Sunday, March 28, 2010


Last night I met a colleague whose 4-year-old son is receiving treatment for leukemia. He was diagnosed in the fall and faces another two years of chemo. She spoke of how he spent three days in the hospital last week due to an ear infection, which caused a fever.

“Any parent knows that a fever of 105 is no big deal,” she said, explaining how he was just going through a standard kid ear infection, but because of the leukemia, was held in the hospital.

I tried to not give away how I really didn’t understand, but I think my look was blank. No, I have no idea what dealing with a 105 degree fever in my child is like. I don’t know what an ear infection is like. I have never seen vomit or diarrhea from my child. Almost every parent I know has dealt with one of those things, but we have been blessedly exempt. If I can’t even fathom those simple illnesses, how can I fathom what it is like to parent a child with leukemia? Especially as a single parent of two with a half hour commute. I can’t. At all.

I can only feel an empathy so intense that if I could translate it into help for her, I would. I can only feel an intense sadness and sense of unfairness that her son has to deal with the fear of death before he has really started to live.

“One of the drugs he is getting is a derivative of mustard gas,” she said. “Who could imagine injecting that into your child? But you do what you have to do.”

It made me feel silly for worrying about chemicals on non-organic grapes, when other children are facing mustard gas derivatives.

I’m simultaneously so damned grateful that River’s hold on life and health is so strong. And I’m scared to know how tenuous that is. To realize that even what seems to be the firmest hold, can be cut so suddenly. And when something happens, we are going to be so unprepared, having had no experience. Just thinking about the possibility was so upsetting to Mark, that he didn’t want to talk about this little boy. It was clear he knew that one little flip of fate, and it could be our son.

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