I would awake and for just a brief second, forget where I was…where includes the physical place and what path our journey as a family had taken. I was on the Johns Hopkins 8th floor…the oncology unit, and our precious first born at the age of almost four had just been diagnosed with some form of blood cancer. We didn’t know the type yet, what his “stats” were, or what our life would look like in even 24 hours. I only knew that the rush of my realization where I was included too much, and I had to arise quickly and run to the bathroom to vomit and cry in peace and out of sight of my baby, who didn’t really understand.
After I woke up, I went into the “playroom”. It could almost pass as a children room in a church, toys, books, games, arts and crafts, neatly lining the shelves. Except there was a bin of knitted hats for bald heads, masks to protect the kids, and IV poles scattered about. On the wall was a sign advertising “Camp Sunrise” a camp for children with cancer. If I was a dog, my “hackles” would have risen. I vowed that my boy would never attend, never be a part of that “club”, that he would attend space, art or lego camp…never ever a camp for kids with cancer. Eight years later, we are looking forward to August 1st, when he will attend camp and be apart of the club that I was so against.
I say all of this, in my very first blog, because eight years later, our lives have completely changed, and I would say for the better. I would never ever ask for my son to be a part of “the club” … believe me. However, it changed all four of us in ways that nothing else could have. I said to my friends over and over, “I can’t do this”. I never felt like a strong person, never had really any esteem for myself, was worried for our marriage, which was fragile at times, and couldn’t help but picture myself in a psychiatric unit if my son was taken from us. I thought back to the beginning of our cancer journey last night, as my husband and I were discussing a little girl, age 8, who has battled cancer for the past seven years, who after a bone marrow transplant has relapsed in the form of a brain tumor. Someone’s beautiful little girl, who spins and dances while giggling, who loves princesses, who has fought harder in her last six years, than the majority of adults ever will, has been given weeks to live. I asked my husband last night how they are surviving this. He answered, “Because they have no choice.” I can not imagine what her parents are going through, and I pray for them all day everyday, and would like all of you to do the same. But I have no understanding of what it is to be them right now. I used to ask Dave, “why doesn’t so and so get it?” or “how could they say something like that” while Matthew was dealing with cancer. He would answer, “because they can’t, they have no idea how” They were not a member…so I couldn’t expect them to behave like one.
I feel comfortable saying that Ava’s parents never wanted to be a member of the cancer club. I am also certain they do not want to join the “parent who lost a child” club. However, here on earth, many times you can’t choose which club to join. All of us have a membership that we never asked for, nor would have dreamt of choosing. Imagine a published directory of clubs and camps..Categories like Addict, Broken Marriage, Mental Illness, MS, Trauma, Autism…who would sign up? But once you have been assigned membership, what will you do? Will you become an active participant, trying to make the best of it? Will you be an angry one, holding onto that anger and lashing out for the rest of your time on earth? Will you be a good citizen of the club, helping other members, speaking up for the group and educating non members? In turn, how will you treat the clubs you don’t have membership to? Do you look the other way when they come around? Judge them for their performance in the club? Pretend like they aren’t really a member because you are not comfortable with the club? One club we are all members of is that of humanity..we have that common membership. Equal members, no better or worse than one another. Let’s start there, and support one another, not assuming we understand what the other members are going through. Grace is a beautiful thing..wouldn’t it be amazing if we were all a part of Club Grace?