January 18, 2010
Last week, Tanner, Jake and I went to Tanner’s school so Tanner could take a literacy test. It was the first time we had stepped foot in the school during school hours since Tanner was diagnosed. We were headed to Mrs. O’Hara’s room (Mrs. O’Hara is Tanner’s homebound teacher and she is AMAZING!) She is a reading teacher so she doesn’t have a ton of kids in her room at once and had us come in during her break so Tanner wouldn’t have to share the room with other kids.
We also planned on putting some money into the Pennies for Patients jars that the school has out in the front of the school. Pennies for Patients is a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society fundraiser for schools and Moore is in the midst of a pocket change campaign in Tanner’s honor. There was a poster of Tanner and five large water jugs full of change, one for each grade. They are having a contest to see which grade raises the most money. Tanner put her change into the first grade jug while Mrs. Green, the principal, snapped pictures.
The week before, the school had announced the campaign with a special announcement in the morning and a showing of a Charlie Brown movie about a little girl with leukemia. It’s a great movie that shows kids what it’s like for a child with leukemia and prepares them for hair loss, absences, etc. So, now, everyone knows who Tanner is. (I’m pretty certain there’s only one bald girl at her school.) As we walked the halls to make our way to Mrs. O’Hara’s room, we passed lots of classes on their way to lunch. You could see the kids react as they realized who Tanner was. They waved, they said, “Hi Tanner,” and a kindergartner even whispered to her, “I gave you a dollar!” Tanner and I laughed because he thought she was getting the money.
A very earnest fourth grade girl stopped in the hallway and said, very sweetly, “I’m sorry you got Leukemia. I hope you feel better soon.” Kids never cease to amaze me with their beautiful honesty.
Tanner was a little puzzled at first by all the attention, but anyone who knows Tanner knows that she loves her some attention, so she was in her element. I was proud of her poise in light of how many kids she didn’t even know were waving at her and smiling and looking at her. She held up beautifully.
A really special moment was when we saw Mrs. Wood and got to meet her fourth grade class. She and her class have been extremely kind to Tanner and they really wanted to meet her. They leave her messages on her blog and two little girls are growing out their hair so they can donate it to Locks of Love in Tanner’s honor. Locks of Love makes wigs for kids who have cancer. They pulled their ponytail holders out to show us how long their hair had gotten. (Thanks Emma and Maggie!)
We’ve been getting wonderful packages all along from the school. Tanner’s class and many others have made sure that she knows she is missed. But, it was entirely another thing for Tanner to be able to feel that love first hand. I have no doubt that we made the right decision about keeping her at Moore after we move and continuing there next year. We are grateful to the school district for allowing us to do that. It will assure that she feels supported and nurtured.
The school also had a used book fair that day and Tanner really wanted to go. I waffled, thinking of how many people would be in a fairly small space. While we had seen a lot of kids on the way in and out of school, we hadn’t really touched anyone and had kept a safe distance. But, I just didn’t want to rain on such a great experience and decided we would risk the book fair. While we were waiting our turn to go into the room, a whole class of what looked to be third graders were in front of us. One little girl turned around and recognized Tanner. It was like a game of “telephone” after that, each kid turning to the next and whispering, “That’s Tanner Page! Do you see her?” They waved, smiled and were extremely sweet. After several minutes, Tanner motioned for me to bend over so she could whisper in my ear. “I think I might be famous,” she said with a look of disbelief. “I think you might be,” I agreed.
A huge thank you to Moore Elementary School for everything they are doing to make Tanner feel special and to prepare the other kids for her arrival. We are so grateful for the money the kids are raising to help find a better way to treat blood cancers. One parent told me her kids are doing chores to earn money so they can put it in the jug. Mrs. Franklin, Tanner’s classroom teacher, has graciously allowed us to invade her class by computer, which I know is somewhat distracting, but we really appreciate it. We hope this week at clinic, they might give her the go-ahead to return to school. She’s ready and cannot wait.