I am very privileged to have a house full of boys. With that privilege comes a lot of ER visits. I was told years ago, during a visit, that boys are in the ER 5 times more often than girls. I have nothing to compare this to since I have no girls. I do know that we’ve experienced 10 broken bones, 5 surgeries, poison swallowing (Peter), flesh eating bacteria (Ben), and a forehead colliding with a tree (Cam). Eli - whose initials are ER and who is constantly running into stuff - is our only child to not grace the halls of an ER. Two of our boys ended up at CHOC (Children’s Hospital of Orange County) a total of 3 times.
All this background information brings me to my current story. This past Friday, Peter started having stomach issues. Because the flu has been going around, all I could think was “please no, I can’t stomach smelling his vomit.” Yes I am that petty and that punny (big cheesy smile).
We watched him all day Saturday doing our best to rule out the flu, gas, rotten food, anything involving the stomach. The pain kept getting worse to the point where Pete couldn’t walk. Because we ruled out everything we could think of, we knew we had to take him to the ER. Especially since a long, long, long time ago Reed had to have his appendix removed and was having deja vu. So, we helped Pete to the car, called Cam and asked if he could come home, and headed to Hoag.
After several hours, a blood draw and an ultrasound, we were transferred to CHOC and were told that Pete would be having surgery to remove his appendix that night. The transfer was Pete’s favorite part of the experience. He was taken by ambulance. The very young (cute) male EMT was super excited that he was transferring a child, especially one that enjoyed conversation. Pete had been given some pains meds so he was feeling pretty good at that point!!
We got settled into CHOC and waited...and waited, and waited. Because it was the weekend, the surgical staff was limited and decided it was best to operate on Pete the next morning with a rested surgeon rather than late Saturday night with a tired surgeon. Good decision. Reed and I figured it was safe for him (Reed) to go home and get some sleep...or at least try. I stayed at the hospital with Pete and was promised I’d have plenty of time to give Reed a heads up if we were taken to surgery early in the morning.
After a quality night’s sleep in the most amazing bed ever (not really), and Reed arriving before I fully woke up, we again waited. Peter was restless most of the night and in pain but wasn’t showing many of the signs the doctors look for when diagnosing appendicitis. Despite the findings on the ultrasound, Peter was not nauseous, he was hungry, had bad pain but not severe, and didn’t have a fever. All this caused the surgeon to pause and order a CT scan to rule out a virus that mimics appendicitis.
The scan came back positive - for appendicitis.
Peter finally had surgery around 5:30 in the evening. It was a really long Sunday and I was thankful that, right before surgery, my mom made it to town to help. I was thrilled that she and the boys (minus Abe) were able to be at the hospital during the surgery. Something about them being there felt so right. It helped to put me at ease.
After Peter was back in his room from surgery, I went home to shower and change then left my mom to keep things “normal”. I returned to the hospital and Reed and I switched duties. Sunday night Pete slept like a rock and so did I. That night the chair-bed honestly was incredibly comfortable. That’s what fatigue does.
Monday was a new day. Peter was doing well enough to be discharged by late afternoon. We were heading home!
What I’ve known during this long cancer journey is that no matter how pitiful things get for me, I will always be a mom. If I had not had this, I honestly don’t know that I would have faired so well. I’m certain that God would have given me other things to feel life through but I am incredibly thankful that he gave me a bunch of boys instead. Boys that in so many ways keep me alive. Either by making me laugh until I cry or making me so frustrated I want to cry.
Is it hard combining cancer with motherhood? I would be a foolish liar if I didn’t say yes. But it’s taught me so much about what really matters when raising your children. I’ve learned that it really is okay to not be involved in every little activity - whether theirs or ours. Boundaries are good and actually healthy for overall family life. Cereal can be used for three meals a day, especially if milk is used. Dinner together doesn’t have to be home cooked or even at home. It’s not excessive if I spend money to have my house cleaned but the boys still need to have chores and structure. No matter how tired I am, disciplinary follow-through is crucial. It’s okay if my boys see me tired and unproductive. Pajamas are clothes and it’s okay if Eli lives in them for days and days (not in the same ones). I can’t do everything for my kids so it’s okay if they take on responsibilities earlier than I originally thought they would. It’s okay to spoil when given the opportunity. It’s okay to do school from my bed.
It’s also okay for them to see me hurting and crying out to God for relief. It’s okay for them to see me frustrated and sick of this journey. Hopefully, they also see that I’m trusting God’s promise to heal me and hopefully that balances it all out.
Tonight I started round 3 of the chemo pills and I did it right!! Four more days to go...this time.