Why Don’t I Have Cancer?

October 18, 2010

As I was explaining to Jake this morning that Tanner needed a pink pill (Pepcid) because she has cancer, he innocently asked a question I really didn’t expect. “Why Don’t I Have Cancer?”

It broke my heart. See, he wanted one of those pink pills, just like he wants to get some of the gifts that Tanner gets (like the pink guitar), or the doctor that Tanner has (“I want to go to Dr. Mixan”). At 3 ½, Jake is just old enough to get that he’s not getting some of the things that Tanner is getting without understanding that he’s also not getting some of the things that Tanner is getting, if you get my drift. In other words, he sees that she has some “privileges” that he doesn’t, but doesn’t understand the price she pays for them.

So, now, my healthy little boy wants to have cancer, too. He’s too little to know you shouldn’t tempt fate by wishing for cancer in this family!

It was easier on Jake when he was too young to notice the special treatment Tanner sometimes receives (or what looks like special treatment to him). Jake was 2 when Tanner was diagnosed and was oblivious to all that. But, now he is just old enough to understand special treatment, but not old enough to understand that some of what looks like special treatment (clinic visits, medicine, extra hand sanitizing) is really not so great. I think he even envies her getting her port accessed.

And, just when I think he is completely jealous of her, I watch him be so supportive and sweet and think maybe he does get it. Last week, while Tanner was at school, we were riding in the car and I had an empty soda can in the cup holder. Jake said, “Mommy, give me the can so I can take off the pop top for Tanner… she will be so happy.”

It’s a difficult thing to manage… her needs versus his. How do you assure that she gets enough special treatment to make up for the medical treatments, teasing at school, missing out on social events and just feeling “different,” but not so much that it makes Jake feel like a second-class citizen? It’s just another element to the difficulty of having a child with a life threatening disease.

Tanner has had a somewhat difficult week or so. My “Mommy Radar” tells me something is going on and I am anxious to go into clinic on Wednesday for a counts check. She just doesn’t look good and her energy is not at its usual uncanny level. I actually took her to the pediatrician on Wednesday for a quick counts check, but all her levels were fine. There are a lot of kids at school sick with strep and some other viruses and I was worried about that. She looked pale and was complaining of shortness of breath and headache, both signs that her hemoglobin could be dropping. Thursday night, she came down with a stomach virus and was up all night vomiting. I thought surely she had strep, but she never got a fever or sore throat and was feeling better by Sunday. Now, tonight, she has a really bad stomachache that had me thinking we were headed to the ER. Tanner definitely knows what real pain is and she was showing me all those signs. I gave her a little painkiller and she has gone back to sleep, but all the same, I think I will sleep in her room tonight.

Even with all of this going on, we have managed to fit in lots of fun. Roller skating parties, gymnastics parties, S’mores with the neighbors, Gentry’s Pumpkin Farm, a Civil War reenactment battle, and so on and so on. It’s fall break and we’re headed to the zoo in the morning with friends for our last day of fun before school starts again.

I’m afraid on Wednesday that her counts will be so low, we’ll have to pull her out of school and other activities. It will be devastating to say the least.

It’s more than one mother or father can worry about some days. The kid who asks, “Why did I have to get cancer?” and the other who asks, “Why don’t I have cancer?” It’s a rock and a hard place for sure.


3 thoughts on “Why Don’t I Have Cancer?

  1. Just a week or two after Lily was diagnosed, Sophie and I were getting ready to leave school – and we were taking some cards and gifts from classes at school to Lily in the hospital. Sophie looked at me and said, “I wish I had cancer, too.” She was 5 at the time – and all she could see was that Lily was getting cards and gifts and everyone was concerned about Lily. I think a lot of times people don’t understand how hard this journey is for the siblings, too.

    I sure hope Tanner is feeling better and doesn’t have to be taken out of school. I’m glad you’ve been able to fit so many fun times in lately. And I hope you’re doing well, too.

  2. As a Mommy you can not make up for every little thing with special treatment. For us we have become very family centered since my daughters birth. Today is day 9 of my husband passing kidney stones and my kids know all too well about missing stuff because someone is sick. In fact we have not even bothered church in over a year. My daughter was out for 4 months recuperating from surgery and no one noticed. We try to be as equal as possible with both kids so if I buy something to keep the sick one occupied I usually get something for the non sick one and they share.

  3. Beth, I just recently found your blog and have been very touched by what you’ve been sharing. We have been praying for Tanner since we heard about her diagnosis (me, Bubba, and Mrs Nora from the nursery at church). I will save some pop tops for her collection…is there a spot to leave them at church? I’m not in the nursery very much any more because of my work schedule, but I can send them with Bubba. Please bring Tanner by to say hello to him & Mrs Nora! They love having the ‘big kids’ come by! May God bless you and keep you all, Miss Jen. Btw, our family has experienced a lot of cancer too, so I do as many walks as I can. Please keep us informed about next year’s Team Tanner so I can walk with you! http://www.Artgirljen.blogspot.com

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