Little Man Christopher

Little Man Christopher

From Chicken Soup for the Breast Cancer Survivor's Soul

Little Man Christopher

The Child is father to the Man.

William Wordsworth

Upon receiving my diagnosis of aggressive breast cancer, my husband, Tony, and I were faced with the challenge of how to deal with the situation without frightening our son, Christopher, who had just turned three. He was already trying to adjust to having a new baby in the house and being a big brother to six-month-old Emily, and he didn’t need any more burdens on his little shoulders.

We decided not to try and explain the frightening ordeal we were embarking on, but to go about our business, trying to keep daily life as routine as possible for the sake of the children. This worked to a point, but eventually things like prolonged illness, fatigue and loss of hair gave Christopher the impression that all wasn’t well at our house.

“Mommy’s very sick,” I finally said to him, after he had noticed I was different. “My body is trying to fight the sickness, and that’s why all my hair fell out. Don’t worry, though . . . when I feel better, it will all grow back.”

After having said that, I wondered if I had done the right thing. One day, when Christopher had a tummy ache, he asked, “Will my hair come out, too?” And when little Emily had a fever, he expected her hair to come out as well.

So on we went, through months of chemotherapy. The schedule was the same each time: take the children to school, have a treatment, sleep until they come home, and back to work by Monday. Between treatments, Tony gave me Neupogen injections to keep my white cell count up. This ensured I could have my next treatment without a slip in the schedule.

I’ll never forget the first time Christopher heard me get sick after a treatment. I thought I was being so discreet, first opening the bedroom door and slipping quietly into the master bathroom, then closing the door behind me and letting loose. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, there was his little hand rubbing my back oh-so-gently. “It’s okay, Mommy,” he’d say to me.

After seeing me in such a vulnerable position, he found it difficult to leave my side. Many a night, his daddy carried him to bed after he fell asleep while comforting me. Many a day, we struggled to separate from each other when dropping him off at preschool.

I’ll always remember and cherish the moment he first discovered my hair was growing back. He came to my room, and a look of wonder came over his face as he caught sight of me. “Are you feeling better today, Mommy?”

Without thinking much about it, I replied that I was doing all right. “I knew it!” he said with a big grin. “It’s coming back!” With that, my little man gently rubbed my head for the first of many times throughout my recovery.

Since then, we’ve finished chemotherapy, radiation, numerous surgeries, and endured several years of hormone therapy. It’s hard to say whether Christopher, now eleven years old, has any recollection of that period or not. I’m sure he isn’t aware of how serious things really were, as we were very careful not to use the “c” word in our house back then.

It’s funny how, as parents, we go through every day, constantly faced with challenges we didn’t expect, without a handbook, and often making important decisions on the spur of the moment. Our choice to provide our son with something tangible to help him understand our crisis was, I believe, the right one. To this day, he always tells me that I have pretty hair, and I wonder if somewhere in the back of his mind, he’s subconsciously harboring the memory of that difficult period of time.

We’ve always expected to be there for our children, to provide support and help them through life’s challenges. What we never counted on was the amount of strength we would draw from them, and just how big a role this little man would play in bringing our family through the most difficult of times. Thank you, Christopher.

Kathy Vancura

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