Day 224

It seemed like there was a sort of dissonance in the air right from the starting gate today. There was tension between Benji and me, between Banyan and Michael; even the dogs seemed restless. Perhaps last night’s meteor shower stirred things up a bit. I don’t know. But as the day progressed, one thing became clear: with a new school year approaching, we all need to focus on curtailing the behaviors and responses that disrupt harmony.

Discipline is a tricky endeavor with a child who has cancer, and with his sibling as well. Benjamin’s physical and emotional feelings ebb and flow so dramatically that it is tempting and easy to indulge his desires, even when those desires are to seek power by speaking unkindly to authority figures. Today I was “the meanest mom in the world” because I insisted on either sunscreen or a hat on his newly exposed head when playing outside. Most days I can let these words roll off my back, but today they were accumulating in the dissonance, and it felt difficult to do the right thing. Banyan is settling back into his role in the family, which includes a healthy dose of preteen angst and intelligent negotiation (otherwise known as back talk). I understand; middle school is very visibly on the horizon. Still, I was challenged today.

I examined the variables I could control in creating harmony in the household. I can get more sleep. I can focus on the good in my children in nearly any situation. Most importantly, I can act swiftly and calmly to help our boys understand what is acceptable and what isn’t, regardless of our current circumstances. And I can feel confident in my actions, knowing that first and foremost, cancer or no cancer, we have a responsibility to instill in our children an inner voice that guides them the rest of their days. Thinking this through gave me the sense of calm I’d been craving.

As Banyan was beachbound with his friends today, Benji and I were heading over the Skyway for his last day of treatment this week. He was so ready to be deaccessed. His blood was drawn, and we waited for his final dose of Cytarabine. I removed the Scopolomine patch that has been behind his ear since Monday. Using his oils, Benji had absolutely no problems today with the flushes, the chemotherapy, or the heparin.

Dr. Grana came in with Benji’s complete blood count. His numbers are dropping as expected, but slowly. With an absolute neutrophil count over 600 today, Benji has no restrictions on the weekend’s activities. Next week we will be in the Infusion Center three times for more Erwinia shots and Vincristine. Benji will be accessed for five days. His counts will decrease more dramatically and transfusions are highly possible. For now, we will enjoy the relative calm. Benji’s bandages were removed, his needle was pulled out, and we were free to go. One day closer. Many doctors and nurses have commented on how beautifully Benji is moving through this dreaded phase.

Both boys played with friends this afternoon before their Grammy took them shopping for new school shoes. On the way to meet her, we took Benjamin’s package of art submissions to the post office and payed for overnight delivery to The Children’s Cancer Center. He was so proud. He feels really confident that one of his entries will be chosen. I think he stands a great chance.

Despite behavioral challenges today, I can look at both of my children and see strong, solid, intelligent people with kindness in their hearts. We are guiding these boys through life with cancer, but more importantly, we are guiding them through life, period. Life will always win.

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