When Vampboy was first diagnosed with Cancer, the oncologist who broke the news mentioned at one point that, for many, the end of treatment is actually harder than the beginning.
I now absolutely believe him.
Don't get me wrong -- the return of things like "free time" and "Vampboy's eyelashes" are celebrated milestones that are so indescribably good I don't think I can put it into words. However, the adjustment back into a normal existence is a shock to the system after so much time in Cancer World/Chez Healing. Then there is the added complexity that comes with the knowledge that what we had is forever lost to us -- and that even this "new normal" can be taken away from us at a moment's notice.
So we are left feeling like we are standing on a bridge between two worlds: Cancer World and "No Cancer World". Here's the view from either side:
No Cancer World
My son as a duck!
There are two great things about this photo: first, that VB had his first Halloween in over two years that did not take place in a hospital. And second, that this photo was taken at the Halloween party AT SCHOOL! That's right, VB will return to the land of toddler-studenthood this week, with last week's visits serving as a warm-up.
In the meantime, we navigate explaining to people where the end of treatment leaves us. One person actually asked if it was time to remove VB from their prayer list. They were not happy when I said "uh, no". Since VB will be 3 soon, we have to move him from his current "early support services" therapy folks to the special education program in our town. So soon we'll be negotiating our first Individualized Education Plan. What fun.
Our partners in treatment continue to battle on, with mixed results. Othergirl's prognosis is still in darkness as back-up plans leave little to celebrate. Princess is in the ICU this week for reason's we're unsure of, and the littlest fighter (there is a 4th -- have I mentioned that?) continues to battle on. Yet, we're not there for the day-to-day updates and support. Our new experience is the one they continue to dream of, and there reality is one we don't wish to revisit on ourselves. Sure, there's email and blog updates -- but its not the same when you're not in it.
Of course, the worst part about being on the bridge is that we can never truly leave Cancer World totally -- and No Cancer World isn't a secure home. From whichever side you view it, Cancer still sucks.