A Good Cancer Day

Today is my birthday.

Today my little girl started a new chemotherapy drug.

Today we cut her hair off, because it is going to start falling out soon.

This doesn’t seem like the recipe for a good birthday. Or a good day. Or even a tolerable one. I was fully prepared to let this whole ‘celebration’ concept slide. Not really feeling it. My smiles are pasted on, replicas of the real thing; polite reflexes to communicate my real appreciation for the ridiculous amount of support pouring our way.

There’s nothing like cancer to awaken the selfless impulses. Not the saintly ones forged in empathy, discipline and hard-won maturity. The parenting ones that roar to life in fear and desperation. I barely blinked when we cancelled our Christmas trip to Disneyland, and our 20th anniversary getaway to Mexico, and postponed my writing projects and school aspirations. I happily camp on a mat on the floor beside her bed. I hardly remember to eat or wash or go to the bathroom. Life and death is in play, and the world has narrowed drastically.

But this is no short term crisis. Life doesn’t begin after cancer. Life is right now. Two long years stretch ahead of us. And they will be different, hard, with all sorts of frustrations and heartaches. But if we’re going to make it through, we’ve got to live.

Today had it’s hard parts. Kissing my son goodbye with the vague promise to see him “sometime this weekend.” Holding my daughters arms and legs down so the nurse could hook the IV up to the tubes in her chest. Catching a glimpse of her cropped hair, looking shorn and strange.

But it was still a good day. Today I took a break. I woke up in my own bed, snuggled my son, talked to my big girls, ate a casserole for breakfast (so much better than granola bars and pilfered hospital food). Today I enjoyed a visit with a friend who just happens to specialize in cool haircuts, ate ice cream for lunch and hugged my husband. Today she felt good, her counts were up, the nurse hep-locked her IV and we got to explore the far reaches of the hospital, including a huge empty stairwell. Today I howled like a dog and laughed and sang and listened to the echoes without ever checking the clock, or worrying about the next thing to do, or feeling silly for acting like a child. Today I lay beside my daughter and listened to her breathe until she fell asleep. I can’t remember when I was more acutely aware of how precious each moment we have together is.

I suspect cancer, for all the many ways I abhor and despise it, will also make life sweeter. As long as I remember to live it.

So here’s us, on the brink of death, like every other human being on the planet. We just notice it more.




About So Here's Us.... life on the raggedy edge.

I'm a bookworm, nature lover, kick-boxer, candy fiend, sci fi geek, home body, progressive Christian and part-time student. I love my crazy life and the messy, fun, stubborn, silly, brilliant people who populate it. View all posts by So Here's Us.... life on the raggedy edge.

10 responses to “A Good Cancer Day

  • Rick Tyler

    Christie –
    Today you have blessed me.
    Today your blog is my devo.
    Today I give thanks for you and Glen
    Thank you!

  • Jeannie

    When Jenessa was diagnosed with heart disease I wanted to wrap her in a bubble and never let her go. However, if you don’t live life, what’s the point of living.

    I let her go to camp in the middle of the mountains with hardly any communications and definitely no hospital or doctors. People thought i was crazy but I know she could die in her bedroom so I’d rather she was in a place she loved. Life is worth living. Living is what gets you through life.

  • emily

    Beautiful Christie. Thank you for sharing this with us!

  • Mary Huntington

    Your insight is inspiring, it reminds me of the times Becca and I would sing in the tent and the rest of the world would disappear for those few minutes when we were truly engaged in the song. She is a beautiful child to hang out with.

  • Amy Shahbaz

    My mom, Wendy Chessum, just told me about your daughter’s dx of ALL and forwarded your post tonight. My heart breaks for you and your whole family as you watch cancer take over your life for 9 months and hold out for maintenance to start so you can slowly see your child come back to you. At the same time I am so thankful you have learned so early on that the key of living with cancer is to learning to be thankful for each day you have and leaning on Gods grace. We will be praying for your sweet girl. Praying for guidance and wisdom so that you know what symptoms you need to tell the medical team about and what worries to let go of. Praying for God to fill in the gaps with your other kiddos and give them what they need. Praying your sweet girl can gather the strength she needs each day to be brave as she leans on her family. My son Jordan was dx with high risk ALL at 2.5 and completed his 3.5 yr of treatment. He’s 7 now and we are reminded everyday of Gods grace and His hand on Jordan’s life. I am on Facebook if you have a few moments in the future after you discharge from the hospital and would find it helpful to talk to another mom. Our family be praying for your daughter to “fight the baddies out of her blood”. That’s what we called them. Thankful you were able to get a shower and kiss your other kids. I guess as a mom we are thankful it’s our birthday and not our kids birthday spent in the hospital. Something my friend told me whose daughter also had ALL that really impacted my “acting” in the hospital setting especially was kids usually do as well as their moms are doing. You are an inspiring mama! Amy Shahbaz “Chessum”

    • So Here's Us.... life on the raggedy edge.

      That is such good advice – I’m going to bear it in mind. One of the only things I can control (somewhat) is how I’m “acting.”

      Thank you for connecting. I’m so glad to hear that Jordan is doing so well – it’s such a long road, good to be reminded there is a finish line eventually. I’m both comforted (for my own sake) and horrified (for yours) at how many families we know who’ve been touched by ALL.

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