On This Day…

Five years ago today, we received a phone call. Earlier that morning I had taken Tessa to the hospital to get her labs drawn. She was on a wait and watch protocol for Myelodysplastic Syndrome, and we knew at some point she would likely transition to leukemia. Many months led up to that moment in our living room where my husband and I sat together while listening closely to the voice on the other end of the phone. She had only said my name and I knew. Before she could finish her sentence, hot tears streamed down my cheeks.

Even though we knew this was coming, we still clung to the little bit of hope that this was all a mistake. That her labs and biopsies were incorrect. That there was a chance she could avoid treatment. It was something we told ourselves on the surface to save face; all the while knowing that this was inevitable. Our daughter had cancer and lives shifted forever.

Her body was covered in petechiae. Her skin was as pale and mottled. She was weak and miserable, crying in our arms. Our baby was sick…really sick. On the phone, the doctor urged us to get her to the hospital immediately. She told us to pack bags for at least a week long stay in the hospital while they ran more tests to figure out the best course of treatment. In the midst of packing, I remembered our six month old baby at daycare and my heart shattered. What would happen to our family?

Before leaving town, I pulled up to our daycare to see our littlest babe while my husband and Tessa waited in the car. Unaware of our troubles, her face lit up with excitement when she realized her mommy was there. As I scooped her up in my arms, I wondered when I would get to see her again. I walked away from that house not knowing if that terrible disease would take her big sister from her. Fear won that day and several days to come.

The hours that followed are now muddled memories. People rushed in and out of our hospital room, throwing medical terms and phrases at our blank faces. They asked questions we didn’t have answers to and said things that didn’t make sense.

There were treatment road maps, complicated documents that required signatures, beeping machines and many unfamiliar faces. The food trays that the nurse had ordered for us were cold and untouched on the counter. I quietly rocked our girl to sleep as she received blood products for the very first time, desperately trying to wrap my head around how we were so swiftly caught in the undertow of our current situation.

This was our life.

A small, but significant chapter, in the big book of us.

Like a puzzle, our pieces remained scattered. Each piece just as meaningful and necessary as the next, despite how confusing and frustrating they were on their own. Sometimes coming back together, only to be broken apart again and again.

But even apart, we were whole; and when all of the pieces aligned just right, we created a beautiful scene.

Every year on this day I recall our heartache and desperation. How I spent the first night on that cold hospital bed, hopelessly bargaining with the man upstairs to let me take her place.

For parents like me, diagnosis day isn’t something we can escape. It may become less obvious in time, but the effects of that day linger. From how we plan and prepare to how we confront and overcome, and everything in between.

I do not relive painful anniversaries for the sake of sorrow, rather to remind me how far we have come. To remember the mountains we moved when climbing them wasn’t an option. To pay homage to moments that changed our course; acknowledging that we absolutely can handle hard things in life.

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Dear Tessa…

Dear Tessa,

I know.  Where have I been? We last left off with me trying to desperately save our beloved cat Jack that we had for a mere two days.  Then I left you to sit with that cliffhanger for a really long time; which was pretty uncool of me.

Here is how it went down for Jack…

I went out to check on him at 5:30 the morning after I–ok fine, Dad–had given him his vaccine.  And let me tell you, Jack looked terrible.  It was clear that he was not going to make it so I left him there to pass. After I got you on the bus at 7:15 a.m., I went to put Kendal in the car.  I decided to check on Jack one more time.  He was gone.  I picked him up to move him to a proper resting place, but was horrified to find that upon picking him up, full rigor mortis had set in–like straight through his tail.  I can’t un-feel that.  There is nothing pleasant about that.  I had a stiff cat in my arms (*shutters*) that I was trying to shield from our resident cat-loving three year old.  A dead cat is dramatic enough for me without Kendal’s knowledge of it.  So back into the box he went until Dad could come home and help me out later that day.

I admit it…we straight up lied to you about Jack’s whereabouts after that. We told you that he went to cat therapy at the vet so that he could get better; hoping that one day you guys would just forget about him. Cat-freaking-therapy. It worked for a while.  But your sister, with her exceptional memory, brought Jack’s name back out the other day and we had to come clean…well, sort of. We said that Jack was so sick and the therapy just was not helping him which led to his unfortunate death.

Oh and remember how I said there would be no more cats?  I lied about that, too.  You will come to realize one day that we have told many white lies throughout your childhood.

R.I.P. Jack.  The end.  You and your sister are both fine, and I now realize that I went to great lengths to shield your hearts from something you were both okay with in the end.  Boy when I am on, I am really on in this motherhood business.  But other times, I am so far off.

How is everything else?  For anyone else who asks, I use many phrases that involve swear words to describe life as it has been the last few months.  Take that for what it is worth.  There have been many ups and downs, and most days feel like we are just entering a boxing ring with a defending world champ.  But we battle on because that is what we do best.

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Kendal’s face is all of us right now…

I can’t believe I almost forgot this–you have glasses now!  I mean you definitely hate them, but they sure are cute.  So far they have only had to be repaired once, which isn’t too bad considering how much you detest them.

In other news…you have a brand new baby cousin who is too cute for words, we had our first snowfall at the new house and we spent some much needed time as a family in the Dells last weekend for a family Christmas gathering. You gave us quite a scare when we had to get your labs drawn unexpectedly the end of last week, but all was well with your results.  Always full of surprises Miss Tessa Jo.  wp-1481308607512.png

Of course there is so much that I did not cover.  In time, though.  Right now we are playing a never ending game of catch-up in everyday life while trying to get ready for another beautiful Christmas.  More to come soon…

Love, Mom.