At the beginning of every school year, I compose a letter to Gregory’s fellow classmates. I do it for two reasons. There are illnesses that we need to avoid and we are better able to treat with awareness. I need to know what is going around the classroom. I also feel the need to let the families know what kind of language and topics might be coming home with their kiddos. For posterity and informational purposes, I have decided to share this year’s letter.
Loving you all,
In honor, in memory, in defense.
Hi friends and fellow Montessori families!
This might seem a bit strange to hear from an individual family, but keep reading and it will all make sense.
Gregory Bibb is an incoming first grader in Mrs Waner’s class. He is my youngest child. For those that don’t know us, we have three kiddos. All of which are Montessori kids. Curtis is an eighth grader at Sacajawea and AnnMarie is a fifth grader in Ms Schmidt’s class.
Gregory is a childhood cancer survivor. In February of 2009, he was diagnosed with Juvenile Myelomonocytic Leukemia. His only treatment option was a bone marrow transplant. In June of 2009 he received his precious gift of new marrow from an anonymous donor. Gregory currently has no evidence of his original disease and is now living with marrow that also belongs to someone else. Crazy science, huh?
He is now three years post bone marrow transplant and just now starting a solid path of much better health. Without getting into too many details, his treatment and recovery are a very grueling and arduous process.
There are two main reasons I am writing to share this information with you. The first is for your families comfort level. Gregory is not shy about sharing his story and experiences. He may have been three at diagnosis, but this is all that he has known and is simply a part of who he is. He is not shy about showing his battle wounds and equipment. He has scars from three central lines, a scar from a G Tube in his belly and currently still has a port in his chest for IV access. Your kids may come home with strange words and I wanted you all to have a heads up. I am ALWAYS available to help navigate these discussions, too. If they come to you with questions and you are not sure how to respond, please know that I am a phone call, text or email away. The word CANCER strikes fear in the hearts of us adults. Most kids have not learned to fear this word, yet, and if the come home talking about a fellow classmate and cancer, I wanted you all to be prepared.
My second reason: Your immune system is produced mainly in your marrow. Gregory has a brand new immune system. Which means he is more susceptible to illnesses. He has been well isolated for the last three years, but it’s time for him to move onto this stage of his Odyssey, which includes all the germs that come from a public school. We are prepared as best we can be, but I need a favor from you. Run of the mill colds are no big deal. IF your family has Chicken Pox, Pertussis or the flu it is important for me to know. Chances are, by the time you know, Gregory has already been exposed. Which is totally OK. If Gregory does get sick, it is better for him and his treatment, if we know what we are facing. Also, if there is something like this confirmed in the classroom, Gregory will not be attending school until risk of exposure has passed.
Are you still with me?? I am hopeful that all this will be for naught and Gregory will cruise through this new beginning in his life. Yet, the reality is that illness can really effect his body and it’s important for his care for me to know what is going around. Please know that this is MY burden. Of this I am aware and deeply respect. I am an open book when it comes to this experience. Should you have any thoughts or questions, please do not hesitate to ask them. Ever. One of my favorite quotes perfectly embodies Gregory’s diagnosis of cancer: “We may not live in the past, but the past lives in us.” ~Samuel Pisar, Holocaust Survivor
Looking at Gregory you would NEVER know what he has been through, what his current issues are or what he may face in the future. He is so stinking excited to start school and spend time with your kiddos. Thanks for reading through this and taking it to heart. We have been part of the Montessori community for eleven years now and I am constantly grateful to be surrounded with your families.
With a love filled heart,
In honor, in memory, in defense….
Momcologist & Class of ’11 46 Momma