Yesterday Lea completed week one of radiation, or as Cara, the child life specialist calls it, one of her “hard jobs”. This was the same day she should have been starting first grade.
I didn’t think it would be a big deal for me, I know how to be strong, and Liv needed her parents excited on her first day of third grade.
We filed into school, behind the sea of colorful backpacks and excited smiles and I could feel the tears welling up as we passed Lea’s classroom. I quickly maneuvered past the parents, avoiding eye contact, and up the stairs we marched, to third grade.
Hold it together Christa, Liv needs you… Be strong for Liv…. You can be strong for Liv… I repeated over and over in my head.
I could see the concerned and sad glances being shot in our direction. A few gave warm hugs, offered their help and words of kindness, and once again I forced the tears back down. Not now Christa, I told myself again.
We colored at a large wooden table with Liv, the brightly colored pencils new and sharp as they had not yet been worn down, a feeling I was unfamiliar with at this point in time.
Then it was time to go. I could feel the tears brimming in my eyes, unable to be held back for much longer. I raced down the stairs and out the front door into the sunshine and let them fall. I was sad Lea is not able to be with her friends and experience all first grade has to offer her. I was angry about our daily visits to Smilow Cancer Hospital, rather than a school, where children belong. Instead of fitness and art, Lea gets daily radiation and weekly blood draws. No part of this is right, or fair, and once again I found myself standing in anger and sadness.
I had my moment. I let it all pour out. And then I pulled myself together and headed to work, where I was provided an excellent distraction for two hours.
Today is a better day. We checked off day 7/30 on Lea’s “Moana” radiation calendar. I have mixed feelings about Moana after watching it four times a day when Lea was in the PICU. I will never look at that movie the same way. It takes me back to a place I never want to revisit, but it is the music Lea has chosen to listen to during her “light medicine.”
Lea amazes me with her strength and bravery. She gives me strength. She has quickly taught me what is important in life.
I sobbed softy as I told her how brave and strong she was after she did her “two hard jobs” of radiation and a blood draw yesterday. I told her how very glad I was that I got to be her momma. Then the elevator doors opened and we left a place we have become all too familiar with.
Today she is here with us, and I will celebrate that. I am doing my best to find joy in the every day things that now fill our days.
Last night I looked over at her sleeping next to me, and from the side, she looked exactly as she did before this all began. You couldn’t tell that her face and belly were now puffy and round from all the steroids. You couldn’t see that her eyes were crossed. And just like I do every night, in the middle of the night, I kissed her sweet face. And just like she does every night, her eyes opened a wee bit, a smile crossed her face and she whispers “I love you Mamma.” And for a moment, all is right in our world.