Tanner’s been taking dance for about a year-and-a-half, both hip hop and ballet. The lesson today stirred up a memory that haunts me. Two weeks to the day before Tanner was diagnosed with leukemia, I took her to our pediatrician because her back was hurting. She had been complaining about it on and off for several days and had even woken up in the night once, crying, saying her back and leg hurt. The pediatrician, and I, agreed that she must have strained a muscle. She had been unusually active (which is saying something) for several days before that with two dance recital rehearsals, the recital itself, field day and the kindergarten rodeo. Anyone could easily strain a muscle with all that going on. We gave her ibuprofen for a few days and it went away.
It came back on June 28th at 9 pm, just an hour-and-a-half after Tanner went to bed. This time, it made her scream and curl up in a ball and writhe in pain if you touched her. It was leukemia and it had been stalking my child for at least two weeks.
So, I’m haunted by the pictures I have of her at that recital. She looks like any other 5-year-old, happy to be in a cute costume and excited to show off her moves at the big show. But, I keep looking at those photos. I zoom in on them sometimes, trying to see if there were dark circles under her eyes. Is that a bruise I see on her leg? Tanner has always been very thin, but her legs look super thin and long in those knee socks. Too thin? Her face looks really pale, especially for the middle of May when we have playing outside so much in the beautiful spring weather. Almost ashen.
Then I compare them to the photos from her December recital before the bactrim reaction sent us to the hospital for 5 days in March and before the leukemia. She looks so healthy and beautiful. Why didn’t I notice how pale she was later?
Then, I remember my Mom telling me on a visit that she thought Tanner looked tired because she had dark circles under her eyes. When was that? I can't remember. Tanner has chronic ear infection problems, so I thought they were the "allergy shiners" kids with sinus and allergy problems are prone to.
The point is, I am haunted by the fact that the leukemia was already there in those photos of the spring recital. It was lurking there conducting its evil business and no one knew. My beautiful, happy, dancing, twirling daughter was being stalked by a killer and we didn't know.
Not that it really would have changed anything; I just don't like it. It mars some happy memories for me. Those pictures will never just look like harmless pictures of a little girl going to a dance recital; to me, they look menacing.
It's just another of the many things this disease has take from us– our freedom to go places and do things, the house of our dreams that both the kids and John and I were so excited to move into, our peace of mind in believing that nothing really bad will happen to our kids. I am sure that one day it will give us something back (besides our daughter). I'm sure we'll get something out of this — strength, courage, new friends, a closer-knit family — but there are days that are tough to remember that, or believe it even.
This was one of them.