Fireworks and Fireflies

July 4, 2010

Do you remember the magic of fireflies when you were young? The wonder of a little bug that comes out at night and lights up the darkening sky? Tanner and Jake almost never get to see them. We put them to bed so early, it’s still light out.

A couple of weeks ago, I bought some bug catchers and some butterfly nets so we could catch fireflies. I bought six of them so that when we had Lily and Madelyn’s families over for a cookout, we could stay up late and they could all catch some. That would have been last weekend, and the kids were really excited about it. Ironically, as would happen only when you try to get three kids with leukemia together, one of them ended up in the hospital. Little four-year-old Madelynn had a fever and low counts and we ended up canceling until everyone could come. Tanner was extremely disappointed.

Tonight, after having a great time decorating our bikes and riding in the Fourth of July bike parade in downtown Franklin, we planned to go to Corinne’s house to catch fireflies and, hopefully, see a few fireworks in the backyard. We set out with glow necklaces, silly string, bug catchers and butterfly nets in tow. The kids waited and waited for the fireflies to show up, and finally, they did.

They all ran around catching them in their nets and putting them in their bugcatchers. Tanner ran to me, elated that she had caught five fireflies. Then, she tripped over a jump rope and fell face first on top of her bug catcher. The bug catcher broke apart and fireflies streamed out into the sky. Tanner screamed; we thought at first she had hit her port and hurt herself, but she was hurt in a different way. Her little heart had endured as much disappointment as she could take. She grasped at the fireflies and sobbed as she watched them get away. There was no consoling her. I picked her up and hugged her to me and took her inside for a moment to try to calm her down, to tell her that there were lots more chances to catch fireflies this summer, that we could put hers in Jake’s bug catcher and take them all home with us. Nothing worked. She wasn’t crying about one disappointment; it was ten, maybe twenty, disappointments wrenching from her body in loud high pitched sobs.

She was mourning all the lost opportunities, all the times she has been told to be brave, that we’ll get to do it another time, that we can redo theatre camp, that she’ll get to go back to school eventually, that there will be another birthday party, another class trip, another chance to sing in the church choir, another dance lesson, another beach trip with my family.

Sometimes it is too much disappointment for an almost seven-year-old to handle. So many opportunities that disappear into the night like lost fireflies.

At home, we watched fireworks from the windows. She wanted to go outside and catch more fireflies, but she and Jake were exhausted and it was late. I promised her, once again, that there would be other opportunities. That we would invite friends over one night and catch fireflies in the yard. Just like I have promised her so many other things that will return to her once this disease has left our lives for good. Two-and-a-half years is an eternity to a child, especially one that lives on the edge of constant disappointment. It’s just too long.

Despite the meltdown, the night turned out okay. We returned home to find poor Domino in his crate barking furiously at the “intruders” that were making such loud booming noises. When we opened the crate door, he barreled out growling and barking, skidding around the corner to the front door, looking for the bad guy that might hurt his family. Love that dog. We took him down in the basement, where it wasn’t as noisy, and everyone played for a few minutes. Then, we watched some fireworks out the windows and went to bed. Turns out Jake and Domino feel similarly about fireworks. Both of them only like to watch them from inside; outside they are just “too woud.”

Luckily, I can recreate firefly catching any night of the summer. And, just like she always does, she’ll get over it. I just wish she didn’t have to.


Clinic Day #36 — Ever So Slowly

July 1, 2010

We went into clinic this morning for counts. I was expecting, after three weeks of being on 50% oral chemo dosage, for her counts to be well up above 1,000… but… no. 900. 900? That’s it? That’s only gaining 100 neutraphils per week… pretty slow, but I guess at least it’s in the right direction.

There is a theory that after a long time on chemo, the body develops bone marrow fatigue. As if to say, “Why should I bother to make any new cells, you’re just going to kill them?” Seems realistic to me.

So, we’re not quite ready to dine out in a restaurant again, but we’re not hibernating either. We’ll take it.

Been busy swimming a lot, playing with Domino and having playdates. Tanner’s friend, Meredith, came over yesterday for a “slumbover”… that’s when you have a friend over in the afternoon and they stay for dinner, you put on your pajamas and watch movies and they go home at bedtime. They had a super time.

Tanner got her birthday present a little early today (her birthday is July 8th). She wanted a new bike and we gave it to her today so she could ride it in the 4th of July parade in Franklin on Sunday. She opened up the garage door to go out and ride her scooter and just screamed in delight when she saw it… I love that.

Please pray for our little friend, Madelynn and her family. Madelynn is four and lives in our neighborhood and has ALL. She has just started maintenance and is experiencing the roller coaster that is the first months of this stage as they try to find the right dosage to keep her counts stable. Maintenance is such a dance; we’re still doing it. But, those first few months are very unstable. We were actually supposed to have a cookout with Madelynn’s family and Lily’s family last weekend and, ironically, had to cancel because Madelynn was in the hospital with low counts and a fever. Thankfully, it turned out to be a pretty benign virus and she got to come home pretty quickly. But, her counts continue to stay very low. I ran into her Mom, Amy, walking in the neighborhood early the other morning. We talked briefly about how disappointing it is to start maintenance… it seems like it should be so great, but it’s actually pretty rocky. It’s just a tough pill to swallow when you’ve waited for those first awful six months to be over.