Cancer Parent--it isn't a designation anyone wants, but it does come with a sort of instant camaraderie. Walking to the oncologist's office, which happens to be in the children's hospital on the same floor as the cafe and pediatric wards, you catch each others' eyes and you just know. It isn't the tiredness, the sadness or the fear that gives it away, it is the hope.
If they didn't have hope, they wouldn't be there. The nurses occasionally mention the parents that aren't there, the ones who have given up or just cannot deal with the stress and fear of having a sick child. At first I was astonished, but over the past three months I have become much less judgmental. It is easy to fall into a pit of despair. To start grieving a child that is still there because the thought of putting your hope and love into them only to have to give them up hurts too much. I pray everyday that I can stay strong enough to push through when those thoughts creep in.
Hope is so important. To be honest I think hope and denial are sometimes so close that it is blurred. It has to be. There are times when you just have to believe, against all odds-- all proof, that your baby is going to be okay, because if you don't you just cannot move. You can't function.
I sometimes get angry when I see happy healthy families. I know it sounds horrible, and I don't wish illness on anyone, but I get so jealous. The truth is any parent can lose their child at anytime, but why do they get to forget that so easily? Why do we have to be constantly reminded of our baby's mortality? They get to be in constant denial.
As cancer parents, we have to think about the possibility of losing our children constantly. But we can hope--we can believe that our babies will make it. We have hope that this treatment will work. We have hope that a drug will be developed or a gene discovered that will somehow change the game. Sometimes we know it.
I assume that as Little Buddha's treatment continues that the moniker "Cancer Parent" will evolve for me. I know I am not speaking for all parents of children with cancer. This is my experience so far. I am aware of a strong group of parents out there who have to come to terms with terminal diagnoses, I don't know how they do it. Selfishly, I hope I never will. I pray for them, because it is all I know to do.
There is a lot more I want to write about this subject, but this is all I have energy for right now. Our little guy is still recovering from his last chemo, and it has been a rough week.
Any other parents out there who are going through this, please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments. It can be lonely and sometimes it is easier to get it out in a written forum, I know it is for me.