Dear Tessa: Happy 6th Birthday

Dear Tessa,

Today is your sixth birthday! I asked you yesterday how come you are getting so big and you just shrugged and told me “because.” Fair enough.

You asked for a birthday party with some of your friends from school this year. If we would have let you, you would have invited everyone in your class. But since mom was flying solo for the party, we had to condense it down to a manageable amount of friends.

Four friends and your little sister gathered at our house to celebrate for an afternoon of activities like a scavenger hunt, cupcake decorating session, lunch, and some outdoor play.

I know days like this can sometimes be overwhelming and, thankfully, your sweet friends understand that for you as well.

Every year I say that I cannot believe you are however many years old. And I really cannot believe it. Time is a bandit, mugging me of your youth. However we are always thankful to be celebrating another trip around the sun; and anxious to see what you will do with the year ahead.

After we got home from dropping your friends off, I laid you down for a rest. Smiling from ear to ear, “I really like my birthday party mom. It was fun.” 

From baby girl to big girl, we have loved watching you grow sweet Tessa Bug.

Happiest of birthdays my dear.

Love, Mom.

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Dear Tessa: Three Years Remission

Dear Tessa,

We celebrated three years remission from leukemia yesterday and tomorrow you will visit your oncologist. Sandwiched between the two days is a trip to get labs drawn. These are regularly scheduled labs to check your TSH (thyroid) and CBC (complete blood count). The latter of the two bringing the most anxiety for obvious reasons. And right now your mama is nervous.

I see you every day and I know you are fine. But knowing what I know about leukemia and your history with it keeps the fear fresh in my mind until I can actually see your lab results on paper. I have fooled myself into thinking that taking you to get lab work done would get easier the further we got out from treatment, but the reality is that it is not easy. Ever. There is no simple, painless, straightforward way to go about drawing blood from a small child.

My heart has raced all morning and my nerves are shot. Experiences such as labs open the door to days passed. It is as though we are suddenly catapulted into unknown again, while at the mercy of things I still lack control over; and hoping with every ounce of me that we can ease our minds once more.

You will put on a brave face because that is what I will ask of you. Holding you tight as you cry, I will tell you how proud I am of you and how much I love you. When you are not looking, tears will run down my cheek but I will remind myself to wipe them away before you notice.

While the anxiety attempts its takeover, I think back to yesterday and how quickly three years have gone by.

How can I feed the fear when you have reached this incredible milestone? 

Today when I told you I was taking you to get blood drawn from your arm, I told you it was okay to be scared and that I would be there. You grabbed my face with your little hands and said, “It’s okay Mom. I can do this! Okay Mom? I can do this! I will be so brave.” 

From a once very sick little girl to a now strong and healthy big girl, you have really grown. You have a t-shirt that say “This Girl Won’t Stop.” There is a reason it is my favorite, and it isn’t because of the gold glitter font. Although that certainly helps.

Three years of growth, change and endless opportunities to live like a kid again. The reward of remission far exceeds the angst I may occasionally feel. Most importantly, you are happy.

Love you sweet girl,

Mom.