August 27, 2009 Recently, my hairdresser told me that my hair was falling out, likely due to stress. Tanner overheard me saying this to a friend and asked me tonight what stress meant. I told her it meant that I worried about things.
“What do you worry about?” she asked.
“I worry about you,” I said.
“Because I have leukemia,” she stated. She didn’t ask. She knows why I am worried about her.
“Yes,” I said. “And, I worry about Jake.”
“Why do you worry about Jake?” she asked. “He doesn’t have anything wrong with him.”
“I worry that Jake gets forgotten sometimes,” I said. “It’s hard for him, too, honey.”
Tanner looked puzzled.
“Tanner, did Jake get a present in the mail, today?” I asked. She shook her head. “It was his first day of school today, but it was also your clinic day. Do you think I got more calls and emails about his first day of school or about your counts today?”
“My counts,” she guessed, wide eyed. “Why did people do that? It was mean!” she said, concerned for her little brother.
“No, honey, it isn’t mean,” I said. “Leukemia is a pretty big deal and people want to know how you are doing, because they love you.”
“A bigger deal than a first day of school,” she said.
“Yes,” I agreed. “But, Jake’s first day of school is still a big deal, especially to him. And, I worry that even Daddy and I forget to make a big deal for his stuff sometimes.”
As I said this, I remembered how I had pulled Tanner’s old nap mat out from under a bed the night before and washed it for him to take to school this morning. I had searched for weeks online for that nap mat when I bought it for Tanner, trying to find exactly the right mat, but I had totally forgotten about getting one for Jake and decided at the last minute that Tanner’s hand-me-down would do.
This was a risky conversation I had blundered into; I wasn‘t at all sure I should be having it. I didn’t want Tanner to feel guilty about the situation, but I really thought she might be able to understand that this has been hard for Jake, too. So, I waited with baited breath to see how well she would get my point.
After a moment, she said with a smile, “I’m going to give him some of my presents tomorrow.”
Whew. She understood and she responded exactly as I had hoped she might. She loves Jake fervently and he is fast becoming her best friend. She actually already shares almost everything she is given with him. These days, they often have no one else to play with; and they find ways to cross the age gap between them and find common ground. And they fight, of course, but what siblings don’t?
So, today was Jake’s Day… his first day of school. He was a little clingy when we first walked in, but was fine once he saw a particularly appealing “monster twuck” and didn’t even say goodbye when I kissed the curls on the back of his little head. The note from his teacher at the end of the day said he was “happy and playful.” That’s my boy. He took a nap on his nap mat for the first time and told me the teacher said to “shhhh and cwose my eyes.“ He also told me that Seth was his new “fwiend.” His paper crayon taped to the floor to mark his spot for lining up is “bwue.” Big stuff.
This is Jake’s day. If you want to read about Tanner‘s clinic visit, you’ll have to note the postscript after my sign off. Today, Jake gets to be first.
P.S. Tanner had a great day at clinic today. Her neutraphil counts were up to 1300 from 610, so she was able to take both types of chemo today. They reduced her methotrexate dose by 20%, to see if she tolerates it better this time. She was a champ and I was really proud of how brave she has become with all of this. The two chemos really messed with her stomach, though, and we had to stop several times while driving home from the hospital and on the way to pick up Jake for restroom breaks. But, she felt pretty good at bedtime so I’m hopeful she’ll handle this round as well as she handled everything else.