’t understand. Then, there are indescribable things like the friend who has loaned Tanner his St. Christopher medal he wore in Vietnam so she will be protected like he was. How do you thank someone for that?

These things mean more to us than their face value. It’s not the gift or the gesture itself that is so important… it’s the support, the friendship, the hope, the love that they bring that make them so instrumental to surviving this ordeal.

So, if Ms. Donna were to ask me what is the best thing about my daughter having cancer, I would say it’s all of YOU.

Thank you for everything you have done, and continue to do, to make this journey bearable.


P.S. Happy Birthday to Tanner’s port, which was put in one year ago today. We sang to it tonight.

Three Day Weekend

April 24, 2010

I woke this morning to John and the kids getting ready for an impromptu trip to cheer on the runners in the Country Music Marathon. We know some people who are running, many of them for Team in Training, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society fundraiser. They had a great time clapping and cheering (Jake really liked the clapping) and then went to cousin Mack’s for a visit.

I stayed home. I would like to say I got tons of stuff done, but I didn’t. I watched the news to see if the marathon would escape the severe storms headed our way and dabbled at the computer. I finally roused myself to go for a quick walk before the rain started when my neighbor’s dog jumped the fence to come with me. They weren’t home and every time I put the dog back in the fence, she jumped back out. By this time, the storm was coming, so I bagged the walk, put the dog in my garage and folded laundry instead.

It was just that kind of lazy day… lots of rain, wind and lightning. It’s beautiful to watch a storm at our new house. There’s a huge tree at the base of our yard that sways mightily in the wind and completely fills the wall of windows in our living room. The creek swells and makes little rapids. Once, we saw a rabbit “swimming” in it. Although, from the looks of it, it was not his intent to be swimming.

So, we lay around, played wii, watched movies, and took naps. Tanner needed the rest, even if she didn’t want it. She was up last night every four hours on the dot, asking for painkiller. The Vincristine was causing her right leg to hurt pretty badly and I actually had to help her to the bathroom. By this morning, she was a little better, and seemed fine by this evening.

Tomorrow, we’re looking forward to a visit from some old friends who are in town running the marathon. We haven’t seen them in many years and their kids will be unrecognizable. Should be fun.

Then, if Tanner can continue her two-day, tantrum-free streak through Sunday, we will go to the end of year Yummies (Young United Methodists) picnic at church.

Is this our new dog? I hope so!!!

Tanner has off school on Monday and we’re going to…. Prison!!!! A trip to meet our potential new dog, Domino. This news feels like a déjà vu, since I think I wrote this exact same thing about a different dog about 3 months ago, right before Tanner’s counts went on a roller coaster ride due to several viruses. A few chemo adjustments and an IgG (antibody) infusion later, we are ready for take 2 on the dog deal. This one feels really right. I had a dalmatian for 14 years whom I dearly loved. But, she was very high energy and I would never get one now that I have two kids, a husband, a house and much less time to wear a crazy dog out. But, this dalmatian is mixed with something mellow, so he might be just the guy for us. Cute and spotty, but much less hyper. I love it.

Tanner’s therapist gave us some really good tools for helping Tanner deal with her anger and anxiety that seem to be working. Also, I think we’re just learning, with Allison’s help, what makes her tick (and what makes her TOCK!). Hopefully, these will result in some lifetime self-soothing skills for her and some solid parenting skills for us. God Bless therapy. One of my cancer mom friends said she thinks they are buying Allison a new house with all this therapy. I think we’re securing her vacation home. But, so be it. Peace of mind is priceless.

Thanks to all who ran and braved the horrible weather at the Country Music Marathon for Team in Training today. There’s a cure for this wretched disease somewhere and, today, we got 26.2 miles closer.