Monday, September 7, 2015

Cancer Changes Everything

It's been a while since I sought respite here in the wee hours of morning, and that realization helps me see how far I've come. Then again, it is 3:00AM (on the dot), and my fear has lead me to my key board. I take my place here tonight (this morning?) to state for the record that sometimes it feels like cancer changes everything.

The fear that has me physically shaking has to do with my seven-year-old, Teddy -- the most active (and awesome) little boy I'll ever know. On Saturday night, Teddy got sick. I knew something was wrong the moment I looked at him. He had just played flag football and according to his coach, he completely crashed afterwards. When I saw him, he was pale and he wanted to sit with me rather than play with his friends so I knew something was really wrong. We sat together for a while, both of us sick to our stomach, though for different reasons.

A short while later, he said he felt better so he went off to play. But not long after, he was back and asking to lie down on the sofa. He did, and fell asleep, only to wake up to the need to barf all over the place.

Since then, Brian has barely left his side. The poor little guy has thrown up nine times (he kept count). His temperature has hovered around 100 degrees and he has done nothing but sleep and ask us when he is going to feel better. Whenever he asks that I assure him that he could feel better the next time he wakes up and I tell him that I wish I could take all his sickness away and put it in my own stomach. It's truly heartbreaking to watch your little kid be sick.

It's also absolutely terrifying. On top of the constant puking and the fever, Teddy has been complaining about a headache. Every time he says it, I want to puke, too.

I admit, before my own cancer I would have worried about my sick son. But I just don't think my mind would have gone to the dark places it has gone now -- to crushing thoughts about leukemia and other childhood cancers. But perhaps as evidence of a tinge of my own post-traumatic stress, that's precisely where it seems to have landed. At least, this morning.

*   *   *

This past week, as I started my new teaching job and thought to myself at least twice every single minute, "I am the luckiest person in the whole entire world," I even threw cancer a few silent "Thank yous." I never would have had the guts to quit the law and return to teaching if it wasn't for cancer. Or even forget guts -- I never would have had the insight that lead me to the realization that that is what, deep down, I really wanted to do.

But right now, as poor Teddy sweats in my spot in bed next to Brian and I lie awake, shivering, downstairs on the sofa, I want to spit at cancer and take back any hint of Thanks I ever gave to it. Because at this very moment, it feels like cancer changes everything. After cancer, a headache is no longer just a headache. After cancer, a lump is no longer just a lump. After cancer, the Intruder has an awful way of reminding us of his potential presence.

And so I lie awake and listen...hoping and praying with all my might that the heat coming from my son's skinny little body has absolutely nothing to do with that beast. I lie awake hoping and praying that the sickness I feel isn't just worry, but rather a stomach bug that will prove to me that Teddy is sick in a "normal" contagious sort of way. Because sometimes after cancer, nothing feels normal -- both in the miraculously good ways that I found in my classroom last week, and in terrifyingly bad ways that torment me when I see my son sick.


  1. I'm sorry you had this happen, and I totally get it. I took my daughter to the pediatrician a few months back. I was convinced that her bruises were a symptom of leukemia. It really, really does change everything for us, doesn't it? I just finished my last Herceptin on Wednesday, and I am trying my best to be a forward-thinking, not anxious, survivor. Sometimes that sounds way easier than it is. I'm so glad you are back in the classroom. I made the switch back three years ago, and I haven't looked back. Not even once! Enjoy!

  2. I totally get it too, Tara. After being diagnosed with cancer, I #seizethemoment and look to only do things that bring me joy. I used to teach, now I'm looking into a job that incorporates travel, especially to Italy, sine I speak Italian fluently. It's tough to hear "cancer was a gift" but I get it now, I'm living my life differently.