Family Scenes

Family Scenes

From Chicken Soup for the Breast Cancer Survivor's Soul

Family Scenes

Let us, then, be up and doing, with a heart for any fate.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

From the day my first child was born, I did everything I could to protect and comfort him. It was like a crusade. I picked him up the second he cried; I watched him sleep. I baby-proofed my home, and there are still some cabinets I can’t open. Protecting my child and keeping him safe was my mission in life.

As he got older, he would fall down and bump something or other, but I was always there with the necessary Band-aid and kiss. When we went to the doctor for a shot, I would let him squeeze my hand tight until it was over. Then he would get a sticker. That was the deal, and we never broke it.

When I was diagnosed with cancer, my first thoughts were, Who will take care of my children? Who is going to protect them? My husband and I sat them down and gave them as much information as we thought a three and five-year-old could handle. We talked about the surgery and the hospital and the medication that would make Mommy’s hair fall out. We made sure they had “sleepovers” at Grandma’s house when I had my treatments so they wouldn’t see Mommy so sick.

What I hadn’t expected and didn’t explain to the kids were the Neupogen shots. I hadn’t realized that my white blood count would be so low that I’d require it with every treatment. I would wake every morning before the kids and give myself the shot, or my husband would do it when they weren’t around, but Nathan, our five-year-old, who doesn’t miss a trick, caught on.

One morning when I went to give myself the shot, there he was. He took my hand in his and said, “You can squeeze it as tight as you like until it’s over, and then you can have a sticker. That’s the deal.” So I held his hand, gave myself the shot, and he proudly put a sticker on my shirt. It was then I realized that, for as much as I wanted to protect and comfort my children, they wanted to do the same for me. I was so glad to have them take care of me!

Before I started chemotherapy, my husband and children shaved my head. We thought it would make it easier for them to deal with my hair loss. We went shopping and picked out hats and scarves for me to wear. Our son insisted that I wear my hat whenever we were out, and I always did. One day the doorbell rang, and without thinking, I opened the door without my hat on! Three of Nathan’s friends were standing there and started laughing and calling me “baldy,” but Nathan was devastated and embarrassed. I explained to him that it didn’t bother me, and we should laugh it off like a joke. They were kids. They didn’t understand, and besides, I was pretty bald.

A few weeks later, we were at the pool—my husband, myself and the two children. I, of course, had my hat on. Nathan wanted me to come into the water. I told him I’d have to take off my hat. He didn’t seem to mind. While we were playing in the water, a few of his friends came in. One went up to him and said, “Hey, Nathan, is that your mom?”

“Yeah,” he replied.

“She’s bald.”

“Yeah, I know. The good news is, her hair will grow back. The bad news is, my Dad’s won’t.”

My slightly balding husband and I have never laughed so hard. Nathan was able to see some humor in the situation, and so were we.

Ruth Kotler

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