One must not let tragedy - be it disease, famine, or war - deter one's voice from speaking. This is not always easy, as you can feel that you have somehow betrayed the current situation by maintaining your previously understood persona. However, keeping one's voice true, even in the darkest of moments, is critical to ensure that the darkness you face doesn't get the chance to consume you.
So, it is with that feeling that I am inspired to bring back a bit of wit and merriment to my entrees here -- for it is truly the only way I'll get through the experience of my son's cancer treatment without slitting my wrists (or the wrists of some poor sod who gets in my way on a bad day).
We are still awaiting a call from the treatment team (which I find a little more than annoying), but it has given me time to reflect on the comments and questions people have sent my way -- not to mention the questions that plague me about this whole mess. So, per proper internet etiquette, it's time for a "Frequently Asked Questions" post.
Why is this happening? Obviously, this question ranks top on everyone's mind -- including mine. Some will say this is a test by some higher power with nothing better to do than stricken cute children with terrible diseases (not my idea of someone to celebrate holidays for). If this is the case, I will mention here and now that, after almost 5 years of dealing with other medical-related traumas with Vampmommy, I'm done being tested. If I haven't gotten the message yet, you should just give up and leave me and my family alone.
Of course, there are more earth-bound theories as well. Perhaps we spent too much time in close proximity to the laptop while Vampbaby napped in his early days. Perhaps one of the medications Vampmommy was on during her less-than-pleasant pregnancy stuck around to cause some mischief. Perhaps it's something in the water. Who knows -- certainly, we may never. The reality is that there is most likely no reason, and to dwell on this question is a drain on precious energy.
How are you? I had a friend several years ago who went through a terrible divorce -- very unexpected, and very sad. When he was asked this question, without hesitation, his answer was clear: "Shitty." We ask this without thinking -- it has become an involuntary reaction when meeting someone to blurt it out. My friend understood that, but was not about to respond with the similarly programmed "Fine, and you?" Of course, after awhile, his answer changed to "Not so shitty", and finally something more akin to the usual reply.
Another dear friend is presently working on another inquisitive greeting to replace this one -- as soon as she gets it, I'll let you know. The goal is to prevent that uncomfortable moment that has come for many when they've realized, without thinking, that it was not the best question to ask -- mainly because they already know the answer. For my part, I have adopted my friend's tact of responding with the truth -- Shitty, and unbelievably so. My wife has instructed people, with a laugh, that they may want to wait about a year before asking that question again.
My one exception to the honesty clause are people in the retail business. They are programmed to ask, and given that many of them are tightly wound with retail-employee angst, I'd hate to send some innocent kid at the checkout over the edge. So I will just follow along to prevent a breakdown in the middle of Target.
Have you heard from the Doctor? No. When we do, we'll let you know.
How do you do it - stay strong during such a terrible time? Honestly -- I have no freakin' idea. Wouldn't you do the same? Many have commented that they've tried to put themselves in our shoes, envisioning their own children going through something like this. It seems unimaginable -- and until last week it certainly was to me. However, I think that any parent would pull together, in their own way, to move forward through something like this. There is only so much good that comes from weeping in the corner, rocking back and forth. Eventually you have to get up and form a game plan -- especially when the child in question is taking your shoes from the mat by the door and stuffing them into the kitchen cabinet, eating crayons all the while.
That is not to say that I don't find a corner to weep in, or turn to a useless blob now and then. But the complexity of the situation doesn't allow that to happen for long. Somebody still has to change the diapers and call the doctor's office.
What can I do to help? The number of people who have asked this of my wife and I is staggering, and we are so blessed to have the legions of supporters who have offered. At this moment, I return to my answer to the above question -- I have no freakin' idea. Food has been brought, visitors have filled the house with life, and a garden is being planted for Vampbaby to find sanctuary in. When we're ready, I'm told that several groups are prepared to help us find the funds to get through, should we need more than we have (and, we have nothing, so that's a relatively safe bet). But the reality is that this new life is still taking shape. We don't know what it will cost, we don't know what our days, weeks and months will look like, and we don't know what we can expect from Vampbaby as he goes through treatment. These are the questions we will have answered when we first meet with the doctors (which we haven't yet -- didn't I say that already? Grrr...). Once we do, I'm sure we'll have some very specific answers.
One thing that's happened is that we have become part of the "cancer clique". Last night we received a phone call from a wonderful woman who founded a non-profit that supports families in our state who have children with cancer. Having been through the experience herself, she suggested that when people ask what they can do to help, ask them to tell us what they are comfortable doing. This makes sense to me, to make it easier to know who to call when we need milk, versus who to ring when the dog needs a walk. So, if you ask this question, be prepared to let us know what you are willing and able to do.
There -- the questions that burden mankind, answered in bite-sized morsels. Isn't is good to know everything?