When I was playing sports in college, my coach used to tell us, “fake it till you make it”. As a freshman on the field, you’re nervous. You don’t know the system or the plays very well yet, so you just run and you pretend like you know exactly what you’re going to do with the ball and, a lot of the time, it looks like you actually DO know what you’re doing. Attitude, as they say, is everything.
I was setting up an email account for Luke this morning because I am hoping he will be sending his resume out soon to some perspective job opportunities…kidding, he already has a full time job waking me up at night….the email address is for the future. Anyway, I ended up stumbling into the email folder I have for Calum and read through one of the first emails I sent about him after his diagnosis. It was written the day his port was placed in his chest. It was also the day his doctors performed a prognostic test of his bone marrow, which was to be the most important indication of how he would eventually fare in the entire three years of treatment. Retrospectively, that day was the hardest day of my whole life. It wasn’t the worst day of my life (the worst day was the day he was diagnosed), but it was definitely the hardest. In that email I wrote,
“When they finally brought us in to prep (for the port placement surgery and bone marrow test), they gave him something to sedate him (he was scared and so upset from being hungry after a month long dose of heavy steroids). I could only go halfway to the operating room with him. I held him as we walked down the hallway and handed him off to a stranger. Even in his drugged state he cried for me as the doors closed between us, a dagger to the heart. You just hope no one asks, “are you OK” at that moment otherwise the tears can’t help from streaming.”
I have such a vivid picture of all that in my head; I remember even what I was wearing – my clothes were basically hanging off me from having lost so much weight over that first month after his diagnosis. When it was finally time for his surgery, the pain of handing him to the physician’s assistant and peeling his arms from around my neck still stings. Watching him be carried away through the double doors, in an incredibly sedated state, yet still calling out for me, and my not being able to go to him, was the hardest single moment of my life. I wanted to drop to my knees and crumble into a thousand pieces, but I couldn’t. I walked back down to the lobby where I waited about two hours to be called back up to the recovery room. All through Calum’s treatment, I can count the number of times on less than one hand I ever cried in front of a doctor or nurse. I’ve always wanted to show strength at the hospital and have, indeed, faked it more times than I can count. It’s not been a pride thing, but a preservation thing. If I allowed myself to meltdown every time I felt like it, I’d just be a puddle. For the sake of my kids and my family, I have had to keep it together.
We have come so far from that day and, though this current phase with a new baby is exponentially easier than that time was, it’s still a pretty big challenge. Adjusting to life again with a baby, getting no sleep and caring for Calum and Faye has been relentless and exhausting, but the only way through is to keep going forward. Since Calum got his port out a couple weeks ago, life has already taken a gigantic turn for the better. I took all three of them to the pool the other day by myself for the first time and, before leaving, I was so worried about how it would all go down. Was it a shit show? Absolutely. But did I have fun? No. But did the kids have fun? It was hard to say in between their crying and whining. But did we all make it home alive? Yes.
The pool is a zero-grade entry so Calum and Faye are safe enough to play in the shallow area without me, and Luke was a dream and sat quietly in his shaded seat pretty much the whole time. It was a lot of “work” in some ways, but I was able to feed the kids dinner at the grill there and avoided cooking and cleaning, and I had myself a summer cocktail (vodka soda with pineapple, for all you nosey bitches) and poached their fries. All in all, the little adventure was a big win, but I had to get out there and do it in order to know I could.
Little by little life will start to return to an average amount of insanity, and I’m really looking forward to that phase. Soon the demands of a new baby and sleepless nights will fade, and soon Calum will finish his cancer treatment, and soon Faye will stop wearing her stained and tattered Elsa dress every day, all day and tyrannically ordering me around the house, but until then, I’ll fake it till we make it.