Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Zoe The Survivor

Monday is a big deal for us.  
It's the five year anniversary of Zoe's cancer diagnosis. 
September 7th. 
The day that, I doubt, will ever be erased from my mind. 
There are many monumental events during a person's lifetime that seem to be flash frozen into memory. 
A wedding day celebration of love. 
The birth of our children. 
And, for me, the day I was told my five year old had cancer. 

I remember the phone conversation with our pediatrician's office manager. 
The doctor wanted me to go get Zoe from school and bring her right in to see him. 
Just because I said she was tired and had large bruises that weren't going away. 
I remember what Zoe was wearing. 
A hot-pink tiered skirt that stopped at the top of her knees. 
I remember that I called my cousin from my car and said "maybe it's leukemia."
I remember the anger that took over me when, through his own tears, our pediatrician said the lab results came back (that had only been drawn an hour before) showing leukemia. 
I remember my husband crying as Zoe sat on his lap. 
I remember Zoe looking from her father to her doctor, two strong protective men in tears, and having no idea what they were crying about. 

I took lots of notes. 
Without those notes I wouldn't have remembered anything at all. 
Every word that came out of Zoe's new doctor's mouth was written down. 
A old friend from high school recommended the note taking. 
Her son had gone through treatment for a brain tumor. 
She was already a momcologist. 
I was just starting my introduction to the field. 

We were handed tons of forms to read and sign. 
Forms for surgery. 
Form authorizing chemotherapy. 
Form with pages pertaining only to side effects. 
I told Chad not to read some of those. 
He still hasn't. 
One of us knowing potential horrific outcomes was enough. 
We both did read over and then sign NO to a very specific form. 
It was for an experimental drug study that Zoe could have as part of her treatment. 
But the side effect of "temporary blindness" dissuaded us. 

I have learned much in the five years that I've watched my first child overcome sickness. 
I've learned to laugh more. 
Because crying won't help anyone. 
I've learned to sing loudly with my daughter. 
Because joy is more powerful than fear. 
And I've learned to be her voice when she had none.  
I've learned how to be courageous and adventurous. 
I've had to teach her those two things as well. 
I've had to teach my child that even though she felt horrible and looked different than her peers, that everything was for her benefit. 
That mom and dad weren't hurting her. 
We were trying to save her. 
No parent should have to tell their child "you MUST take these pills or you will die."
I've said those words to my five year old when she screamed at me that she wasn't going to do this anymore. 

Five years on Monday. 
It seems like a lifetime ago that my young, vibrant, precocious child was told to lay in bed for her own good. 
We won't celebrate with any ceremony on Monday. 
We will carry on as if it were any other Monday. 
Zoe doesn't like to hear about these dates on the calendar. 
The day of her diagnosis. 
The day of her last chemo treatment. 
She doesn't have a lot of memories from her sick days. 
Which we are thankful for. 
But, she has enough in her head to make her cry if we discuss it. 
No matter what I feel about the situation, it didn't happen to me. 
It all happened to her. 
And if she doesn't want to go there, we don't. 
She wants to be normal. 
She wishes she didn't have this past. 
She's one tough kid. 
As are all kids who face a cancer diagnosis. 
We know being a survivor is worthy of a gold medal as well as having a sign flashing over your head stating "bad ass coming through!"

Once I was handed a form that stated: with your signature you authorize your minor child to be pumped full of poison so that we may begin to save her life. 
And life was never the same. 
None of us were the same. 

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