“But what if you are sick?!” She questioned, bottom lip quivering, with all of the composure a 4 year old can muster. My mind raced with all the intricacies of cancer and how best to soften that blow for a child. Teary-eyed, I explained to her that if that was the case, that God would take care of us.
But she didn’t want to hear that. She wanted to hear that Mommy was ok and that Mommy wasn’t sick. My little girl, who is usually an eager sleeper, refused to go to bed because she knew when she went to sleep that when she woke up I wouldn’t be there.
So much for routine scans! “Routine scans” are a mysterious blessing not afforded to all cancer patients and not guaranteed to us at any point. There was a time in my cancer journey that those words, “routine scans”, sounded like a pipe dream. Literally something that just wasn’t for me because my time had come and gone. I always feel great until the night before scans. And even then, the bad feelings are usually reserved for just me. But tonight, my daughter caught wind of something that she never really fully understood before. Yes, Mommy was sick through most of her life but from what she can remember, Mommy has always been there. Tonight as I laid her down for bed, she wrestled with the fact that I wouldn’t be there when she woke up.
“Mommy just needs to go to the doctor for the day so they can tell me I’m not sick!” I told her. She seemed relieved at first, until she thought about it more. But what if…
Our son is almost 7 and he has always just sort of understood all of this. Not that it hasn’t been hard on him, but he always took it in stride and seemed to understand. He didn’t like when I wasn’t there but he got it. This is the first time Brit has asked so many questions and she just is not ok with the answers. And I don’t blame her, I just wasn’t ready for this tonight.
Tonight as I was laying with her while she fell asleep (something she begged me for tonight, and never does this) she kept trying to figure out ways, through tear-soaked cheeks that she would get through tomorrow. She finally said, “Ok Mommy, I will sleep as late as I can then pretend you are at the store and will be home at dinner. Mommy, promise me you will be home by dinner!”
Of course I can’t promise any such thing, but I see my broken-hearted child before me. Faced, for the first time in her life, with the understanding that Mommy may not always be there. And so I try to assure her, with as much confidence as I can muster, that I will do my absolute best to be home for dinner tomorrow.
My son comes out of his room, curious as to why his sister is crying. And I have to tell him that he needs to be there for her tomorrow and things will be different but that he can make sure she’s ok. On the surface, I’m only talking about tomorrow. But in my heart, I know I’m talking much longer term.
What if? Well, if something shows up, then I will try my best to be here. And if I can’t, I need him to step in and help her when I can’t. It’s symbolic and it’s heavy and it’s real. I have scans tomorrow and they may be just fine. But what if…