Hug your children and tell them you love them every chance you get. Don’t let a day go by where you neglect telling them how much they mean to you. No matter what goes on and how much they drive you batty, let them know that you are there for them through thick and thin.
You never know how long you may have them.
We live in a world of uncertainty. Just this week alone we saw headlines regarding miners trapped, religious leaders shot, hostages taken at Discovery Channel, proposed religious sites burned to the ground, and the hurricane making its way to our coastlines.
And it is only Wednesday. Wow.
Anything can happen at any time and your loved ones need to know how much you care. I am here to talk about one of the most horrific events that can happen in the life of a parent.
It started off like any other day. My parents were visiting and I went shopping with my mom. Dad stayed home with my kids, one of which had a cold. We hit up the grocery store for some food to eat over the next few day and that sort of thing. We get home to give my son a nebulizer treatment and the phone rings.
Caller ID reads my doctor’s name and I think to myself, "Oh good. We can find out if Caramon has pneumonia or not." Unfortunately that is not what I was about to hear.
"I’m so sorry. Your son is very sick. I think he has cancer."
Cancer. The dreaded C word. The word you associate with old people. Used for my not even five year old son.
How did this happen? How did we go from asthma and possible pneumonia the day before to CANCER?
Did you know that every day 46 children are diagnosed with cancer? One in 330 children will be diagnosed by the time they reach 20! How about the fact that even with all the advancements we have today, 35% of children diagnosed with cancer will die?
Cancer is the #1 disease that kills children. Not the flu. Not pneumonia. Not aids. Cancer. Actually cancer kills more children then genetic anomalies, cystic fibrosis, and AIDS combined. Wow.
Here’s something chilling: Between 1975 and 2001 the overall incidence rate for childhood cancers has increased significantly by almost 33%. Caramon’s diagnosis came in 2001.
We got off lucky. His cancer? Fairly treatable. It even held a high cure rate. Even so, we ran into all sorts of issues from the nasty drugs he needed to take to cure him.
Here’s something even scarier… those nasty drugs? They can cause health issues for the rest of a child’s life. Caramon has serious breathing issues, he’s left with only one kidney and is missing part of a lung. His growth has been retarded and he can never play sports. Due to only having one kidney he has things he needs to monitor such as his hydration and things. He also suffers from bad headaches. Who knows what we will find as he gets older.
I lived a nightmare for a year, wondering if he was going to die. There were times when I just did not know, that’s how bad he was.
Let me be absolutely clear on this. I believe that no parent should ever have to outlive a child. Watching a five year old boy struggle to just remain alive is something that would break the heart of a stone giant. Spending a year of my life in a pediatric oncology ward had a profound affect on me, knowing that some of those sweet little angles might not be earning their angel status far too early.
You know my name. You know many things about me. I’m a writer. I was a dancer. I’m a photographer. I’m a Mormon. I’m a mom. These things define me. I never thought I’d say something like this as part of my definition: My son had cancer.
This month, as you watch children marching off for the first day of school, playing in their yards as the days grow short, practicing for sports, riding bikes, or whatever it is that kids are doing in your neck of the woods… think about how not every child gets that chance. Then hug the kids that are a part of your life. Let them know that no matter what, they are important to you. Call your mom and thank her for sitting by your bedside when you were sick. Definitely thank her for worrying when you came home late as a teenager. Kiss your significant other, and thank them for all the many things they do for you that you probably didn’t even notice that day.
Because really? Life is too short to be miserable or cranky. Find the joy and help others to find joy as well.
Say I love you.
PS: An excellent charity for pediatric cancer is Candlelighters. They do so much in the fight for children suffering from cancer. St Jude’s is a great hospital founded for critically ill children and no one is turned away because they cannot pay. Children’s Hospitals across the nation are the home away from home for many sick children and the Ronald McDonald House houses their families. These are the people and places to thank for reaching out to those in one of the hardest places they will ever travel in this life. Good night and God bless.