I’ll never forget the day I got the phone call that every parent dreads. Lizzie has to go into emergency right now, it said… there’s a problem with her platelets. I didn’t know much when I got that call, but I knew enough that an issue with her platelets could very possibly mean leukemia. I know now there are worse words a parent can hear than that one (from second hand knowledge, thank… well, whoever it is you thank for that), but in that moment that was scary enough.
We had noticed over the last few months that Lizzie seemed to bruise very badly, very easily, and the bruises seemed to linger longer than they should. This came to a head when she slipped and fell while walking down a stone staircase, bruising herself very badly in the process; these bruises were very deep, and lasted far longer than seemed normal. We finally took her in to get them checked out, and her doctor ordered blood tests. It was these test results that caused that phone call; something wasn’t right, and in that moment it seemed like it could be very wrong.
We figured out pretty quickly that while Lizzie’s condition was serious, it wasn’t nearly as bad as we initially feared. Nights at the hospital were quickly unnecessary, and we began to spend time (more than we wanted, but less than so many others) at the BCCH Oncology/Hematology clinic, there for a few hours while Lizzie got her treatment. We have been going there every three, or four, or five, weeks, as needed, for almost six years now, and that time there has made it clear that we are absolutely some of the lucky ones. So many families, so many stories, all different and yet at the core all fundamentally the same; we do whatever we can, whatever we need to, to make our kids feel better.
Over our time at BCCH, the stories of two families have stuck out for me, because of personal connections; these families are amazing, their stories tragic, and heartbreaking, and uplifting. I won’t tell you their stories here; if you want to read them, they can be found at these two links: Jasper Mohan (http://jasperupdates.tumblr.com/ ) and Lilee-Jean Whittle-Putt (http://loveforlilee.com/ )
Jasper was, by every account I’ve ever heard, an amazing young man who could have done whatever he liked in this world; personable, well spoken, hard-working, and absolutely brilliant. He fit more into his 15 years than many will in a lifetime, a statement which sounds so trite, and yet in this case is accurate. I never actually met Jasper; we were in the clinic at BCCH at the same time one day, and I intended to introduce myself, but he was so busy talking to nurses, and doctors, and parents, and other patients, that I never got a chance. You could literally feel the room brighten when he walked in, and see the effect he had on so many people in such a short time; again, sounds trite, but true. Everyone knew him, everyone wanted to talk to him, and even then, with what would turn out to be only weeks left in his life, he was up to the challenge, and more.
Lilee-Jean’s story is one that has hit a little closer to home; I know the family, not well, but as we do in a small town where your parents have taught virtually every kid to graduate in the last 30 years. LJ has taken a turn for the worse in the last few days, and it looks like her story may be coming to an end all too soon. All that is left to do now is pray, for those who do; I hope those prayers, of the countless people who are including LJ in theirs, are answered. Children should not have to go through everything that this amazing, strong, resilient little girl has.
As a parent, these stories hit a lot closer to home than they otherwise would. You hug your child a little tighter, tell them you love them a little more often, check on them in the night one more time, as if these things will keep them safe from all the danger the world has to offer. We do it because it is what we can do, and hope that by controlling what we can, we will keep them safe.
I found out pretty early on that there were things beyond my control, that we can’t protect them from the dangers that lurk in their own bodies. I am one of the lucky ones, though; my daughter is bright, and cheerful, and in almost every way perfectly healthy. She is growing like a weed, growing up way too fast, and becoming more and more amazing each and every day. Taller, cheekier, funnier, smarter; more her, more the person that she is going to become, and I am thankful every day that I get to see it.
Because I know what it’s like to get a phone call from the doctor, telling you that your perfect little child isn’t perfect, and there may be something terribly wrong.
I know what it’s like to sit on a hospital bed while doctors poke and probe your child, doing their best but scaring and hurting your child, with you unable to do a damn thing.
I know what it’s like to lay awake through the night in a hospital bed, your child sleeping beside you, while you wonder if tomorrow is going to be the day you get the bad news, even as you hope it will be good.
I know what it’s like to check on your child in the night, almost afraid to look because you are afraid something has gone wrong, something very specific and real.
I know all of these things and a million more, things that 9 years ago it never even crossed my mind that I would have to learn. And in spite of knowing these things… no, that’s not right. I think it’s even more because of these things I know, I know that when it comes to circumstances like this, I don’t know a single goddamn thing.
Andrew and Chelsey, my thoughts and prayers are with you. Stephen and Barb, I am so sorry for your loss.