I had A Moment at the dance studio the other day. To promote the upcoming Nutcracker auditions, the lobby television was playing a DVD from a past production. It took me all of three seconds to realize it was last year's production. The one Peach was in two weeks before her diagnosis. Try as I might, I couldn't look away, and as the time for her number grew closer, the knot in my stomach grew, too. As per usual, the few other mothers that were there were too busy bitching and kvetching to even notice the TV, so I stood up right in front of it, put on my sunglasses, and cried as I watched Peach dance. And then I went out to the car and called T-Bone. And I bawled.
I haven't cried that hard in a while. I just don't have time for it, really. But seeing Peach doing what she loves so much, smiling and enjoying herself without a care in the world - it just undid me. "It" was all there, and we just had no idea. She wasn't showing any of the signs that ultimately led us to the doctor two weeks later, but It had already started.
I have spent way too much time and energy trying to pinpoint the exact moment this all began, and the truth is, we will never know for sure. I look at pictures from weeks, days, even hours before diagnosis, searching for the tiniest indication of change - any evidence of what was to come - and I can't find it. And it drives me crazy. Even though I know we caught It as early as we could have, and much earlier than many people do, I can't get over the fact that there was A Moment when a cell in Peach's perfect little body decided to wreak havoc, and I didn't have the opportunity or the capacity to stop it.
In the first few days and weeks after we came home from the hospital, I had a hard time seeing healthy children, out and about in public with their happy parents, enjoying their holidays. I wasn't envious or angry, just very sad. For them. I thought how blissfully ignorant those parents were of the fact that their baby could get cancer. I wondered if it ever occurred to them that their healthy child could ever get so sick, seemingly in an instant. And, of course, the answer is NO. Because I used to be them, and as much as I worry about everything, real and imagined, it never truly occurred to ME that this could happen. And that's saying a lot.
People ask me questions all the time about leukemia and blood cells and chemotherapy, and they often apologize, saying, "I'm sorry. I just don't know much about all of this." My answer is always, "Of course you don't. Why would you?" I didn't know much about all of "this" either before now, and I'm learning all the time because I have to. I need to. I want to. And with all the learning and emoting I've been doing, maybe someday I'll be able to let go of my obsession with Its birth. Even better, maybe I'll finally be able to accept (without having to remind myself first thing every morning) that this is actually happening at all.
September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Please consider supporting CureSearch's efforts to fund life-saving research for all childhood cancers. Peach thanks you.