The Vincristine March

September 1, 2009 Have I mentioned how much I would love to hate Vincristine?!!! It is one of the two mainstay chemos that Tanner will take for the entire 2 ½ years of treatment and it is rife with side effects. I have watched it slowly but surely attack Tanner’s leg coordination and strength over the past several weeks and it pains me to watch her struggle to do something that would have been so simple for her just 4 months ago.

Today, after taking it easy most of the day because Tanner seemed a little tired after another bad night of sleep, we got a call from the bike shop saying Tanner’s bike was ready. I had taken it to have the chain replaced after all the aforementioned chain falling off incidents and Tanner was missing it sorely. We loaded scooters, bike helmets and sunscreen into the car and ran down the road to pick up the bike, then drove to our favorite bike-riding cul-de-sac to play with friends.

Tanner and her friend, Smith, rode into the grass field behind the school and then couldn’t make it back up the hill on the bikes, so they got off to push them. Smith topped the hill and I still didn’t see Tanner. I stepped around the trees to get a better look and saw her, way down in the field, facedown with the bike on top of her, motionless. After yelling to Molly to keep an eye on Jake, I took off running down the hill. I saw her move an arm, and then she began trying to get up. It looked slow and painful, but with great effort, she got herself off the ground, but kept dropping the bike back on herself.

I expected her to be crying, but she wasn’t. I pulled the bike off of her and asked what had happened. “I just fell and I was too tired to get up for a minute… it seemed really hard,” she said. “It’s getting harder and harder to walk again, Mom.”

What comforting words can I offer? “Don’t worry it’s just the Vincristine that you will take for the next two-and-a-half years?” “That Vincristine stinks, but it’s saving your life?” “Just a couple more years and things will go back to normal?“ All pretty lame choices, I would say.

She’s six and she loves to run and jump rope and ride bikes and play. But, every week, she looks a little slower and more awkward when she runs. I noticed at her dance lesson the other day that she couldn’t skip… again. We lost that once and got it back when we got a three-week break from the Vincristine.

But, here’s the amazing part… she never stops trying. The other day, we were coming home from the cul-de-sac and I was pulling a wagon loaded down with scooters, bikes, water bottles and Tanner (we like to have a full complement of riding choices). I decided to take a short-cut and head through the grass median to our house. Tanner hopped out and asked if she could pull the wagon. “Sure,” I said, doubtfully. The median is wide and it slopes down in the middle with a pretty steep little hill to get to the street in front of our house. I knew there was no way she would make it up that hill, but she wanted to try.

When she got to the steep part, she dug her feet in and started to pull. At first, she made headway, but then the weight of the wagon pulled her backward and she lost her footing. “Let me push, sweetie,” I said. “No!” she said through gritted teeth. So she pulled… and pulled… and pulled… and fell down… and got up… and pulled some more… and STILL wouldn’t accept any help. Finally, after what seemed like a very long time, she pulled that wagon over the curb and into the street… triumphant and smug.

She’s six and she loves to run and jump rope and ride bikes and play. And, as long as she’s able, we will.


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