September 1. The day everyone puts gold ribbons on their Facebook profiles. The day you see everyone share pictures of children suffering from childhood cancer. It is a month of awareness. A month where you see a picture, your heart hurts for that child and his or her parents, but you never dream it could be you.
Then without warning, you are thrust into the world of childhood cancer, a world of love and empathy, but nonetheless a world and label you wanted nothing to do with.
I knew this month was coming up and I have grappled with how to accept it. I go through swings of embracing the label and then the pendulum swings to anger at having the label thrust upon us. Is there a box where I can check ‘No’ to cancer?
There’s not. This is the card we have been dealt, a really shitty card. Slowly, I am coming to accept our new label and card, even embrace it. I refuse to let cancer get the best of us and our spirit so we will take this shitty card and do something positive with it.
I chose to use this picture for awareness. Marjorie does not look ‘sick’ and Manning is with her and both are intentional. The repercussions of cancer go far beyond the days of chemo and go far beyond the patient. My little guy is the unsung hero in Marjorie’s cancer journey. Manning might not have endured chemo and its nasty side effects, but he had his mother and ‘baby sister’ taken from his home over night. We disappeared for nearly two months and through it all, he never missed a beat and he has continued to march on.
As we wrap up our week in my hometown of Baton Rouge, I fly back to our new home with peace in my heart. I feel such happiness and gratitude. I’ve always felt gratitude, but it is the peace that is really pouring through my soul. This is our new normal: we will have oncology clinic appointments monthly and scans every three months. It is a far cry from what a parent dreams for their child, but it is what we have to do…so we do it.
For years, I have seen people’s profile pictures turn gold and this year it takes on a whole new meaning because my girl is one of millions affected. How did that happen? I will never forget the anger I felt when the hospital social worker handed me a backpack with the words “Childhood Cancer” on it. It took every fiber in me not to throw it back and run out of the room. I did not want anything with those words on it.
My brain still can’t wrap around it all, but day by day it gets easier to accept the new label of pediatric cancer. Because one day we will have survivor behind it, but most of all we know it is just a label. It does not define Marjorie or me or our family. We wear it proudly because it is part of our story, a story of triumph.
Please share with us this month as we GO Gold!