Today, I cared for my friend, PrincessG’s two daughters while she was debilitatingly ill from her Monday chemo treatment. She knew on Monday, as the chemicals were entering her body that she would be very, very sick today. She knew, weeks ago that she would be this sick today. That’s when she asked if her daughters could sleep over tonight.
PinkGirl is in drama camp with the daughters, CutieK and KRed this week and next, so I’ve been picking them up everyday at noon and taking them to lunch. Monday and Wednesday, their dad drove all the girls to drama camp and I picked them up. After lunch, I took CutieK and KRed for play dates at the homes of other families stepping in to help. Tuesday, I took the girls to camp, worked on client site for two hours, picked them up, brought them home and let them swim until their dad picked them up. Today, I drove them to camp, made a long over due Walmart run for necessities, picked them up, fed them lunch, took them to the grocery store with me and brought them home to swim.
CutieK’s big sister, KRed was diagnosed with autism at a very young age, but after years of many different kinds of therapy, she is exceeding her doctor’s expectations. When I see FavoriteSon play with KRed, the patience he shows, I’m so proud of the young man he is becoming. The understanding he displays when she distances herself from PinkGirl and CutieK, encourages me so much. He provides a calm, laid back environment where she can “chillax.” When I see PinkGirl defend her when other kids make fun, I am so proud. I see PinkGirl automatically include her and miss her when she wants to take a break. I am so thankful for the compassion my kids are displaying in this situation.
After swimming, we pulled the kitchen table into the family room, covered it with blankets to make a tent and the girls watched “The Little Princess” on DVD while eating a picnic dinner in their tent. The last play the three of them were in was The Little Princess, so they all wanted to watch it. After the movie was over, I asked the girls if they wanted to go for a walk. PinkGirl and KRed were all about scooters and helmets and getting ready. But, even in the excitement, it was PinkGirl who noticed CutieK curled up in the recliner with her pillow. Crying.
PinkGirl was all over it. “What’s the matter? Are you okay? What’s wrong? MOM! CutieK’s crying! It’s okay. Do you need a tissue? What’s the matter?”
“I want my mom and dad.”
oh. no. that movie was NOT a good idea. A father and daughter almost separated forever and tearfully brought together at the last minute. Father and daughter crying and hugging. Why didn’t we watch Alvin and the Chipmunks?
This is something I can’t fix. and I mean I REALLY can’t fix. For all the distraction and fun I and all the other families have been throwing at these two sweet girls, this is the one thing they would trade it all for. Being home. With mom and dad.
I sent PinkGirl and KRed out to get the bikes/scooters/helmets ready while I called CutieK’s dad, left a message and then went to the recliner to talk to her. What could I possibly say? She was trying to stop crying. Well. That’s not right. She’s 7. She should be able to cry if she needs to. And she needed to. I knelt down, held her hand and rubbed her back. Floodgates opened. I let her cry for a few minutes without interrupting. I just wrapped by arm around her shoulder and held her hand. I wasn’t going to tell her it was okay. It wasn’t okay. If everything were truly “okay” then she wouldn’t be at my house at that moment. She would be home with her mom and dad. She knew that. But when did she get to cry about it? When did she get to take a break from being brave? When the tears slowed, I said, “CutieK, I know you’re sad and I know it’s hard. It’s okay to be sad.” More tears. More back rubbing. “There are so many people who love you and who are praying for you and your family.” I wait. The tears slow again. “Your mom is getting better, you know that don’t you?” Shrug. “I know that it doesn’t look like it because she doesn’t have any hair, but that’s part of getting better. Really. The medicine she is taking is helping her, it just makes hair fall out.” quiet. Then, the other two girls burst in and inept as I am, I gear back up into distraction mode because I am that much of a coward.
“Do you want to go for a walk now? I’ll take my cell phone with us, so when your dad calls back, you can talk to him.”
CutieK’s dad called before we left for the walk. I gave her some space and went outside to wait with PinkGirl, KRed, FavoriteSon and one of his friends. When the phone call was done, she joined us outside. You know a surefire way to distract a little girl from the fact that her mom has cancer? Before you take her on a walk, let her watch two 13 year old boys shoot expired soda cans with a BB gun (from a safe distance).
The good news is that, as of April, PrincessG’s cancer is “resolved” and the chemo seems to be working. The bad news is that it was stage IV breast cancer. The chemo continues because the doctor wants to kill every. last. cancer. cell. in her body. She shaved her head less than two weeks ago. The good news is that PrincessG’s lotsahelpinghands.com community has hundreds of members, all pitching in as they can. Many, many families, bringing meals, cleaning, running errands, picking up kids, caring for kids . . . you name it. The hard part is that this has been going on for months and this blessing of childcare is . . . unsettling for the kids. They want to be home. I get it. I wish, with all my heart that I could have taken CutieK home tonight when she missed her mom and dad.
But until that’s possible, I’m going to be there for this family. Because, it is only by the grace of God that I, myself, am not battling cancer. It is only by the grace of God that the little girl crying and wanting to be home with mom and dad – wasn’t my daughter.
This post was inspired by Linda’s post, “Teaching Our Kids to Care” at Mocha with Linda.