Twelve

Today is a wonderful day.

Today I celebrate my son’s 12th year on the Earth.

Somehow, inexplicably, twelve years have flown and crawled and staggered past us. Ten years have gone since his cancer diagnosis, and time has rubbed away some of the horror of that wound, for all of us.

2020 has, and let’s not sugar-coat it, been a bit of a shit year all ’round, am I right? All of our lovely plans have gone up in smoke, the global pandemic rages on, and the uncertainty of what the future holds has us staring at the ceiling at night, and anxiously checking our news-feeds over and over.

I haven’t been immune to it. Fear has definitely got its sharp hooks into me too.

But I’ve been here before. 2010 was the worst year of my life. I stood on the brink of losing my only child oh-so-many times. Every day was a different kind of struggle. I was happy too, though, because I still had him. The highs were high and the lows were very low.

The life that I’d expected wasn’t happening. That life was gone, blitzed away by scalpels and chemo, and we were living a new life for which we didn’t have the script.

In the years that followed, grief and anxiety became constant companions, as I wrestled, daily, with all of the terrible repercussions that cancer had brought to my son, and to me, and my husband and my then unborn daughter.

I imagine that many, many, of us, around the world, are feeling this way now. The days ahead are uncertain. A nameless fear surrounds us, and a gnawing worry for our loved ones. We can’t see the road ahead. We want things to return to “normal” but despair that they never will.

Here is a secret: there is no normal. There is only what each generation has grown to perceive as the usual way of things. Oh I know, that doesn’t help very much, does it? Okay, so we can still hope that things will return to some semblance of normalcy, and usually, as history has proven, eventually, they will.

Given time, we will be able to hug and kiss each other with reckless abandon. We will go to parties and just take a piece of cheese off of a plate without a second thought. We will not wear our masks wherever we go. We will go to concerts again! We will have a runny nose and think, oh, just a sniffle. We’ll be packed like sardines in a stinking-hot subway car again. Goals, 2021.

The constant lesson of my last decade is this: Living in the shadow of fear is no way to live.

But how do we push back against fear? I only know that my best defence, against all of it, is to first look inwards. Sleep, eat, exercise, meditate, breathe. You know the drill.

And then, my next move is to just have a little faith. Have a little positive belief that things will be all right. I know. Sometimes they are just not all right. Things happen to us that are in no way okay. Existence and loving others = pain and suffering at times, as we experience loss and grief, and wonder if joy will ever be ours again.

For me, my belief has had to be that my son will continue to live and not relapse, and not develop a secondary cancer. And then, I have to, must believe that my daughter will not develop a brain tumour, and will continue to thrive and be her beautiful 5 year-old self. Beyond that, I then must believe that I will not grow a horrid tumour in my head either. I can’t.

The odds are stacked. We’ve got this bloody genetic fuck-up going on in our cells. But it’s also a matter of Who knows? and Maybe. So I’ll place my bets on the side of everything’s-going-to-be-alright, thank you very much.

Hospital Pros

I don’t want to take away from anyone’s pain. These recent times have tried us and wounded us. The stories of loss keep rolling out and have us shedding silent tears for the sorrows of the world.

No doubt, 2020 has been a wreck. But very soon, my son will be starting Grade 7 at a new school and naturally, he’s got that new-kid trepidation, but with all of the COVID protocols piled on top.

Am I worried for him, with his health history? I guess I would be insane not to worry, at least to some degree. But I refer you to the above comment about fear. I’ve been given good guidance, by his doctors, to not fret too much. To carry on as much as possible. To continue to embrace as much normalcy as we are able.

My son was born twelve years ago today. Tonight, by request, we’re celebrating with a spaghetti dinner followed by chocolate mousse. COVID birthday or not, today is a wonderful day.

This is twelve.