Thank you for your prayers and good wishes. They are definitely working – this was the smoothest chemo session that I can remember! I was SO HAPPY to not vomit.
Feeling good also helps my spirits, to help me really take one day at a time and be grateful for that. The kids are adjusting to my return to chemo, and that isn’t easy for sure, but we are finding our way.
When I was first diagnosed with rectal cancer, my older son was four years old and in pre-K, a grade that his school calls “Beginners.”
His school feels very much like a community. At morning drop-off, parents flow among the children and make it a point to get to know the teachers as well as the other classmates and their parents. There are countless ways to be involved in the classroom and the school as a whole, and the school holds parent breakfasts, community dinners, and weekly school assemblies.
The lower school assemblies include the kids from Beginners through fourth grade. They sit in a semicircle, and any parents attending stand in a semicircle behind the kids. Some parents, like me, attend most assemblies. Others attend primarily if their child is performing that day. There are presentations, skits, group songs and individual poetry recitals. The poetry recitals are a rite of passage. Each fourth grader selects a poem that is meaningful to them, stands in front of the group, introduces themselves, their poem and what makes it special, then recites it from memory.
I love listening to the poetry recitals. I imagine the children each carefully selecting their poem, the parents who might try to suggest alternatives, and the practice sessions at home, all culminating in this moment. This background drama exists only in my imagination, because my kids are too young for us to experience this reality.
One day at an assembly, when my older son was in kindergarten, I stood next to a mom as she excitedly nudged two people beside her, who I presumed were grandparents.
“He’s next!” the mom exclaimed in a stage whisper. As fourth-grade Jack weaved his way through the seated children to stand in front of the room, his mom and grandparents held their breath. Jack took the microphone and recited his poem, doing a great job. When he finished, his mother and his grandparents audibly exhaled as one and then shared smiles, even doing what felt to me like a little cheerful dance.
As I went through chemotherapy, I often thought about this scene. I felt that no one watched and listened to each fourth grade child the way that a parent would, knowing (as opposed to imagining) the work the child put into selecting and memorizing and practicing their poem, understanding their child’s particular challenges and fears, and appreciating how, in that moment with the microphone, they rose through and above all it all to shine.
I set a goal to be there for my sons, so that they have the feeling of reciting their poem to a broad audience who would listen primarily with their ears, and to their mom, who would listen fully with her heart.
My older son just entered fourth grade, and I hold my breath as we are so close to this milestone. He is scheduled to recite his poem sometime this winter. I jokingly push for him to select The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, which I memorized in fourth grade, but honestly, I am happy to listen to anything he selects. I just want to be there.
In the meantime, I attended assembly this morning and, as child after child recited their poem into the hearts of their happy and proud parents, tears of joy and pride quietly flowed from my eyes, for these children I have watched grow over the past six years, for all of us joined together in this ritual, and for who knows what else.
Thank you for enabling these kinds of moments. Thank you for helping me to realize how very, very special they are. And thank you for carrying me this far, to where my older son is now in 4th grade and so close to his poetry recital, and to where I get to have the opportunity to set new goals!