Peyton’s had the crud. I try not to let that be a big deal. Kids get sick…even kids who had cancer are allowed to get JUST.GET.SICK.
Three words I really hate.
I would guess those words induce some sort of PTSD reaction in me…my palms will get sweaty and my heart races…I flash back to telling our pediatrician that Peyton just couldn’t shaker her fever…then flash forward to that moment less than 24 hours later, holding the phone with him saying the word Leukemia.
I can talk about how our lives are moving on…how our focus has shifted to living a normal life…how we don’t let the cancer rule our lives anymore…I can change blogs as a big grand gesture…I can go days at a time when the word cancer doesn’t even cross my mind.
Then it can be the littlest thing. A flash of bad lighting that makes her look pale. A tiny bruise on her leg. Tired eyes. A headache. A virus.
A low-grade fever.
And it all comes back…it floods in at once and I drown in it.
This is how it started. In a pediatrician’s office. Thinking she was fine and that it was sort of silly to be there. A cough here, a fever there. Normal childhood crap.
How did we get THERE?
How did we get here?
Looking into the eyes of Peyton’s doctor for any sign that she doesn’t believe exactly what she is saying. A cold, not even the flu…just a common back-to-school-germy-toucher cold.
“But she has a low-grade fever,” I finally say to the doctor. “That makes me nervous, because, well…you know.”
“I know. If it isn’t gone by the fourth day, we’ll check again.”
That’s all she says. She understands why it makes me nervous.
She understands that nervous is a kind way of saying that it makes me want to vomit in fear.
She understands that I’m trusting her as much as I can trust anyone to make a choice to let this go a few more days and believe it will get better.
Sunday comes…the cough is better…the low-grade fever comes and goes.
I rub her back and casually run my hand across her forehead.
I hug her and give her forehead a soft touch.
I reach out in my sleep and lay my hand on her forehead.
She will probably have a callus on her forehead by the time the fever goes away.
She looks at me and calmly says, “Do I have a fever?”
I think in a small way she knows that I’m scared she’s sick. I wonder if she puts the numbers together and understand that HER being sick is bigger than her brother and sister being ill.
“A little one,” I’ll answer.
And I smile at her. To convince her that it’s OK…that it’s not a big deal.
Tomorrow I’ll feel her forehead again.
I’ll look for that low-grade fever that doesn’t leave.
I’ll be hoping and praying it’s gone.
Then, Tuesday we’ll be driving up to see her oncologist….and nothing is more real than that phrase, my daughter has an oncologist…and get a blood test that will tell me more than any doctor’s comforting eyes.
Those numbers will soothe me as nothing else will.
Until the next time it decides to flood over me.
I hope I can keep swimming.