It’s My Book’s Birthday!

Today, after three years of labor, my book has been born! (Phew!)

I’m so excited to announce that my first book, Brownie Crumbs and Other Life Morsels, is now available on Amazon in paperback, and for the Kindle.

You can find it here:

 

Also, I had a book trailer made to give everyone a short glimpse of what the book is about – much like you’d discover from reading the back cover. If you’d like to see it, it is here:

 

 

And finally, if you’d like to follow my writing page on Facebook, you can find it here:

https://www.facebook.com/christycabewriter/

Thanks for your support, reader!

Happy Birthday, Book!

Christy

One of those days.

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Yesterday, before the sunrise, my oldest child stood in front of his middle school peers and shared his story. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) group meets once a week in the cafeteria before the first bell of the school day. One Wednesday each month they combine with another middle school FCA in town. They join their groups together for fellowship, fun, and free breakfast.

Yesterday was one of those days.

Karson was asked to share about his cancer. How he fought leukemia from the age of two to the age of five and-a-half. How before his peers met him in their Kindergarten classrooms and the elementary playground, he’d spent most of his days too sick to play with other kids.

How he’d received over three years of chemotherapy. How he was given steroids that made him crazy with hunger and then how he was required to fast for spinal tap procedures. How he ate more in one day as a toddler than most teenage boys do in two. How his medicine made him feel itchy, and yucky, and isolated. How he not only survived it all, but now is tall, and happy, and healthy.

He’s here.

And he’s willing to share at an FCA meeting on a cold, dark, Wednesday morning.

And my husband, who helps lead FCA and heard our son share, told me later that Karson’s message had two main points.

1- God loves you no matter what you’re going through – even if you don’t have it figured out.

2- We can have hope and joy because Jesus made it possible to spend eternity in Heaven.

And I can’t see straight as I type this because of the tears in my eyes.

Because I remember the days of being up before the crack of dawn too. Not for FCA groups, but for loading into the car with a very sick little bald boy who needed to go the hospital to get chemo to help keep him alive. How some days my knees could barely hold my own weight as I watched those spinal tap procedures and blood transfusions. How we didn’t know if he would live. How we didn’t know what the long term effects of his treatment would be even if he did. How we were told he would likely have stunted growth, learning disabilities, and coordination issues. And how we fought, and loved, and prayed.

And now I hear of him standing there; tall, and smart, and smiling. Telling his peers of the true hope they can cling to in this life.

And the tears run down my cheeks as I take it all in.

He’s here.

Yesterday was one of those days.

One of those days when you feel like you see the light pierce through the darkness.

When you remember that the sun will rise again.

Our Reality (TV). 

  
We are not exactly “camera ready” people. We’re far from glamorous. Very far. We’re just a regular, plain, run-of-the-mill family. 

 But we’re willing. 

And it appears that’s almost as good. 

Willing to tell our story and then simply showing up when we’re called. We’ve tried to make that our practice. 

Recently we were asked to share about our son, Karson’s, battle with leukemia. How he is a survivor, and the amazing research being done that has helped make this our version of reality TV. 

The camera man and reporter met us outside on a 90 degree day. I started to melt from the heat and could feel sweat rolling down my back before we even began the interview. My husband, Kraig, had driven straight from an appointment with our eye doctor where he’d had his pupils dilated. After being asked to remove his sunglasses for the filming, Kraig squinted his way through the next hour and we laughed at his expense. I got emotional about the topic as I answered the reporter’s questions with honesty and openness. This all made for a less than perfect shoot. 

But that doesn’t really matter. 

What matters is that we were able to share our story.

That maybe another family out there who is currently in the trenches, watching their child fight a serious illness, will see a glimmer of hope. 

That maybe some more attention will be given to pediatric cancer research. 

That maybe someone will feel a little less alone in their struggle.

That maybe gratitude will trump the pain. 

That maybe this will be the boost someone else needs to share their own story. 

That maybe willingness and showing up is even better than perfection and glamour, after all. 

______________________

Here’s the link to the news story: 

Survivor Guilt: Turning Guilt Into Hope

Today, February 9th, 2015, marks the 8th anniversary of our son Karson’s diagnosis with leukemia. Eight years. This date is always a mixed bag of emotions for us. We feel pure elation for where we are today, and yet the moments of shock and sorrow we felt 8 years ago are still very raw and tangible. We celebrate how far we’ve come, and we remember because it’s important to never forget where we’ve been. 

I wrote a blog article about the “survivor guilt” that I sometimes feel and how I’ve been challenged to turn that guilt into hope for others. The Riley Children’s Foundation was kind enough to share it on their blog today in honor of Karson’s diagnosis anniversary. You can find it on the RCF page here. Or, you can read it on my personal blog below. 

Here’s to hope! 

 

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I tilted my head back until I felt my neck muscles had reached their limit. I was getting the best view possible as I watched my son attempt to scale an almost 30 foot climbing wall at our local YMCA.

I know nothing about climbing, so I was not there to offer advice, but to cheer Karson on and to take pictures. So, when Karson stopped about three quarters of the way up and let go of his grip, with both his hands and his feet, I wasn’t sure what to do or say.

He hung there, suspended in the air, by the rope and harness that was being carefully anchored on the ground by a trained staff member. Karson’s body drifted slowly from side to side as he shook out his hands and repeatedly said, “I’m done. I can’t go any further. I’m too tired.”

I wasn’t sure how to respond. Should I let him quit? Had he pushed himself to his limit? I really didn’t know what to tell him because I’d never been in his position and I didn’t know how he really felt.

But, the trained climbing expert who was calmly holding onto Karson’s rope and steadying him in mid-air spoke up. “You can do it!” he said. “Don’t quit. Come on man, you have strong legs, you’re tall, you can do this. It’s not much further. “

At first Karson shook his head and looked at me for permission to give up. I deferred by looking at the climbing expert who was still yelling out words of encouragement.

After a few moments, Karson turned back toward the wall and grabbed on with his right hand, and then his left, and then he found places to anchor his feet.

The climbing expert started to shout out specific commands.

 “Right hand blue.”

“Left foot yellow. That’s it.”

“Now left hand green. You can reach it.”

And though it may have sounded like a game of Twister, this man was telling my son how to get to the top of the wall, one colored fake rock at a time.

And Karson did.

I liken this experience with Karson to another we’ve faced in his lifetime. Cancer.

His diagnosis with leukemia at the age of two was a wall that stood in front of us and stretched higher than we could even see.

The climb took years of maneuvering through chemotherapy treatments, steroids, hair loss, weight gain, isolation and spinal taps.

There were times in the midst of it all when we let go of the wall and swung helplessly in mid-air without an ounce of energy left to go forward.

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And it was during those times that I heard the voices of others who had already climbed this wall and who had successfully made it to the top. Families of other children who had fought leukemia and other cancers encouraged us by saying,

“You can do this. You are strong. Karson is strong. God is good. Keep climbing.”

Then, as we’d turn our faces toward the next trial their words would become even more specific.

 “We remember the loneliness of isolation. We’re here for you via phone of email whenever you need to talk.”

“Oh, that drug was the worst! Are you experiencing that side effect too? We can relate. Here’s an idea we found that brought some relief.”

“Our daughter had the same issue with the spinal taps. You’re not alone. We’re praying for you.”

Do you see what these survivors, these “experts” in the steep climb against cancer, were doing?

They were helping us get to the top, one excruciating moment at a time.

And we did.

Karson finished his three years of chemotherapy in 2010 and he remains cancer-free to this day. He’s a healthy, strong, ten-year-old who can now go the YMCA and climb a wall like any other 4th grader.

But the problem is, sometimes I feel guilty about our success.

It may sound crazy, but as the years have ticked by and Karson has continued to thrive, I sometimes feel the “survivors guilt” trickle in. It’s second-hand survivor’s guilt, really. But it stings just the same.

And at first, I wasn’t sure what to do about it.

The feelings of guilt caused me to be silent and not share about our success fearing I may cause pain to others who were struggling and who weren’t as fortunate.

But my silence was detrimental instead of helpful.

Lately I’ve been reminded of the gift that I can now offer to others who are facing a difficult climb.

The gift of hope.

I may never have climbed an actual climbing wall, but I have maneuvered through mothering a child with a life-threatening illness.

I’ve been there.

I know what it feels like.

I can help guide others toward the next goal and over the next hurdle.

And so instead of allowing my survivor’s guilt to render me speechless and idle, I’ve been reminded to shout to those who are on the wall in the midst of their battles.

I need to turn my guilt into hope for someone else.

It’s what others did for us, and their encouragement helped us finish the fight.

Now it’s my turn.

I won’t allow my survivors guilt to silence me. Instead, I will turn that guilt into the gift of hope for someone else.

And together, we can keep climbing.

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Thoughts on Cancer and Magic Johnson

I’m not a Magic Johnson fan, but that doesn’t really matter. I am, however, a huge fan of biographies. You can put a book or documentary about almost anyone in front of me and I’m hooked. I love to learn about people’s stories. Therefore, when a documentary about Magic Johnson was on our television one evening this summer I curled up in my chair with my popcorn and watched.

I’m not here to tell you about basketball or the Lakers or any of that. Sure, there were great games and amazing statistics but it was actually something Johnson said near the end of the show that struck me.

The basketball legend was sharing about his journey with HIV. He was diagnosed at a time when many thought it would be a swift death sentence for both his basketball career and his very life. They were wrong. Johnson has lived with AIDS for 23 years and due to medical treatments he continues to lead a fairly normal life.

Johnson has been the face of HIV for almost a quarter of a century but he said that’s been both good and bad.

The good has been the level of awareness and education that many have received due to such a public figure being diagnosed.

The bad is that he’s alive and well.

The bad may seem good, and it most definitely is, but he was saying that in the fight to raise awareness and fund for HIV/AIDS many look to him and think, “He’s fine! He’s healthy! He’s had AIDS forever and still looks good. What’s the big deal?”

It’s a double-edged sword.

I can relate (though I’m quite certain this is the only way I can relate to Magic Johnson!)

k1 half kickOur son, Karson, was diagnosed with leukemia when he was just two years old. It was a possible death sentence for him. We didn’t know how his little body would respond to the treatment or if the cancer would take his life. However, we are SO thankful that Karson is not only alive, he’s healthy and thriving. He’s now almost 10 years old and has been done with his rigorous 3 ½ years of chemo for more than 4 years. The dark valley of that time is behind us.

If you look at Karson you’d never know he’d once been a bald, puffy, weak and very sick little toddler. You’d never know he went through years of chemotherapy, 22 spinal taps, 2 bone marrow biopsies, 3 years of steroids, and more blood transfusions and hospital stays than we can count. Instead, you see a tall and smiling 4th grader who pitched on his Little League team and just broke his arm being “all boy” while doing a cannonball off a swing in our backyard.

And when you see him as a leukemia survivor you may begin to think, “He’s fine! He’s healthy! He went through leukemia but look at him now. What’s the big deal?”

But it is a big deal.

Karson is alive and healthy. Karson is a leukemia survivor.

Not every story ends this way. Not everyone is healthy like Magic Johnson and Karson Cabe years after being diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses. We don’t know why we are so blessed to have this outcome when others deal with death and sorrow, but we are grateful beyond words.

And while on this mountaintop we don’t want to waste what we learned in the valley.

And that’s why we continue to share his story and many statistics and facts. Like:

 

  • Cancer is the #1 disease-related causes of death for children.
  • Every day, 42 children are diagnosed with cancer.
  • 12% of children diagnosed with cancer do not survive.
  • Children’s cancer affects all ethnic, gender and socio-economic groups.
  • The average age of children diagnosed is six.
  • More than 40,000 children undergo treatment for cancer each year.
  • 60% of children who survive cancer suffer late-effects, such as infertility, heart failure and secondary cancers.
  • There are approximately 375,000 adult survivors of children’s cancer in the United States.

 

I can’t speak for Magic Johnson, nor do I wish to, but I hope that his success story and Karson’s will champion the cause for those who are sick with these awful diseases.

If nothing else, it sure makes for a great documentary.

 

 

 

After the Cancer Diagnosis: 5 Things I Learned When My Son Got Really Sick

k31_2I have to admit that sometimes I still cringe when people refer to me as a “Cancer Mom.”

I never signed up to join that club. The cost to join is enormous. But, join it I did on February 9th, 2007 when my then-two-year-old son was diagnosed with leukemia.

To say that the journey of helping a child through cancer treatments is a long, tough road is an understatement. It’s just plain rotten.

And, though it’s been several years now since my son finished his chemotherapy treatments in 2010, I still can clearly remember the questions and emotions that arose within during the deepest trenches of his journey.

I’m far from an expert, but  I am a Cancer Mom. And so today I share five things I learned when my son got really sick.

1. The learning curve is steep, but you can make the climb!

The overwhelming days right after diagnosis

I’ve never felt more overwhelmed or confused in my life than the first few days of my son’s diagnosis.

I do not have any kind of a medical background, so when the nurses would say phrases such as “Ped’s Hem/Onc” and “We’re going to do an LP to administer IM,” I wasn’t sure if we were still speaking English. It’s okay. You’re not alone.

There is SO much to learn about blood counts, medications, clinical trials, doctors, Child Life… even where to park at each visit to the hospital—it’s overwhelming. But, you can do it! There are no learners more eager than parents wanting to help their child.

ASK QUESTIONS! Write them down and take notes. You may even feel like you’ve earned a medical degree by the time it’s all over… but come to think of it, I never have received my diploma in the mail.

2. Your doctor’s name is not Google.

I love to read and follow various blogs and news sites. And, when my son was first  diagnosed I was so tempted to “Google” every symptom he presented. I wanted to know statistics and treatment plan expectations, etc. I think research is wonderful and statistics are helpful overall, but when you’re running on little sleep and your heart is broken, it’s better to get your information straight from the doctors and nurses that are caring specifically for your child.

Sometimes too much information at your fingertips can only lead to confusion, fear and frustration.

3. YOU are your child’s biggest advocate. Speak up!!

Healthcare professionals are superstars. They are invaluable, awesome heroes who help us throughout our child’s illness. But they are human.

Sometimes the people taking care of your child might be making a decision they feel is best, but you have a hunch that there is a better option. SAY IT! You are your child’s biggest advocate and you must speak up. Doctors and nurses appreciate parents and guardians who take a proactive role in their child’s care. Listen, ask questions, listen some more, and then share your opinions and follow through with the care plan.

4. Make the most of it.

If we’re being honest here, we all know that being a parent of a child with cancer is no joyride. At times it’s just plain crushing to your spirit. But, there are ways to make the most of the journey—even if it’s not how you would have designed your moments of joy.

My son loves trains and so for three years of our life we rode the People Mover train between Riley Hospital for Children and other nearby hospitals in the IU Health system. Back and forth, back and forth. It’s free, and honestly, it’s less than thrilling, but to my son that was something to look forward to each time we went to Riley. We found joy in that crazy monorail.

At home, there were nights when my son would wake up starving at 2:30 a.m. because of being on steroids. I never dreamed I’d be making mashed potatoes and chicken nuggets in the middle of the night for a chubby, bald, demanding toddler. But, looking back, I  remember some of those moments with actual fondness. Sitting across from a little boy who couldn’t shove the food into his mouth fast enough in a quiet, still house was actually kind of precious. We talked together and made memories.

It is possible to make the most of even the darkest nights.

5. Find something to be thankful for every day.

Some days it may be really hard to find something to be thankful for if you’re watching your child suffer, but it’s not impossible. And, I’ve found that gratitude takes up a lot of room in your heart and tends to push out some of the less-attractive emotions.

Look around. What do you see that you are thankful for today? Is it something as simple as a short hug or conversation with fellow cancer parents down the hall? Is it the fact that we have access to world-class care and medications in our country – and right in our home state? Is it the sparkly sticker that a volunteer stuck on your child’s hospital gown, earning a smile from your precious patient?

The fact is, no matter how bad you have it, there is probably someone who has it worse.

Even if you have to phone a friend for help, try to find something to be thankful for every day.

Daddy Loves You

IMG_4051 2My memory of the moment is both crystal clear and fuzzy at the same time. It’s hard to explain, but yet if you’ve ever been in shock, you’ll understand.

My body felt numb and weak and apparently that was obvious to those around me because a nurse pushed a stool underneath my legs and helped me sit down beside my son’s hospital bed. I hadn’t even realized until I sat just how much I needed that support.

My two-year-old son, Karson, was laying on the bed along with Lyle the Lamb, his stuffed companion. My husband, Kraig, stood on the opposite side of the bed and rubbed Karson’s little back. Our heads were reeling with the news we’d received just mere hours before. Doctors were telling us that our toddler had cancer. Now we were crammed in a small procedure room at a children’s hospital watching them prep our son for a bone marrow biopsy.

I was experiencing feelings of denial and shock. Our son had been limping for a week and he presented only mild cold symptoms. Why were they suddenly throwing around words like, “leukemia,” and “chemotherapy?” Wasn’t this just a virus that would pass on its own? Do we really need to do this procedure?

But deep down I reasoned that if these trained medical professionals thought there was enough evidence of cancer from a small bit of blood work, then I must allow them to proceed with further testing of Karson’s bone marrow. They had explained that leukemia starts in the marrow and they must take a look to find out what type of leukemia we were fighting.

And so, in what was literally half a day, we went from a normal morning routine to that dreaded procedure room in a hospital two hours from our house. I can still smell that moment and feel the sterility and darkness of that room. It was awful.

To be completely honest, I’m not even sure I want to draw up those memories or that emotion ever again. I wrestle sometimes with the watershed moments that were burned into my mind in the coming three-and-a-half years of my son’s chemotherapy and treatment. Some memories can bring the sting of tears in a matter of seconds. I used to see them often when I closed my eyes at night. Now it’s much less frequent, but the pain is just as raw. It hurts. So you may ask why I write about it or even bother to relive it at all?

I guess I don’t want to waste it.

As awful as Karson’s cancer was, there was so much good that came from it as well. Most of that good came in the form of God’s gentle presence in the midst of the rough storm. Kraig and I learned so much and felt like we were matured in our faith in a way that would otherwise not have been possible.

And on February 9th, 2007, as we took the first shaky steps into that journey, my husband… my son’s father, told me of how he now understood the love of our Heavenly Father in a deeper way. It was the first of many things we would learn along the way.

Kraig recounted the horrible moments of having to physically pin Karson down on that hospital bed as doctors used a large and painful needle and tools to extract bone marrow from our little boy’s hip. Karson was awake and acutely aware of the intense pain. As he lay there on his stomach, his face was turned toward his daddy who was firmly holding him still and talking to him. Karson was screaming and crying for the pain to stop and looking at Kraig with questioning eyes as if saying,

“Why, Daddy?”

“Why are you letting them hurt me?”

“Please make it stop!”

And oh, how we wanted to!

Kraig and I would have crawled onto that bed in a heartbeat and taken that pain instead of watching our son have to experience it. But we couldn’t. We knew that we had to allow to the doctors to proceed. We had to allow them to extract bone marrow so that they could determine what course of treatment would be most effective for fighting this cancer. But we couldn’t explain all of that to a two-year-old. Even if we had, he wouldn’t have understood.

And so as Karson screamed and pleaded with his Daddy, all that Kraig could say in response was,

“I love you, Karson.”

“I love you, buddy.”

“Oh, Karson! Daddy loves you so much!”

It was heartbreaking and profound.

And as Kraig shared with me later, he thought about how many times in life our Heavenly Father has had to hold us down through pain, trial, sin and ugliness. And we don’t understand it. And perhaps even if He told us, it wouldn’t matter. All we need to do is look into his eyes and hear His words.

Daddy loves you.

1 John 3:1 says,
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”

I don’t get it. I can’t mentally grasp it or figure it out. I don’t know why my Heavenly Father has allowed pain in my life or my child’s life. I simply don’t know.

Yet the lesson Kraig learned in that moment, I continue to learn as well. I submit to my Father’s hands holding me firmly through the pains of this life, and listen to his almighty and loving voice reminding me of His unconditional love.

I know my Father’s love. And that’s all I really need to know.

A Thanksgiving Dinner

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/

Happy Thanksgiving!

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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.

Bear Cub on a Barbie Bike

Down the street my little bear cub rode on the pretty, pink and purple Barbie bike with it’s matching girly training wheels. It should have been ever so cute.

But it wasn’t.

The bear cub on the bike wasn’t my little, pigtailed, feminine three-year-old, but instead her tall-for-his-age seven-year-old brother. His knees came up above the handlebars with every turn of the pedals. The training wheels gradually bent upward as his body weight tipped from one side to the other. His red helmet clashed with the pink and purple paint. And frankly, he looked pretty ridiculous.

My bear cub on a Barbie bike.

I call him my bear cub because he’s my son and because I turned into a Mother Bear that afternoon. I guess if I’m being honest with myself, I’ve been a protective and fiercely loving Mother Bear for seven years.

That’s really the whole problem here.

You see, when our son was a toddler he was very ill and endured over three years of chemotherapy after a devastating leukemia diagnosis. During that time we hibernated. I was a Mother Bear with a sick little cub and I did all that I could to keep him safe and sound while he healed. Our hibernation did not include bike rides because they could lead to falls and scrapes and bruises, especially for a child who often had low platelets and was very fragile. And since he never asked to ride a bike, we simply didn’t put him on one.

Today he’s a healthy and strong young man who was the tallest child in his first grade class. He plays basketball and baseball and swims like a fish. He’s big for his age and you’d never know by looking at him that he fought cancer as a preschooler. He’s growing up right before our eyes.

But he still can’t ride a bike.

And one thing he learned in first grade was that his friends can.

Now he knows what he’s missing and he wants to learn… desperately enough that he was willing to ride his little sister’s girly bike.  We’d tried his own bigger and boyish bike over and over again to no avail. He just didn’t have the experience of riding a smaller bike to know what it felt like to balance without training wheels. My husband even tried putting training wheels on his bike, but bikes built for 82 pound kids just aren’t made for training wheels.

So there we were on a sunny Sunday afternoon going down the sidewalk in our neighborhood. My son on the bike and me walking behind with my eyebrows raised and jaw clenched… just waiting for the poor training wheels to finally burst off and the exhausted bike with it’s rider collapsing to the ground. But, that did not happen. In fact, he did very well. Granted he had to get off the bike every once in a while to kick the bent training wheels back down so they’d reach the ground, but otherwise it was smooth sailing.

Until he rode by a yard full of kids.

Now, thankfully my little bear cub kept pedaling on and was completely oblivious to the conversation that took place amongst his peers. But I wasn’t. I was walking far enough behind that by the time I got to the kids I could hear their laughter, see their pointing and understand their mocking comments about the big boy riding a small pink bike. And oh, did my Mother Bear instincts kick in! I kept on walking and kept my mouth shut, but I sure wanted to go give those little kids a grizzly piece of my mind!

I held on to my tongue that day, and other days my husband and I held on to the back of my son’s bike desperately trying to help him learn to balance.

But it’s hard to know when to let go.

I probably should have let go years ago and allowed my little cub to ride a bike, even though it was scary for his mother. I probably am not a good one to help him learn to ride his big bike now because I’m afraid to let go and watch him fall.

But I can’t hold on forever… it wouldn’t be healthy if I did.

In fact, I’ve had to let go more often. I’ve had to let go of his bike and I’ve had to let go, albeit ever so gradually, of my children. It’s good for them to learn to ride a bike, even when they fall and get hurt. It’s good for them to grow up and become more independent and confident, even when it hurts my heart.

It’s hard to know when to hold on and when to let go.

But it seems like letting go is necessary. I’m going to have to send my children off to scary places… like second grade… and heaven forbid, middle school and high school. It’s why I get choked up at the end of Toy Story 3 when Andy’s toys are all waving goodbye to him as he heads off to college. I’m just afraid I’m not going to handle my own kids growing up with the grace and poise of Buzz Lightyear.

But grow up they will. I really wouldn’t want it any other way. But it’s hard. And I know those who have children who they have watched graduate from High School, enter the work force, and walk down the aisle, laugh at me and think I ain’t seen nothing yet.

So please, don’t remind me. I must take this one day at a time. One letting go at a time.

I’ve stopped hibernating now and I’m doing better at allowing my little bear cubs to roam on their own and grow to be more independent and confident.

And Barbie bikes, high school graduations, or wedding days, I pray that this Mother Bear will enjoy both the holding on and the letting go as my bear cubs grow up before my Mother Bear eyes.

The Truth About Riley Nurses.

I have been asked to be a guest blogger for Riley Children’s Hospital, where our son received much of his chemotherapy and treatment for leukemia. I will periodically be writing entries on this blog that pertain to our “Riley Journey.” The hospital will then pull entries they feel are appropriate and put them on their Riley blog here: http://blog.rileykids.org/ This is one of those entries. I thought it was fitting for National Nurses Week (May 6-12, 2012)
Thanks for reading! 

The doctors at Riley are amazing. Their knowledge, research, and leadership are stellar and effective. I am so very thankful for them.

But, let’s be honest here. Where would we be without the nurses?

I think even the doctors would agree that the care given by the nurses at Riley Hospital is what makes the “wheels go round.” The doctors are the engines, but nurses are the coal that stoke the firebox of care given at Riley. And that makes the Riley Express sail full-steam ahead!

Not to single out any nurses, but I know first-hand that the ones on the hematology/oncology unit at Riley are amazing. I remember walking into that unit for the first time ever with a very ill child. My husband and I were shell-shocked, stunned, in denial and overwhelmed. The nurses knew not only how to handle our little boy, but they knew how to handle us too. We were given “baby steps” and the nurses knew just how much information to give us along our difficult journey.

During some of our son’s painful procedures the nurses were the ones who pulled up a chair for my wobbly body and slid it under me while gently patting my shoulder. They didn’t judge, mock, or express inpatience. They were calm, soothing, smart and even witty.

Our son’s nurse practitioner became like family over his three plus years of chemotherapy. She knew his likes, dislikes, temperament and medical chart. She always had time to listen to him and could amazingly always “find” Thomas the Tank Engine in his ear while looking through the otoscope. She helped put him at ease through countless blood draws and spinal taps, making them become almost effortless instead of dreadful. It takes a special person to do such a thing.

She not only listened to our son, but she listened to us parents. She was knowledgeable and yet not intimidating. She was realistic, but not overwhelming. She was sweet and friendly and gentle. She made the “wheels go round” during our trips to Riley. She’ll always be a part of our family’s history. We send her a Christmas card… it’s the least we can do!

So, as wonderful as the doctors are at Riley, I just wanted to take a minute to thank you nurses. You probably don’t get as much “limelight” or attention. You do a lot of paperwork and busy-work, but please know that to us Riley parents it’s NEVER busy-work when it has to do with our child.

THANK YOU nurses for ALL you do for the children of Riley Hospital! Keep that Riley engine running full-steam ahead. Your passengers sure are grateful!