Posted on 03/12/2015
As a parent, I imagine most of anticipate that one of the most uncomfortable or difficult discussions we will have with our children is about the birds and bees. I’m here to tell you that I would take having that discussion any day over the one we had with Nathaniel last night.
I pour my heart and soul into nearly every journal entry I post. I do that because the truth is, I don’t know how else to release all of the emotions and fears I feel inside. It’s the only way I know how to provide myself some kind of therapy, some kind of avenue to let out my feelings. I am finding that the more I become connected to other cancer families, I am exposed to an even more vulnerable place that I never wanted to allow myself to even think about – the loss of a child. Last night, the funeral for a beautiful 14 year old girl I’d never met. She earned her wings after battling cancer for two years. Her mother and I connected over Facebook, and while we have mutual friends, our biggest connection was the unfortunate title of “cancer mom”. Having to lay your child to rest – I still can’t wrap my head around that level of pain – and I’m not sure that I will ever be able to. But in reading the words of her mother and the realization that she had to let her child’s pain end and consume her own pain, I realized that we have reached yet another new path that is unfamiliar. We’ve never discussed with Nathaniel that cancer can kill, that children do die from cancer, and that was by design. It’s not something I wanted him to stress over, or even have in his mind that it was a possibility. But the more you are exposed to those who are affected by this wretched disease, the more difficult it becomes to not have that conversation.
Last night, we watched a recording of Monday Night’s RAW (not something I regularly watch, of course) but DJ wanted to share with me some clips about the Warrior Award, honor of the Ultimate Warrior who had finally earned his place in the WWE Wrestler’s Hall of Fame, and died a short time after. The Warrior Award was created to honor every day heroes who display courage and perseverance through challenging times. Turns out their first recipient was a then 7 year old boy, Connor “the Crusher” Michalek. They showed photo after photo of this little trooper with all of his favorite wrestlers and in his own wrestling uniform. At the end of the special, they mentioned that Connor had passed from a type of brain cancer, and died at the age of 8 – the same age as Nathaniel. DJ mentioned that Nathaniel would be a good candidate for this award because he too is a hero. The tears just swelled as we watched Connor’s story, and once again, the thought of losing a child to this disease seems to haunt me. It’s something I keep trying to avoid thinking about, but it keeps rearing its ugly head. When getting ready for bed later that evening, Nathaniel asked me, “Mom, if I went on the TV for that wrestling award, will I die too?” If you could imagine for one moment, that sickness in your stomach, when your heart feels like it has just dropped to your gutt causing that wrenching pain when something hurts so bad. MY SON – the fact that he has to even think about something like that, well, what can I say?? THIS WAS NOT IN THE PLAN at any point in my life!! In my mind, the only discussion of death I’d ever planned to have with my children was what we would expect when DJ and I pass as it relates to OUR funeral arrangements. The fact that an 8 year old child has to think about whether or not he will die just kills a part of your faith, one question at a time. When I finally pulled myself together, I explained the kind of cancer that Connor had and that sometimes cancer cannot be cured. He then asked me about the pink porch light we bought to support the teenage girl who was fighting cancer. Again, another jab to my heart. I had to explain to Nathaniel that she too had passed. He has always had a fighting spirit and I want to do nothing that jeopardizes his spirit and his faith that he will fight this ugly disease, but the more we connect with other families and are involved in their lives, the more we will all be exposed to an ugly reality that unfortunately, too many parents have to endure. I try so hard to take everything day by day and live in the moment, savoring any and all time I have alone with my family. I work hard to remind myself to be thankful for today without worrying about tomorrow, but it’s not easy. Nathaniel will turn 9 on Saturday. I have taken the day off on Friday to spend some special Mom and Nathaniel birthday celebration time. It was my New Year’s Resolution. I want to take their special day and spend it with them, making the day all about them. It’s the little things in life that make the biggest impact. I will share photos from his birthday celebration after his birthday party this coming weekend, but for the moment, I am reminded that life is fragile and never promised. We all need to take time to appreciate the small moments in our lives. Sometimes we are forced to have conversations we don’t want to have, or face realities we don’t want to face. As parents, all we can do is love our children with every breath we take, and relish in the memories we are given today to make memories together that will last them a lifetime. My children are my life, and their pain is my pain. I pray often for a time when cancer can no longer hurt us, causing the pain in our hearts that it does today. Radiation is over and done with and we have 5 more months of chemo with scans and MRI’s approaching soon. Please continue to pray for my baby – My soon to be 9 year old baby :).