Reflections from the hospital

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I feel like 2015 is going by in a blur so far. Two months ago today our world as we knew it completely changed, when we heard the words, “there was something of concern on her CT scan.” Surgery, then the dreaded phrase, recurrence of tumor. One month ago today our ‘new’ normal began as Hannah was admitted for her first round of chemotherapy.

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A few moments of 2015 truly stand out, but most of them have blended into one another as we now look at time in chunks of ‘between hospital stays’ rather than weeks or days. I can only look as far ahead as the next admission – what we need to do in order to make it to, plan for, and get through. Each discharge is only cause for celebration in that it means we can go home, “until the next time.”

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I feel caught between two worlds – the moment I walk into her new hospital room everything that happened since the last stay fades away. And as soon as we walk into the house, the ‘real world’ of laundry and dishes and school and work and bills and pets and everything else suddenly comes into focus.

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My brain automatically prioritizes everything in terms of either Hannah-related or everything else. In 2014, I felt as if I were a fairly organized person. I juggled kids, home, family and work in a competent fashion, with only minor hiccups here and there. Nowadays? I’m lucky if a piece of information stays in my head for longer than 5 minutes.

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My husband doesn’t understand why I have to stay at the hospital every night that she is here. I can’t explain it easily, but she is my child and I am her mom and when she is hooked up to tubes that are pumping toxic chemicals throughout the body that I carried for 9 months inside mine, I feel that I have to be here with her. Is that fair to her sisters? No. And I make it up to them as much as possible in between hospital stays and when they are here to visit. I know it’s not the same though. And when my 9-year-old is in tears because I won’t be at home with her tonight, my heart breaks and I want to tear myself in two so I can be there and here all at the same time.

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Even though this year is zooming by, each individual day takes forever to get through. And each night I am left with a long list of everything that escaped my head and therefore did not get done so I add it on to the ever-growing list of what needs to be managed and handled tomorrow. Only to be faced with 20 new things that need attention when the new day comes, pushing everything else out of my brain again.

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Everyone is being so wonderful, supportive and caring. But then I worry, am I being grateful enough? Thankful enough? I don’t want to need meals delivered or fundraisers held. And yet… I can’t imagine going through this without that support, because it’s difficult enough even with all of those caring hearts and souls helping out. And then I worry, how can I give back? How can I make sure that we deserve everything that is coming our way? How do I deal with the meal that was lovingly prepared that my kids try but won’t eat? With the well-meaning gifts that I know won’t get used?

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This is a new way of life for us, one that we never asked for and would give up in a heartbeat if it meant that we could give the cancer back too. Because I suppose that is how we make sure we keep our heads on straight and show all those who care about us that we honor them and appreciate everything they do. We love on Hannah as much as she’ll let us. We make her laugh when she is feeling discouraged or sit with her when she is feeling ill. We badger her until she gets out of the bed and goes for a walk, or drinks another sip of water. I memorize blood count numbers and drug names and fight for her to get a finger poke instead of a blood draw, because she sees too many needles as it is.

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Our family’s job is to get her through this, and I know we will. She will grow up to be a strong, healthy, vibrant woman with a deeper understanding of what truly matters in life and how to embrace others in the way that she has been embraced this year.

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Tomorrow she goes home from the hospital again, the 3rd round of chemotherapy complete. But for now I will watch her sleep.