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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sieze the Moment! For in a Flash, it is Gone!

Last year, all my kids were interested in meeting with my doctor, and asking him questions. I was happy, because I thought they might ask the doctor different questions than they ask me. Also, I thought that the more exposure they had to my cancer world, the less scary that world would be to them.

Despite my good intentions, we were just too busy. We did not find the time to meet with the doctor, until now.

Well, I guess I did not have to worry too much. My kids are not scared. They are bored.

I practically had to beg them to come to chemo with me. "It will be a chance for us to spend some time together..." I cajoled, "I'll bring games... and treats...."

"No offense, mom," began my son, placing his hand placatingly on my shoulder, "but we'd rather spend time with our friends."

What happened to those little kids who used to cling to me?!?!

Who said I was ready for them to grow up??

"Don't any of you have any questions for the doctor??" I asked, again, amazed at how quickly things change.

"I do," said A, meekly. I wasn't sure if she was hesitating because she didn't want to go against her brother and sister, or if she didn't really have any questions, but didn't want me to feel bad....

It turns out, she really did want to ask the doctor some questions.

"But I don't want to spend all day there," she added, lest I get the impression that she wanted to hang out with boring old me for the whole day....

I brought my kids, and my mom, to chemo, on the Sunday between Yom Kippur and Succot.

I persuaded MD to tag along, thinking that it would be good for A, and, maybe, he might discover that he has a question, or two, after all. Y had school, so she was out of the picture.

The plan was for the kids to meet with the doctor, sometime in the a.m., and then head off to their friends' homes by bus. (When did they get so independent??)

Unfortunately, I had misunderstood my doctor. Instead of being in my ward until "at least 11:00," he was in a different ward until "at least 11:00." At around noon, we camped out in the hallway, hoping to catch him. Eventually, he whizzed by. In passing, he called out "1:30, the earliest!"

That was too late. My kids were already anxious to be on their way to their friends'. My charm had clearly reached its limit. I stalled them, but... at 1:30, they left, agitated, late to their friends, and without having met the doctor. I asked my mom to accompany the kids to the bus stop.

Of course, as soon as they left, the doctor whizzed back. "OK, let's go..." he beckoned.

I quickly called my mom. "Did they leave yet?"

It was not so easy to get the kids to come back. They had not even entered the elevator, but they were already "out the door" emotionally. My son was especially agitated at being called back. I promised that I would make it alright, not knowing how I would do that.... I did not have the time to help him calm down. A was pretty upset as well, but she was the one with the questions...

I wondered if I had done the right thing.

My son waited outside the door, while I went in, with A and my mom. We sat down, leaving the door open, so MD could hear, and be a part of things, even if he wasn't in the room. A was sitting solemnly, not exactly pouting, but not her usual, charming self.

My doctor, on the other hand, was exceptionally charming. Boy, did he work his magic. Within seconds, he put my daughter at ease. The moment I saw her flash a smile, I knew that I had done the right thing.

"So," invited my doctor, "I understand you have a question for me."

And then she asked, so sweetly, and so quietly, "What are the sikuim (chances) that there will be a miracle?"

Silence. Anticipation, and a child's innocent hope, dangling in the air.

"What kind of miracle?" prompted my doctor.

"A miracle," she explained, "that the cancer will go away."

Again, silence.

I wondered, how would he answer that?

Then my doctor leaned forward, clasped his hands together, and answered carefully, "Well, every year, and every month, and every day, there are scientists and doctors who are working on, and discovering, new drugs. For example, the medication that is working so well on your mother did not exist three years ago. So, I think that it is... reasonable... to expect a miracle."

He paused; then asked cautiously, "How do you think your mother is doing?"

"OK," she answered, sweetly, quiet once again. She looked up at me for reassurance, then continued, "she's tired a lot."

"And how do you feel?" He asked.

"OK," she answered.

"That's good," responded my doctor, "because you mother is doing well. So you should be able to do what every normal kid your age does."

"That's what I want!" She agreed, enthusiastically.

"That's the key," my doctor said, turning towards me.

"What?" I asked, not quite getting it.

"They just want to be normal kids.... That's why," he dropped his voice and motioned to the door, "he is out there. And that's what she..." he smiled at my daughter, "is telling you in here."

And that was that.

A had gotten her answer, and more.

I went outside, and told MD that he and A could run to the bus by themselves, without their grandmother, since she would just slow them down.

I did not have to say it twice.

In a blink, the kids were off, racing down the hall.

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,


Batya said...

How beautiful.
Now I think I understand what one of my cousins said, when I mentioned that he had had a tough childhood with a sick mother. He didn't relate to my description. "It was the only childhood I knew." he answered.

For him it was "normal." Spending a lot of time with us when his parents couldn't be with him was just "cousin time" I guess.

Bli eyin haraa, your kids seem great.

rutimizrachi said...

Because I only met you this year, I do not know if you were always this wise, of if this deep wisdom has come as a "gift" with the burden of your matsav. Many people would have an experience like this, and not be able to see past their own issues or expectations. You look past all of the chaff, and see only the golden, life-giving kernel of wheat within. I learn so much from your perspective.

As I have said before, your children are extremely fortunate to have chosen you as their mother. No one else could raise them through this storm with such chen.

rickismom said...

An excellent post.

And yet, as much as they want to be normal-- they won't be-but in a good way. They won't take for graneted that life is a breeze, they will be much more mature.

Ye'he Sh'mey Raba Mevorach said...

Your post really spoke to me.

Oh boy do kids want to be "normal". It's almost uncomprehensible to me, a person who wore a button with pride that said, "Why be normal?" But I guess I could do that because I didn't perceive any challenge in my life as a kid.

My son Chayim Zvi (www.chayimzvi.wordpress.com) has such an overwhelming urge to be "normal" (read: just exactly like everyone else) he will suffer bordom and hunger just to be with the chevre.

And of course you remember the T-shirt we had made for him. :)

(Ani stam yeled ragil. I'm just a regular kid)

Ahuva said...

This was a really amazing post. (hugs)

A Soldier's Mother said...

RifkA - this was wonderful...because it is so so true. I remember when my in-laws were both dying...brain cancer...horrible thing...almost 14 years ago, etc. - we took the kids to see them because it was what my in-laws needed and when we left, they were asking questions right and left and all of a sudden - just turned to the side and started asking questions about a Navy guy (what's that guy with the white clothes?)...and I was about to question their sanity or something and my brother-in-law, who is a doctor, gave me this look and started answering that the guy was Navy and they were white, etc. etc.

So, I thought - he's off the wall too, but I kept my mouth shut. Later, he explained the "deeper" psychology of a child is that they handle what they can, as they can. Your daughter was ready to ask these questions and you truly are blessed that the doctor was so wonderful and took the time to give her the best answers.

I'm often amazed by how you handle your kids and the pressures they (and you) must be feeling. As always, thinking about you!


RivkA with a capital A said...

Muse –I take comfort from the fact that children are so resilient! Every child has their particular “package.” Though I think I would have given my children plenty of material for their future therapists, even without the cancer! ;-)

Seriously, thanks. I think my kids really are pretty great!

RutiMizrachi – I like to think I was always perceptive, and insightful. Thank you for your kind words.

Ricki’sMom – I agree. This is not a “normal” situation. My children have more responsibilities at home than most other children their age. I like to think that, in some way, that is good, and they are gaining skills that they otherwise might not have developed.

Ye’he Sh’mey – I do not know if I had that button, but I certainly had that attitude! Some of us just take our adversities and turn them into the building blocks of our personality!

Ahuva – thanks

A Soldier’s Mother – Thanks. Your story reminds me of a discussion I had with my son, almost a year ago, who was questioning why this time my cancer was not going away. We spoke intensely, for about 20 minutes. Then, all of a sudden, he asked, “can I go play now?” I was a bit taken aback by his sudden disinterest, but I answered straight away “Sure, this conversation is for you. If you are done, then we are done. If you have any more questions, you can always ask.” And with that, he was up and out of there!