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.

2 thoughts on “The Best Thing About Cancer

  1. I just got off the phone with a woman who helps me around the house. She has breast cancer and the chemo is not working. She is ready to give up. Reading how strong Tanner and your whole family is deepens my admiration for you, your strength, fortitude and faith. Thanks for all you have taught me and the attitude that I can share with others.

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