We are two out of three days into Sarah's round 5 of chemo. This time the doctor let her get the treatment outpatient instead of having to stay in the hospital for 3 days. It's been nice sleeping in my own bed and not having to get up at the crack of dawn when the nurses change shifts at 7...(that's verly early for me, folks.) ; ) We've been spending our time there playing, reading books and watching youtube. Thank the Lord for that! It's a lifesaver when you have a toddler!
We spend quite a lot of time in the clinic. It's like a doctor's office that's attached to the main hospital by a walkway over the road. Sarah loves going over the bridge! We spend more time there than the hospital. Typically we are there at least once, sometimes twice a week. We spend anywhere from 1 hour to 7 or 8 hours each time. The purpose of the clinic is to have blood draws, get transfusions there if you need them, and sometimes get chemo there, like today. All of the kids there as far as I can tell are cancer or blood disorder patients. Most are or have been on chemo. It's a different world in there, but really...it's not.
Before I had a child with cancer, just the very thought of that could send chills of fear and dread down my spine. Once, I was at the hospital with Cassandra's mother who had cancer herself. I was getting off the elevator, and here came a little child mostly bald, looking pale and sickly being pulled in a wagon. The parents and nurse with her were talking cheerfully to her, and I tried not to stare, thinking that that was probably one of the saddest sights I'd ever seen. I just couldn't imagine anything worse.
Fast forward about a year, and a few weeks ago, a nurse was pulling my mostly bald little girl through the hospital halls in a little red wagon with me at her side, talking cheerfully away. Pretty ironic, I know, but now my picture of the whole thing has changed. Of course I still think childhood cancer is one of the saddest things that there is, but my eyes are opened to all the dimensions of it now.
Let me describe to you the clinic, for example. You come in and the front desk, girl, normally Ashley, greets you with a big smile. Then you go and see Patti, who gives Sarah her favorite things--a froggy hug, takes her temperature, lets her get up on the scale, and measures her. She smiles and tells Sarah how cute and smart she is, and Sarah smiles and laughs because she's been waiting for this since the last time we were here. Next, we go and see Sarah's nurse, Annie. She takes Sarah's blood, and my strange little girl loves to watch it. Then we go and sit in the waiting room. Sometimes it is full of people. There are babies, little kids, big kids and teens in different combinations on any given day. Their parents are there, normally looking bored reading magazines, or chatting with nurses or social workers. There are staff and voluteers there who's only job is to help the kids have fun! Really, they go around talking and joking with them, and finding fun things for them to do. What an awesome job! Sometimes the nurses or PA's come and love on Sarah a little bit. They like to show her their watches and bracelets, and sometimes, like yesterday, they give her one they brought just for her. The kids may or may not have hair, but the most notable thing about them is that they are really very.......NORMAL. Most of them are doing crafts, puzzles, playing with toys or playing video games. A few of them look frail and have some trouble walking around. Some are in wheelchairs, but mostly they are typical kids. You don't really have that overwhelmingly sad feeling in there because the kids are laughing, playing, and there's one that's kind of a handful. It feels like you are anywhere else but in a children's oncology clinic. When I've been wheeling Sarah around the hospital halls in a wheelchair or wagon, I don't really like making eye contact with people, because I don't like seeing the sad look in their eyes. I want to say to them, "Hey, it's okay. She is a normal kid. We are trusting God, and she is most likely going to get better!"
Now of course I am not saying that everything is hunkey dorey, and children having cancer is a barrel of laughs. But I am saying that when you are in the thick of it, there is a spirit of optimism that prevails. Like I said, some of the kids are very sick, and that is hard to watch. But all of these kids that I have seen have something special about them. It's a toughness and a resilience about them. They've experienced more in their little lives than many adults have, and I think it changes them, normally for the better. They are fighters and survivors. And that attitude spills over, filling the place. It's actually kind of a cool place to be, surrounded by these little warriors.
And that's exactly what they are. Little warriors. They just happen to be busy with bubbles right now.