I am one of those parents who is sick with sentimentality. I take pictures of everything. I want to keep every scrap of paper my kids have ever produced. I always remark about highlights and turning points. My kids make fun of me.
But in the childhood cancer community every parent becomes sentimental. Pictures of their kids BC (before cancer) and during treatment suddenly become very important. And so do milestones.
Your child’s “diagnosiversary.”
Beginning of Long Term Maintenance for kids with leukemia.
End of treatment.
But other “normal” milestones take on even greater meaning to families of kids with cancer.
Suddenly birthdays, already a big deal, are even more important, because each birthday might be their child’s last. And I know none of us is promised another birthday, but when a child has a life-threatening illness, death is always just around the corner.
All parents take pictures of their kids at the beginning of the school year. And special milestones include kindergarten, first grade, middle school, high school, college. These are big days for every parent.
And for parents of kids with cancer they become even bigger.
Harrison started Middle School today. He was a fourth grade little boy when he was diagnosed with leukemia. Today he is a pre-teen sixth grader still fighting cancer.
As he enters middle school and transitions to adolescence, I am praying with special earnestness for him. Besides the typical challenges of becoming a pre-teen and teenager, he has the challenge of cancer. When he started this journey he was just an innocent little boy.
As he grows into greater understanding, will he worry more about death?
Will he, like so many teens with cancer, fight compliance with his treatment protocol?
Will he simply become weary of the battle and want to give up?
Will the “chemo brain” keep him from doing well in school, after always making straight As?
Will he become a bitter adolescent?
Will he still love God and neighbor like he does now?
I can’t answer any of these questions right now. So I’ll just enjoy today. Seeing my oldest child begin his junior year in high school and start looking at college. Seeing my daughter begin her first year in high school. And seeing my youngest child leave behind elementary school and take a step into adolescence. These are great milestones. Tonight we will probably go to Chick-fil-a for a milkshake to celebrate. Then, after the kids are off the bed Ginger and I will sit in the living room and smile. And maybe shed a tear or two. And laugh. And give thanks to our kind and merciful God that while cancer has taken much of Harrison’s last two years of elementary school, Harrison still completed this stage of life and made it to another.
Far too many parents never see this day.