You walk into the hospital holding your child tight. Deep inside you know this is something you cannot fix on your own. You are led to the ER and nurses poke needles into your child’s delicate skin. Each beep of the machine causes your heart to leap harder against your chest. Then you wait. The waiting is the hardest, because even though you know it’s serious, you figure you can still get home before your two older children get off the bus.
In your mind you know how much time you have and what is in the fridge for dinner. You text your girlfriend canceling the get together that you spent months arranging. You’ll get time to do that once your baby is better.
A kind-faced doctor comes in and you slide closer to your baby because your maternal instincts are on high alert. The doctor smiles and says words that even in your darkest thoughts you could never have imagined. Your child has cancer.
The words don’t really process in your mind. You don’t cry, you don’t freak out. You listen to the doctor explain how she will be with you through this whole journey. For two to three years you will be coming to this place almost every day. Your child will have surgeries, needles stuck in the back, arm, chest, and a finger pricked with every visit. Your child will have poisonous medicine pumped into its body in order to give a chance at life. You can’t decide which is worse–the diagnosis or the cure. But you will do everything to save your child. The alternative is unthinkable.
You came to the hospital with your purse and a baby bag filled with diapers, toys, formula, and books. Going home is not an option. Before you can even absorb this news, before you can go home to pack, your child is admitted and this new life of cancer begins. The feeling of numbness will be with you through this journey. You don’t know what you should be feeling. You don’t know what you need.
A kind woman comes to your room. She explains this new life of cancer. This life that will affect every moment of your child’s life, even after the cancer is gone. As you begin to feel panicked and distraught, she hands you a red and black bag. You don’t think much of it until later when your child is asleep. Each item you pull from the bag is one that at some point in the day you wish you had with you. A toothbrush is like gold. A notebook to jot down the confusing thoughts and procedures the doctor told you. Cozy socks that add just a bit of comfort; gift cards, toiletries and a letter.
You read the letter from a child who had cancer and her mother who was with her through the journey. They know what you are feeling before you can even identify your reaction. The person who packed this bag walked your walk, felt your pain, lived your fear, and is giving you hope.
You don’t know how hard this journey will be. You don’t know how much your child’s cancer diagnosis will test your strength, your faith, and your courage. You don’t know that people will let you down and walk away because of their own fear. But now you know that there are people who care, who understand what you are going through, who get it, and will be there for you as your child fights to be healed.