Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Do We or Don't We?

“Mommy, he doesn’t have much time left to live. We have to go see him.” There were tears streaming down her face.


“Who are you talking about?”

“Mommy, it is Uncle J. He is getting really sick and we need to go see him soon. I think we really need to go within the next two weeks.”

“Sure honey, don’t cry. We will go and see Uncle J. I am sure we can do that sometime very soon. Try not to worry.” And with that, the conversation was forgotten, at least by me.

A week went by and I was taking Bridget to school. I n the car on the way there the request came again. “Mommy, when are you going to take me? I have to see him. He doesn’t have that much time left and I want to see him. I will even miss a day of school to go.”

This time I was paying closer attention. My husband had just talked to his sister who was told that they should get her husband’s affairs in order. All of a sudden, time was running out. This request which seemed out in left field at first was actually making sense.

“You are right Bridget. We do need to see Uncle J. He is getting sicker each day so we will make plans to see him soon.”

“Thanks, Mommy.”

I am not sure about this trip to see a dying uncle for my seven year old. On the one hand I think it is very brave, courageous and mature of her to want to see him but I also wonder if it will be too traumatic. She has experienced the fear of losing a parent first hand only the outcome was different. How will she really react to seeing a man who has lost fifty pounds and is grasping on to every bit of his life? I don’t know.

We called to schedule a trip in spite of my fears only to find out that this weekend is not a good one. So we will wait and see. I just hope that we don’t wait too long.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Ode to EB

“Mom, when is EB coming to visit? I miss her so much.” My daughter whined at dinner the other night.


“I am not sure, she is very busy with her new job but she promised to come sometime this fall.”

“But she hasn’t been to visit us for such a long time!”

“I know, she was like your big sister and you miss her.”

“She wasn’t like our big sister, she was like our mom.” Luke chimed in. “She did everything that you did for us when you were sick.”

The conversation was about our beloved babysitter, EB, who was a senior at Villanova the year I battled breast cancer. We have had many conversations over the past three years about EB. Because she was such an integral part of our family during that intense time of our lives, the children hold a special place in their hearts for her. I do too. She really did become part of our family.

It makes me realize how important the support for a patient really is. Having her energy in our house changed our lives in such a positive way. Last spring she came back to visit us and I had a chance to talk to her about the year we spent together, sharing our lives.

I asked her why she decided to give up her senior year of parties and fun to come to our house; a house filled with illness and fear. Here was response.

“Was it only a year that I was with you all? I remember the first time I walked into your house and you mentioned that you had been diagnosed with breast cancer. You were going to be a big appointment and were stressed out. I am not sure how long I had been coming over to the house but, Jeanne, I will never forget the moment that it changed from me being just a babysitter to being a part of this.

It must have been a Friday night. You were getting the results of the axillary node dissection that day. We were still kind of in the “getting to know you phase” of our relationship. I was over helping you that afternoon to get to know the children better and give you some time. Again, I was getting to know you, getting to know the family.

Then you called. I was out. Next door at some stupid Friday night thing. My phone rang and your number t came up.  I answered because I was eager to hear about it. You called me to tell me that the cancer had spread to your lymph nodes. I remember being on the phone and having to leave and walk across the street and process that. This must be serious because you are calling me late on a Friday night. That was when I knew that to me it was more than being a babysitter it was more about me being part of the family and part of this fight.

How could you not be all in? What is going to happen to these kids? What is going to happen to this family? Here I was twenty one and that day everything changed. From that point on it changed from me coming over to take care of the kids for a couple of hours to me taking the kids to school, me picking up the kids and me going to their events at school so that you had the time and space you needed.

I just kept thinking about what I could do to possibly help in this horrible, horrible situation to change things and God, the fact that I even cared enough to answer the phone it scared me. It scared me to throw all of my chips in like that but I knew that it was something way bigger than I had ever experienced and it scared me how much I felt compelled to be a part of that.”