As a guest blogger for Riley Hospital for Children, where our son received treatment for cancer as a small child, I’ve been asked to write about a variety of topics. Recently I was asked if I could write something for the hospital to post on Thanksgiving Day. I thought about it for awhile and then wrote the following entry. I cried as I typed some of the words. Though it’s been several years, (Karson was diagnosed February 9th, 2007 and underwent more than three years of chemo until April, 2010) the emotions are still “raw” and just under the surface. I suspect this may always be the case. But, I felt so grateful and blessed as I recalled this day and so I thought I’d share my thoughts on my personal blog as well as on Riley’s: http://blog.rileykids.org/
A Thanksgiving Dinner
My husband and I sat in the cafeteria at Riley Hospital for Children and watched as our son scarfed down his meal. I slowly ate my own food as my stinging eyes tried to hold back tears. The lump in my throat was hard to clear as memories flooded my mind.
I thought back to four-and-a-half years before that day when we sat in that very cafeteria, at a table just across the way. As I glanced at that empty table I recalled our first meal in that cafeteria. My husband and I could barely eat, but we were encouraged to do so by our own parents who had come to support us. Our then two-year-old son had just undergone a terribly painful procedure called a bone marrow biopsy and he was now laying beside our table in a red Riley wagon. He was twirling his fine blonde hair between his forefinger and thumb trying to soothe himself with a habit we knew would soon be taken from him with his impending hair loss. Karson had no interest in eating that night. He didn’t even want to sit up or smile. Our hearts broke with the news that our toddler had cancer and we had more than three year of chemotherapy ahead of us. It was going to be the fight of our lives.
As I refocused my eyes back on the present and on our son who was not only sitting up at the table, but laughing and showing off his trademark large appetite, my heart filled with gratitude. We had fought the fight. It was behind us now and our son was alive and well.
Those four years in between those two meals had been filled with valleys. Some moments are difficult to recall and even harder to share. But that day in the cafeteria, it hit me. Not only was that moment a blessing, but there had been thousands of blessings all along the way. Sometimes in my grief and exhaustion I failed to be thankful for them. Now I began to mentally count them.
The morning our son had been taken from us by a surgeon we’d met just moments before, I’d felt fear, sadness, and dread. But now I thank God for that brilliant surgeon and his colleagues who operate on the sickest of children with delicate care and skillful hands every day. When I watched a toxic poison dripping into my son’s IV line I wept bitterly as I grieved the loss of healthy cells and life as I knew it. But, now I thank God that brilliant doctors and researchers have figured out how to treat diseases in such efficient and effective ways. When a friends’ child was not as fortunate as my own and lost their battle, my heart broke. But I continue to give thanks for each heartbeat, smile and moment those parents, and each of us, are granted.
That day in the cafeteria at Riley, it struck me hard that each step in life is a gift. Every moment, even the ones I’d rather forget, have something for which to be thankful. And as difficult as it is for me to understand, I believe that sometimes the trials of life turn out to be part of the blessing.
And on that summer day in the Riley cafeteria, I sat with my husband and healthy son and enjoyed a thanksgiving dinner.