I have always tried to be a parent who speaks truthfully and frankly. Having childhood cancer in our lives has not diminished this. In fact, it has shown me that being truthful and frank is an invaluable gift to The OffSpring’s future selves.
AnnMarie and I both fundraise for St Baldrick’s Foundation. As was the case for 2012, we both received our copies of their annual report in yesterday’s mail. I stay current on St B’s goings on so I did not peel it open immediately upon arrival. AnnMarie? She had that puppy open as soon as she laid her hands on it. In order to help me with dinner and read her report, she propped it up against the microwave and went to work grating the cheese.
As she is diligently grating her cheese, she is applying the same concentration to absorbing the information in front of her. Very little of what she is reading is new to her. These are topics we have discussed on numerous occasions. Yet, she is receiving the information via the foundation she helped to raise money for. She is vested in being an informed charity ‘consumer’, for lack of a better word. She stops mid-stroke with the cheese, looks me straight in the eye and states: “Mommy. I wonder how long Gregory will survive.” You see, she had just read the sobering statistic that childhood cancer survivors have a greatly diminished quality of life and life-span.
What is important to note is that these conversations occur all the time. They are not hidden away during secret moments out of everyone’s ear shot. The conversations revolve around the research and results of kiddos around us. Those that came before kids like Gregory. So while we have statistical information, we always address the fact that we just don’t know what Gregory’s future will hold. We know what he is at a greater risk for, but we don’t know if/when these things will happen.
Tonight at the dinner table, she is still poring over that report. This idea that treatment can cause death and destruction to a developing body is baffling to her. Tonight it was: “WHY would you go through treatment, knowing how awful it is.” It was then my turn to let her know that we don’t have a choice. The only alternative is certain death. I asked her: “Can you imagine what would have happened Gregory not been treated?” The look on her face spoke volumes. It clicked. She understood the quandary of ‘Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t.’
Meanwhile, Gregory is bopping around doing his thing. Interjecting with reflective thoughts of his own. Along with an abundance of hugs, kisses and ‘I love you’s. for me. He is beginning to have just a hint of understanding about his Odyssey. I think last night really started the wheels moving and he had a glimmer of realization over how amazing it is that he is surviving.
Curtis also offered a choice bit of reflection, too. “Remember when all we used to worry about were bee stings, bruises and such?”
Oh, kid. I remember. Vaguely. Most of the time? I don’t remember what parenthood was like before cancer.
One honest and frank conversation at a time.
“What is uttered from the heart alone, will win the hearts of others to your own.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe