January 18, 2010
It’s weird for things to feel this normal, but they do. Tanner went to dance class today for the first time since her dance recital, two weeks prior to being diagnosed in spring. Aside from the hair thing, she looked like any other little girl busting a move in hip-hop class. She seemed a little tentative going into the class, but when I picked her up, looked like she was having her normal good time.
Last night, she went to Sunday night youth time at church. She was a little like a celebrity. “Tanner’s here!” they screamed. They’ve prayed for her for so long that it seemed unreal to them that she was there.
I was so proud of her. She marched in confidently, despite the fact that many of the kids had never seen her without hair. We practiced ahead of time what to do if kids stared. We’ve talked about how staring isn’t necessarily bad; it just means someone is curious. And, frankly, she’s gotten somewhat used to kids staring at her in the grocery store. So, she said, “Stare at me.” I stared, obligingly, mouth hanging open the way I’ve seen kids do. She smiled, looked me in the eye and said, “I’m Tanner. The medicine I take made my hair fall out, but it’s coming back and I think it’s going to be brown and curly.” Goodness gracious, who couldn’t smile back at that? We high-fived and I knew she would be okay.
I love her confidence. Some of it is just her; some of it is that, over time, she has found that people are extraordinarily kind about her having leukemia. Kids, although they obviously have the capacity to be cruel, are so honest that I think it doesn’t take them but a minute to get over Tanner’s bald head and just move on to the business of playing. She has really only had one negative experience, and oddly, I’m glad she had it. We were at an indoor play area the other day and a little girl approached her to play. She was only 4 (all the kids Tanner’s age are in school) and she just very straightforwardly asked Tanner, “What happened to your hair?” Tanner told her that she takes medicine that makes her hair fall out, but it was growing back. The little girl shrugged and grabbed Tanner’s hand and said, “Let’s play.” Awesome, I thought. Kids are amazing. Five minutes later, Tanner came to me and said the little girl was being mean to her. I told her to avoid her and play with Jake, but in a moment I noticed the little girl had trapped Jake at the top of a playhouse and wouldn’t let him down. Tanner was telling her to move and the little girl said, “No one would want to be your friend, anyway.” Tanner began to cry and I firmly told the little girl to move out of Jake’s way and to stop being so mean. Her Mom ended up apologizing to me and sent the little girl to apologize to Tanner, which she did, very sweetly. BUT, she then asked her mom whether the little boy could go to eat with them. Tanner looked at me in confusion. The mom said, “Honey, she’s a girl.” The little girl could not be dissuaded and insisted Tanner was a boy. Tanner was crushed, but I cheerfully explained that Tanner was a girl with short hair and poked Tanner and laughed. She started laughing, too and we ended up okay.
I don’t know why that little girl was so mean to Tanner; but I know that Tanner believes it’s because she’s bald. In the car on the way home, she asked if she looked like a boy. No one with such a beautiful face could ever look like a boy, I told her. It wasn’t the best experience, but it was bound to happen and I was glad it happened while I was with her. I think she will be better prepared next time (I’m sure there will be one). We talked about how Jake thinks men with long hair are girls and how that little girl was too young to understand that a girl could have short hair. I was glad there was a positive resolution; she and the little girl parted friends and Tanner seemed okay with it.
As I have discovered when you are living with cancer in your family, you don’t feel normal for long. Tanner was exhausted when she got home from church last night and seemed very tired this morning. We were supposed to go ride bikes and play at a friend’s and Tanner agreed that maybe it would be best that she stay home and rest while Jake and I went. That’s how you know she’s really tired. Tanner is almost always up to play and will play until she literally cannot play anymore. So, she spent lots of time watching TV and took a little nap before dance class. She seemed much more rested at the end of the day.
Tanner seems to feel really good most of the time, but she does not have great stamina. She tires out much sooner than she used to and we’re trying to learn when to stop her before she gets completely exhausted. She has gotten sick after overdoing it, so we need to watch her carefully and not leave it up to her entirely whether she participates in something or not. Makes me realize how tiring school will be for her when she does get to back. We will probably have to do half days for a while and see how it goes.
We’ve spent lots of time on the new house this week; it’s fun to see something start to come together after having been in the demolition stage for the past three weeks! This is a house we can stay in a long time and we’re trying to do it right the first time so there have been a lot of decisions to make. It hasn’t really been stressful, though. We have great people working for us and I think we’ve both learned what real stress is the past six months or so, so it doesn’t seem worth getting too worked up over light fixtures and faucets. We’ll post some before and after pictures when there is an “after.”